MENA Business Forum, SIWW 2011

9 Jul 2011                          

It is always enlightening to learn about the plight of other countries in order to appreciate how fortunate we are to be in Singapore, being provided with seemingly almost everything we need. I attended theMiddle East and North Africa (MENA) Business Forum on 7 July 2011, and it educated me on the situations that the Less Developed Countries (LDCs) are in.

Despite representing 5% of the world’s population, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region shockingly contains only 10% of the world’s water resources. This limitation poses an imminent threat to MENA’s economic growth and development on the whole. Dr Mahmoud Abdelhaliem Abu Zeid, president of the Arab Water Council gave the keynote address of the forum, highlighting features of the MENA region and the challenges that it is facing.

The MENA region has an extremely dry climate with annual average precipitation of only 56 mm per year. Groundwater aquifers are shared between countries in the region, further limiting the capacity of water available for countries’ usage. The MENA region faces many challenges such as scarcity of water, growing population pressure, fluctuating food supply, improper sanitation and destruction of the physical environment due to conflicts and war.

Dr Mahmoud said that currently the MENA region is dealing with this issue through demand and supply management. MENA also uses desalination and extraction of brackish water to supply its water sources at the moment. Big opportunities are evidently present for water firm in the arid MENA region as demand for clean water continues rising with its economy. However, as mentioned by the keynote speaker, in order for the water industry to flourish, it must be accompanied by investments from both the public and private sectors. Proper risks assessment must be done as well before companies venture into MENA region due to the political situation there.

By Tang Chee Xuan

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