Partner in the spotlight: interview with Phyllis Wakiaga, CEO, Kenya Association of Manufacturers

Phyllis Wakiaga

Phyllis Wakiaga, CEO, Kenya Association of Manufacturers

In this quarterly edition of ‘Partner in the Spotlight’ we interviewed Phyllis Wakiaga, CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers  (KAM) about her vision on Kenya’s water management challenges, incentives for the private sector to collaborate with governments and a new industrial water policy. 

KAM’s goals are to promote competitive and sustainable local manufacturing. How do you see the ongoing work jointly undertaken with 2030 WRG contributing to these goals?

“Water is becoming an increasingly paradoxical subject; mainly because it is a universal basic need without which there would be no life, and yet, it is fast becoming the foremost depleted and scarce resource in the world.

Collaboration with 2030 WRG has leveraged KAM’s work in industrial water management, particularly in the Nairobi sub catchment. It is through this collaboration with 2030 WRG, that led to the formation of the Kenya Industrial Water Alliance (KIWA) that brings industry stakeholders together to build a shared understanding of a water secure future.”

How does this work support the government’s Vision 2030 campaign’s main pillars?

“Water’s essential quality to our economy is clear, especially the aspects that drive growth such as industrialization. Economies depend either directly or indirectly on industries where the main input is water. The government is focused on industrialization as one of the vehicles to deliver Vision 2030. Therefore, we must start paying attention to the role of water as the main ingredient to a thriving and growing industry.

Industries and other businesses have realized that their individual use of water cannot be viewed in isolation as increased activity or demand in one sector alters the amount of input, in terms of water, energy or raw material, needed for another sector. Hence there is bound to be a burgeoning competition for water, which reduces the availability for other users. Through the KIWA initiative implement activities have greatly assisted industry. Manufacturers are now able to increase their sustainability to access water and manage efficiency and quality.”

With a predicted 30% gap between water supply and demand by the year 2030, what is the risk for the Kenyan economy and for its manufacturing sector if we are to conduct business as usual?

“The Manufacturing sector in Kenya is currently faced by a shortage in water supply , and is increasingly recognizing that the availability and quality of water poses a risk to their operations. KAM is supporting the manufacturers by providing subsidized water and waste water audits to identify areas of improvement at firm level while at the same time reducing their waste water flows and finding potential areas of either recycling, reusing or reducing the waste water. Promoting sustainable manufacturing will reduce the risk of increased water demand per capita, which translates to high water footprints for the manufacturing sector.”

What do you think are the main bottlenecks that Kenya needs to overcome to be able to close this gap between water demand and supply as much as possible? I.e. inefficiencies in water use.

“Kenya is one of the countries termed by the UN as ‘Chronically water scarce’. This is because we fall below the global standard benchmark for water adequacy set at 1,000 cubic meters, registering less than 647 cubic meters of water supply.

Increased populations in urban spaces bring along increased business activities, erode the natural resilience for water bodies, making them vulnerable to climate change and other environmental shocks. This diminishes presently available sources of fresh water whilst exacerbating the tension between the ever-growing demand for it and the dwindling supply. We therefore need to develop an industrial water policy to look at the provision, use, distribution, disposal and the reuse of water whilst upholding and replenishing the ecosystem.”

You advocate for an industrial water policy. Can you elaborate a bit on this initiative?

“We are advocating for an effective industrial water policy that will be the framework upon which water governance is formulated to ensure sustainability and accountability in the Country. An effective industrial water policy will be the framework upon which water governance is formulated to ensure sustainability, and will focus on solving key water challenges by integrating industrial processes towards improving water accessibility, while fostering constructive relations between Industry, Government and communities.”

What are the main incentives for the private sector to get involved in collaborating with the government on sustainable water management practices?

“Kenya’s economy suffered a setback during the severe drought that we experienced at the beginning of the year. The drought, which was declared a national disaster, caused a contraction in Agricultural activities and a deceleration in supply of electricity. It is important that we partner with government to ensure continuous supply of water for industry. Some of the major incentives that private sector can involve itself in to drive continuous supply include:

  • Economic instruments
  • Investment in water management technologies
  • Building capacity for private sector
  • Develop water use benchmarks
  • Promoting adoption of best practices & water efficient fixtures for demand side management”

What do you think the role and added value is for the broader 2030 WRG and the recently established Kenya Industrial water alliance (KIWA)?

“As mentioned above, The Kenya Industrial Water Alliance (KIWA) is an example of a platform that was set-up to bring industry stakeholders together to build a shared understanding of what a ‘water secure’ future entails. KIWA includes the input of diverse stakeholders who contribute not only towards finding solutions for the current issues but to deliberate on future water management challenges that would compromise our economic and social development goals. The initiative also acts as a tool to track and monitor industry use of water and to find ways to adjust their capacity to recycle waste water. These activities have increased sustainable access to water, improved both industrial water use efficiency and surface water quality management for manufacturers.”

What is the perception among industry partners of these platforms?

“As industry, we need a well-structured policy that considers all facets of human life – that is – political, social and economic. Aside from cementing and harmonizing existing water regulations, such a policy will aim to incentivize, self-regulation and re-use of water in industry.  It would be very beneficial to our country as it would present a well–articulated understanding of water governance, in order to maximize the economic and social welfare benefits that access to adequate water brings.”