Against a backdrop of water shortages, digital solutions provider Nedamco Africa is implementing programmes to improve access to clean water. The Dutch company's most recent initiative was launched in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 31 March 2023. For Micheal Kögeler, CEO of Nedamco Africa, digital technology enables sustainable and efficient water management.
Inès Magoum (IM): Nedamco Africa is one of the companies that want to take Africa to the top in terms of drinking water supply. What justifies such a commitment?
Michael Kögeler (MK): Nedamco Africa, established in 2022, is a subsidiary of Nedamco Capital, a Dutch family-owned fund with a portfolio of 1 billion euros. 30 years ago the founder went to the United States of America where he started investing in technology and we continue to do so today. At Nedamco Africa, we specialise in providing innovative ‘Climate Tech as a Service’ (CTaaS) solutions that promote climate resilience and sustainable development across Africa.
IM: What are these solutions?
MK: As part of our activities, firstly we create sustainable local and regional employment opportunities by implementing a leading digital skills programme. This programme focuses on climate-focused expertise, digital technology and regional industry engagement, ensuring that the skills acquired lead to local implementation by Africans in Africa, thereby promoting positive change and self-sufficiency. In terms of digital solutions, we have several such as cloud-based skills, digital twins and climate-friendly solutions. The digital twin technology in this case will be used in the ‘Nedamco Africa SDG6 Water Management Initiative’, which was launched in March 2023 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The project will address three key issues, namely the high level of non revenue water (NRW), the difficulty of locating high water loss areas and the lack of funds for pipe repair or replacement, the inefficiency of meter reading and the limited availability of data for management decisions.
We use digital twin technology to effectively map and measure the entire 4D water ecosystem (adding the dimension of time to the 3D imagery) of a city, including catchment areas, streams, reservoirs, city networks and wastewater treatment facilities. Our innovative approach also enables efficient and sustainable water management in urban environments, ensuring that cities can efficiently meet their water needs while minimising their environmental impact and reducing unaccounted for water losses.
IM: How exactly will digital twin technology support water supply in Addis Ababa?
MK: By comprehensively mapping and measuring the Addis Ababa water ecosystem, including upstream catchment, waterways, reservoirs, last mile and wastewater treatment. Data from the catchment management systems is fed into Nedamco Africa’s digital twins in real time, visualised and used to improve water management in the city of approximately 10 million people.
We will also draw on the expertise of partners such as Bentley, Microsoft, VIE, Deltares and Planetary Computer, to leverage historical and real-time data, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) based water flow forecasts. The aim is to create an accurate representation of the water ecosystem in Addis Ababa, enabling the prediction and prevention of water-related problems and the creation of tradable water restoration certificates (WRCs). Potentially 50 other African cities could benefit from the project, which would provide water to more than 500 million people on the continent.
Today, on average 41% of water is lost due to leaks, overflowing ponds, people abusing water, etc. So 59% of the water that comes from the mountains to the city disappears. It is not used.
IM: Does your technology take into account the current challenges of climate change, such as drought?
MK: Yes, absolutely. Climate change has an impact on the seasons. In Ethiopia, it should have rained a month ago. It is still not raining and this is the second year in a row that there is less rain.
So yes, we are leveraging technology to ensure that what little water does fall is not lost through mismanagement.
In Addis Ababa, of the water that comes from the mountains, less than 65% per cent of it goes to the people. You can imagine that if we manage to reduce this loss from 35% to 20%, the impact on the lives of the city’s inhabitants will be considerable.
Of course, good water management will never fully offset the effects of climate change. Other actions are needed. But while the world is mobilising to reduce water use, CO2 emissions and everything else, these are solutions that greatly help Africa.
In addition to detecting leaks, supporting more informed decision-making, optimising water distribution and identifying areas for improvement of water facilities, early warning systems for potential water-related disasters, such as floods or droughts, can be developed with the help of digital technology enabling authorities to better prepare and minimise the impacts of climate change on communities and the environment.
IM: Are Nedamco Africa’s technologies unique to the water sector?
MK: We also use digital twins for biomass. Using satellite imagery and the latest satellite technology, we fly over a country and literally count the trees from the sky in an area of ten by ten metres. At the same time we can tell what kind of trees they are, how old they are, how big they are, and many other things.
In the field of waste management, our solutions range from intelligent waste collection systems to waste-to-energy solutions. In power generation, we offer renewable energy solutions, as well as energy storage and management systems. In the field of sustainable agriculture, we offer solutions for precision farming, soil management and water management, among others.
IM: What are Nedamco Africa’s plans for the coming years?
MK: We intend to go to at least 50 more African cities over the next few years to improve water security, once the Nedamco Africa SDG6 Water Management Initiative is successful. We are working with multiple parteners, like Vitens Evidens International, an association of European water companies that focuses on Africa.
Interview by Inès Magoum