Acid mine drainage. Picture: ANTHONY TURTON
Acid mine drainage. Picture: ANTHONY TURTON

Nafasi Water, formerly known as Aveng Water, plans to expand into Zambia and Mozambique as it seeks new revenue streams in mining, says CEO Suzie Nkambule.

The 100% black-owned water technology company, which has 250 employees, designs, builds, commissions and operates water treatment plants.

Nafasi, which was part of construction group Aveng, already has a presence in Namibia.

Nkambule said there were growth opportunities in Zambia’s mineral-rich Copperbelt Province.

“We are always keeping an eye on the regions that have a lot of mining but are difficult to operate in. We are looking at what is happening in Mozambique. We will continue to follow oil and gas developments.”

“We are always engaged with the engineering procurement construction contractors. There are early-stage desalination opportunities to get construction water there,” Nkambule said.

In January Aveng announced the sale of Nafasi to Infinity Partners for R95m as part of its disposal of noncore assets to reduce its debt.

Infinity Partners is partly owned by Nkambule, a former MD of Aveng Water. The other shareholder in Infinity Partners is E-Squared Investments.

“Our core business in SA is to support the mining industry. We have turned some mines into water producers,” Nkambule said.

However, Nafasi's goal in SA was to work with the public sector.

“The public service has not really been a space that has enabled private utilities to get involved. Our role is to bring the private utility strategy into the public service. And that means public-private partnerships,” she said.

Some of SA’s municipalities have battled to provide water services to residents and businesses partly due to lack of investment in water infrastructure.

Integrated poultry producer Astral Foods said in May that water-supply constraints as a result of deteriorating infrastructure at Lekwa municipality in Mpumalanga had cost it R85m.

“Within local government, the biggest and lowest hanging fruit is capacity building and optimisation. It does not require a huge injection of capital. It is a matter of taking what is there and making it work,” Nkambule said.

“In the longer term, if local government decides to prioritise engagement around social cohesion and development and leave the management of bulk-owned reticulation infrastructure to private entities that are innovative and likely to keep up with trends, then there is absolute opportunity for partnering,” Nkambule said.

njobnenis@businesslive.co.za