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A South African’s perspective on the outcomes of the South African Nexus Conference | Water Energy Food Nexus, Bonn 2011

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South Africa

04 May 12

A South African’s perspective on the outcomes of the South African Nexus Conference

The South African Water, Energy and Food forum could not have come at a more opportune time. COP17 has come and gone and with the new year in full swing, many remain doubtful about whether or not all the hype has left us with a successful outcome to the complicated international climate change negotiations process; and about what the outcomes to this process mean for business. — by Aimée Girdwood

At the same time, it is clear that that the nexus is having a real effect on our economy as we struggle with a lack of energy, inefficient transportation, escalating food prices, ailing sanitation infrastructure and a lack of access to good quality water for many in our society.

These are my key take-aways from the conference:

1. The meaning and import of the nexus

For me, a somewhat novel topic of discussion in South Africa – it was refreshing to see the different sectors of business and government so well represented at a single forum to discuss their recognition of the interconnectedness of things, and the integrated nature of solutions that we require to take account of the nexus.

2. Policy and regulation is, and will continue to be, a major driver in dealing with the nexus and therefore the shift to a sustainable economy

Aimée Girdwood

is an energy and sustainability advisory and legal specialist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

For so long the emphasis has principally been on our need to develop viable, proven and affordable low carbon, clean and sustainable technologies and solutions. While the continuous innovation and development of such solutions remains a vital agenda item, the core challenge in dealing with the nexus and the ambitious scaling up and implementation of solutions is the creation of an enabling environment. Integrated and coordinated policies and regulations are key – as a tool for an integrated management approach, as a signpost that provides clear and unambiguous signals as to the direction we are taking as a society, and as a catalyst to encourage better price signalling for investment.

The challenges in attaining an integrated, coordinated and singular policy and regulatory approach are enormous. Particularly in an environment where many believe our different governmental departments operate in silo’s, the private sector complains of the burden of our regulatory environment and resultant costs of doing business in South Africa, and the implementation of much of our legislation remains a challenge.

3. The importance of educational disclosure

An integrated and adaptive approach to policy making, planning and management of the water, energy and food sectors requires us to determine our priorities and values, and then make decisions based on trade-off’s of these priorities. Education and awareness about the nexus and a collective understanding of our values and priorities is therefore vital.


Related Resources


Food, Energy and Water – The Meganexus: South Africa at the Stress Epicenter

by Margaret Catley-Carlson, held at the South African Water, Energy and Food Forum: “Managing the Mega-Nexus”, 18-19 April 2012

Related News

NEXUS Interview

An interview with Margaret Catley-Carlson, Vice Chair, Canadian Water Network and Member of the Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB)

Related Events

18–19 Apr 12


The South African Water, Energy & Food Forum 2012 is a two-day Forum aimed at exploring the Mega-Nexus between water, energy and food security. The Forum is sponsored by Anglo American, Eskom, Exxaro Resources and Nedbank with additional support from the US Embassy and Independent Newspapers.

Further Reading

25 Apr 12

An interview with Margaret Catley-Carlson, Vice Chair, Canadian Water Network and Member of the Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB)

23 Dec 14

The forthcoming “Nexus Conference on Water, Food, Climate and Energy”, taking place in Chapel Hill/USA on 15-17 March 2015 is now accepting side event requests. The conference organisers have also drafted a list of planned outcomes, i.e. a Nexus Declaration Input to the SDG Process, a Draft of Nexus Principles for Companies, and Draft for Nexus Guidance for Governments.

07 Nov 11

Workshop Report of the UNCSD African Regional Preparatory Meeting for Rio+20 now available

NEXUS in the Media

11 May 16


Paul Yillia has over the years become a regular speaker at African Utility Week on issues of sustainable development.

29 Dec 14


King Mohammed VI’s energizing vision of Morocco’s role as a platform for business development in central, west, and Atlantic Coast Africa resulted in a number of initiatives in 2014.

25 Mar 15

TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute)

The meeting, which was focussed on ‘Food-Water-Energy nexus’, aimed at assessing the needs and actions required for creating favourable environment for a nexus in the South Asian region.

29 Sep 14

The Third Pole

South Asia is struggling to provide enough water and energy for its growing population

08 Dec 14


Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb will visit three South American countries from Dec 6 to 13 to promote bilateral trade and investment.


  • IFPRI International Food Policy Research Institute
  • WEF World Economic Forum
  • WWF World Wide Fund for Nature

Bonn2011 Nexus Conference – in the context of Bonn Perspectives

  • Bonn Perspectives

initiated by

  • BONN
  • BMZ

funded by

  • European Regional Development Fund EFRE
  • NRW Ministerin fr Bundesangelegenheiten, Europa und Medien des Landes Nordrhein-Westphalen
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