Two French companies will provide eight African countries with drinking water using sun-powered desalination technology, the latest in a growing trend of investments in systems that help users bypass the continent’s inadequate power system.  

Water treatment startup Mascara Renewable Water will offer its new desalination technology, called OSMOSUN, in collaboration with PE-backed Vergnet Hydro, which has 40 years of experience in supplying drinking water in Africa. OSMOSUN desalination units were implemented in South Africa last year, supplying 3,000 locals with more than 10 million litres of clean water. 

More than 300 million people worldwide rely on desalination for drinking water, and the price of the process has been falling thanks to wide adoption. The global water desalination equipment market is projected to reach $32.1 billion in 2024, more than double from 2019. Leading players include Australia, which built a $3.5 billion plant in 2017 to provide a third of Melbourne’s supply, and Israel, where half of the water supply comes from desalination, according to a Wired story last month. African countries such as Namibia and Morocco are commissioning large-scale desalination plants. 

  • The lack of clean drinking water, which may lead to kidney disease, has long plagued Africa. The OSMOSUN project will be launched eight sub-Saharan countries including Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali. 
  • Finland-based Solar Water Solutions, which landed a government contract with Namibia in June, offers a similar solar-powered desalination approach.  Spanish company Abengoa recently was chosen by the Moroccan government to build a $310 million desalination plant by 2021.
  • Karma Takeaway: As an affordable and energy-efficient solution, solar-powered desalination in Africa is gaining traction with more investments and government support.