The dirty waters of Latin America, a big clean technology business

The dirty waters of Latin America, a big clean technology business

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And if that weren't enough, how many times, after a heavy rain, have you had to dodge puddles from overflowing drains or walk through streets filled with foul water?

It is not only a discomfort for the passerby: it represents a serious health problem and for the environment.

But according to experts, this has a solution.

One that can become a great opportunity for companies: technologies considered "clean", especially those for wastewater treatment available that have a large market within their reach. To be precise, it represents a $ 160 billion opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses over the next 10 years in the region, according to a recent study (English) on clean technology business opportunities.

It is also good news from the employment point of view: 67% of Latin American workers are employed in SMEs, which in turn represent 99% of all firms in the region, according to the OECD.

“Our research has identified wastewater as by far the largest market opportunity in Latin America and the Caribbean for the clean technologies we study,” says Michael Ehst, business incubation specialist at the World Bank.

"The lack of basic infrastructure in many places is driving this market and the advantage is a cleaner environment and more resilience in the face of lack of water and resource constraints," he says.

For small and medium-sized companies there are “niche” opportunities, explains the expert.

Chemicals, filters, and other inputs needed in the process of cleaning water are all areas of innovation and opportunity for companies. Many Latin American countries, such as Brazil or Peru, already make significant investments in wastewater treatment.

In Argentina, for example, the aim is to limit the direct discharge of sewage into the Matanza-Riachuelo River, with the construction of a large collecting pipe that will lead the dirty water to treatment plants. In Colombia, the Bogotá River is being cleaned and expanded and the capacity of a wastewater treatment plant is being strengthened in order to improve the safety and environment of the inhabitants.

Clean technologies, a growing market Other technologies considered clean in the region also promise business opportunities in the next 10 years on a large scale for small and medium-sized companies: the study mentions bioenergy (the energy produced with animal or agricultural waste ) whose market for these companies is estimated at 40,000 million dollars, or the wind energy market that would represent around 30,000 million dollars for them.

Francisco Treviño Priante, who has a pig farm in Mexico, is an example of what can be done in bioenergy: with a biodigester, he stores the gases that are released from animal excrement and transforms them into energy that he uses for his machinery.

He says he feels more confident now than a few years ago: "We feel that a preponderant factor that has influenced the increase in confidence that we have at this time has been environmental control, control of environmental impacts," explains Treviño, "Why that? Because that is what goes, at the end of the day, to give sustainability to the project. "

However, the cleantech business has its challenges, especially when it comes to getting started.

"Cleantech businesses often have initial capital requirements, longer payback periods for investors, and a stronger reliance on government policy than other technology sectors," says Ehst.

Therefore, he continues, they need more support at the beginning of their growth to face the longer time it takes to be profitable.

What is, there are many opportunities.

In 2012, investments in cleantech grew by 19% in developing countries, while global investments have decreased by 12%, suggesting that investments are increasingly being directed to developing countries, according to the study.

“Developing countries represent an untapped market for a range of mature clean technologies such as renewable energy or waste and water management,” explains Michael Ehst. In Latin America, investments in clean technology have grown exponentially: the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) reports that investments in 2012 have grown by 450% in Mexico, 431% in the Dominican Republic, 327% in Uruguay and 325% in Peru.

The country

Video: Business Challenges and Opportunities in Latin America (May 2022).