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 sanitizer 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, organizers 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 organizers 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.”
Organizers 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 of using hand sanitizer.”
The conference is also trucking in bottled water and buying some “undrinkable” supplies from the city that it’s paying to purify.