Desalination market growth in Africa on the rise

A recent study, released by Frost & Sullivan, has found that the African desalination market is now stabilising and investment in desalination is gaining traction.

The study found that the desalination market in Africa has recovered from the global economic downturn in 2015-2017, which resulted in low desalination investment across the continent.

Frost & Sullivan’s findings revealed that by 2030, 35 per cent of the world will be living in water-stressed countries and although many efforts are being made to diversify water resources. Laura Caetano, industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, believes the African desalination market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7 per cent from 2017 to 2022.

“Of the 54 countries in Africa, 39 have a coastline, making desalination the logical solution, but the high cost of CAPEX and OPEX prove to be a major restraint to the development of the desalination market in Africa,” said Caetano.

Desalination is an energy intensive technology
The most commonly applied desalination technologies for existing plants in Africa are reverse osmosis (RO), multi-stage flash (MSF) and multi-effect distillation (MED).

In recent years, the application of MSF and MED have declined significantly due to their high energy requirements, and the use of electrodialysis and nanofiltration has seen a slight increase.

RO will remain the dominant technology.   

Frost & Sullivan has noted an increasing interaction between the private and public sectors when it comes to infrastructure development, resulting in a growing number of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to fund desalination projects going forward.

North Africa dominates the market
The study has found that North African countries are the primary users of desalination, holding 79.9 per cent of Africa’s desalination capacity.

North Africa is expected to maintain its dominant position in the market with high forecasted growth, whereas sub-Saharan Africa is expected to achieve low to moderate growth leading up to 2022 due to the high CAPEX costs associated with desalination plants.

Caetano notes that high population growth, prolonged drought conditions across Africa, old and inefficient water infrastructure and increasing PPPs are the major driving forces behind the growth of the desalination market.

However, low water infrastructure budgets and low power availability will continue to restrict potential market growth in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mitigating measures through the use of renewable energy to power plants and the installation of energy recover devices (ERDs) are growing in popularity and significantly reducing the high OPEX costs associated with desalination, making it an increasingly realistic option for sub-Saharan Africa.