Pretoria saw one of the world’s largest gatherings of young water professionals (YWPs) last November when the city hosted the 4th South Africa Young Water Professionals (YWP-ZA) Biennial and the 1st Africa International Water Association YWP Conference.
“The conference was a major success in many regards,” said Stuart Woolley, chair of the YWP African Conference Organising Committee. “We were able to convene the first continent-wide regional conference, to get over 400 African young water professionals together in the same room and touch on some of the pressing issues of our time. For the first time, there was a heavy focus on technical and practical areas of the water sector in what has traditionally been an academic conference.”
Under the theme Stop Talking, Start Doing!, the conference attracted representatives from all areas of the water industry,from academic research to the technical occupations that drive the water sector.
Practically, this was implemented by having different streams to the conference. The plenary sessions of the conference featured thought leaders and senior mentors in the water sector, including Dhesigen Naidoo from the Water Research Commission, who presented a call to action to the young water professionals community, particularly on the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality that are embedded in the water sector.
“With the sustainable development goals dictating key areas of development and transformation for the next 15 years, it is certainly necessary for YWPs to start engaging them now,” added Woolley. “Young people are going to inherit this planet and its resources, and have to care for it for future generations. Getting involved and shaping the policies that are determining what this planet will look like is therefore crucial, especially for those in the water sector.”
Under the theme Stop Talking, Start Doing!, the conference attracted representatives from all areas of the water industry, from academic research to the technical occupations that drive the water sector
The first two parallel sessions of the conference focused on sharing academic research and work being conducted by young people in the sector. This stream had 66 podium presentations and 96 academic posters on display.
The third parallel session focused on understanding the different role players in the water sector, understanding how young people can engage in policy processes relating to the sustainable development goals, what skills are needed to excel in careers and how to start up water sector businesses.