Executives flying into Cape Town for Africa’s biggest annual mining conference are immediately confronted by the city’s looming water crisis.
The city is reminding visitors to “only flush when you really need to” and there’s hand sanitiser instead of tap water at sinks in the conference centre. Bath plugs are missing from hotel showers. And for jet-lagged executives or anyone who overindulges at the many cocktail parties, organisers say tea and coffee servings will be limited.
It’s a constant reminder that Cape Town is contending with its worst drought on record. At the same time, the city is hosting thousands of executives, government officials and investors for African Mining Indaba, which covers one of the continent’s most vital industries
The water crisis is also coming up in meetings. Anglo American Plc’s South Africa deputy chairman quipped that one of his first questions when meeting its biggest shareholder, billionaire Anil Agarwal, would be, “Did you have a shower this morning?”
Conference Managing Director Alex Grose and his team went as far as rehearsing 60- to 90-second showers before heading down to Cape Town, he said in an interview on the sidelines of the event.
The organisers briefly discussed not holding the event in Cape Town this year, but decided to go ahead after considering the economic effect on the city.
“For us it’s a big deal,” Grose said. “Everything’s been on the table.”
Organisers spent time making sure the thousands of delegates were educated on the need to save water. On the conference website, there are reminders such as “take short, stop-start showers” and “wash hands less frequently, instead using hand sanitiser.”
The conference is also trucking in bottled water and buying some “undrinkable” supplies from the city that it’s paying to purify.
One bit of good news for Cape Town: the city has pushed out the estimated date when it may have to turn off water supplies to residents. It’s now May 11, instead of April 16.