Isle, IMG and World Bank in Africa
Isle Utilities organises IMG’s Africa trip to show AIMEE at the World Bank’s Sub-Saharan Innovation conference Accra, Ghana 20th July 2017
As regular readers of this blog will know, our CEO Alexis Smith has a strong commitment to creating positive societal change, especially in developing countries where our technology can assist governments, utility companies and NGOs to support local populations who are in desperate need of clean drinking water and proper sanitation, often in very poor housing conditions or even slum dwellings.
We were delighted therefore to be invited by Isle Utilities to speak at the World Bank’s Innovation conference in Accra, capital of Ghana, in front of delegates from over 20 countries across the continent.
Many utility companies are faced with multiple challenges in supplying water services, often in chaotic circumstances. With limited budgets, poor infrastructure and fast-growing communities of densely-packed people, they require affordable, resilient intelligence on both the population and the water supply and sewage networks.
Take non-revenue consumption (also termed illegal or unauthorised consumption) and leakage from potable water supply pipes. These represent significant issues for utility companies in Africa, which often lose up to 50% of treated water in places. There are frequent instances where people illegally break into supply networks, stealing water for their basic needs. This poses a huge risk of contamination entering the system with all the attendant health problems that causes, not to mention the utility company’s lost revenue. Without appropriate returns on the cost of treating and supplying drinking water, these companies struggle to invest in improving infrastructure, which creates a downward spiral of neglect, decay and non-revenue consumption. Add to this the loss of precious treated water from leaks in the pipelines and it becomes clear the enormity of their problems.
During her stay in Africa, Alexis took time out to explore the region and experience first-hand the local conditions in which people live. Although she’d visited Africa previously, Alexis was still taken by the diversity of experiences, with at one end of the scale the impeccably organised conference itself; modern, air conditioned hotels through to a bizarre and totally hilarious motorcade journey across the border to Togo, organised and led by a self-appointed ‘fixer’ whose white towel draped around his neck and Hawaiian shirt seemed to confer more authority on him than all the gold braid on the border guards and military officer’s uniforms. He encouraged us to ‘pay’ small sums to almost everyone and his dog to ensure smooth passage along the way, and it seemed to work just fine. Absolutely hilarious and a great experience.
The various challenges faced by utility companies, some of which are well-established and many others still maturing, were neatly illustrated by the chaos of Togo. With haphazard, unregulated construction abounding, nothing, not even street names, matched the GPS kit we carried, causing much head-scratching and U-turning as we attempted to rendezvous with our contacts. In true Laurel and Hardy style we eventually got to where we needed to go, but it did throw into sharp relief the kind of environment in which African utility companies must work to maintain and develop water infrastructure.
After a very eventful and informative trip, we’d like to pass on our thanks to all at Isle Utilities for their invaluable help, and to mention we’ve opened talks with the World Bank to develop several separate demo projects across the continent. Hopefully IMG will be back in Africa soon working on the ground with utility companies at all states of maturity, showing them how our range of products can help solve the many problems they currently face. We can’t wait to get stuck in…