The Use of Desalination Technologies to Alleviate Water Shortages in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): Challenges and Recommendations

Obeta Michael Chukwuma


Water scarcity is a major and growing problem in SSA. A SSA country (South Africa) has adopted desalination as a strategy for dealing with water shortages; while the construction of new desalination plants have been proposed in some others (Ghana, Namibia and Cape Verde). This review paper examines the use of desalination technologies for augmenting supplies in sixteen SSA countries, using data derived mainly from published literature. Results reveal that the usage of desalinated freshwater to augment supplies in the region is relatively recent; however the usage is on the increase, especially in countries with arid climate. Several factors including massive failures of public water supply systems, increases in the demand for freshwater, rapid and high rates of urbanization, population growth and the reoccurring droughts account for increases in the demand for desalination technologies in SSA. Many critical issues and constraints make the desalination option neither the most feasible nor a priority for water supplies within the humid parts of SSA. The paper recommends that for quality and sustainable service delivery to be attained in the region, governments should develop alternative freshwater sources, address infrastructural decay, employ new management strategies in the water sector and distribute water infrastructure equitably.

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