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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Policy key to attracting investments into Lagos WASH sector – WaterAid, others

International not-for-profit, WaterAid, has underscored the importance of having a strong water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) policy, as a critical strategy in driving investments into the WASH sector in Lagos State.

Evelyn Mere
Evelyn Mere, WaterAid Nigeria Country Director

Speaking at the 2022 edition of the Lagos International Water Conference (LIWAC), WaterAid Nigeria Country Director, Evelyn Mere, stated that a WASH policy would improve investors’ confidence and draw meaningful investment into WASH in Lagos State, especially from the private sector.

Ms Mere added that WaterAid is currently supporting the review of the WASH Policy in Lagos State and has engaged with the state through the Water Regulatory Commission, over the past two years, providing support for LIWAC, as part of its commitments aimed at achieving sustainable access to WASH services in the state.

LIWAC is organised annually by the Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission (LASWARCO), with the support of WaterAid and other development and private sector partners, to unlock great opportunities for private sector investment to promote access, efficiency, sustainability in water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Executive Secretary of LASWARCO, Funke Adepoju, said: “Lagos is a significant megacity, with over 24 million people, a projected annual growth rate of 3.2%, and according to the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission, the seventh fastest-growing city globally, with the highest GDP and internally generated revenue in Nigeria. The agenda for a greater Lagos cannot be complete without igniting the water economy.”

Giving the opening remarks at the 3rd edition of the international water conference, whose theme is “Unlocking Investments and Sustainable Access to Clean Water and Sanitation Services: The Regulatory Imperative”, the Lagos State Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, said: “Resolution of the multifarious challenges confronting the water and wastewater management sector in Lagos requires a dedicated and thoughtful approach in delivering the ideals of SDG6 to the citizenry.”

Also speaking at the event featuring renowned experts in the WASH sector from Nigeria and across the globe, Benson Ajisegiri, veteran WASH Sector Reform Specialist, spoke on the WASH crisis in Nigeria, saying most states and agencies are operating with extremely low capacity. On the side-lines of the event, he stated that Lagos has a huge market for water supply, however investors need to feel protected by an effective policy, because policy demonstrates intentionality on the part of the government.

Special guest. Dr. Rob Fuller, the Global Water Sector Advisor, WaterAid UK, stated that professionalisation of the WASH service delivery sector, especially in urban contexts and megacities like Lagos, is critical to the mission to achieve equitable access to safe water and sanitation. Fuller noted that utilities and service providers must prioritise performance improvement and gain credibility whereby investors, including public, private and donors, have faith that their investments will yield returns.

On Day 2 of the event, LASWARCO with support from WaterAid Nigeria and Arctic Infrastructure hosted an investment café that presented an opportunity to bring the needs of the WASH sector in Lagos to non-state actors and the private sector for innovative financing and investment opportunities.

Gracing the Investment Café segment of the two-day conference, Executive Governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, acknowledged that financing for the water sector has been a challenge for the state.

He said: “According to a 2015 World Bank Survey, bridging the financing gap of Lagos’ WASH sector will require an estimated $1.3billion investment per year, over the next ten years. Most of the financing for water and sanitation comes from public budget and donor financing, hence this call of action for the private sector to explore the myriad of opportunities in the water sector and sanitation services sub-sector to deliver the value that is required to make the needed commercial gain.

“Investment in water is a pro-poor intervention and it is the way to go. Government needs to do its part, but we all have to meet ourselves midway to make it sustainable.”

Evelyn Mere, Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, said: “Policy is key to attracting meaningful investment into the sector, especially from the private sector. Investors expect certainty, security and clarity of roles and responsibilities and stability of institutions that will guarantee stable operations and return on investment. The sector is capital intensive and requires huge funding to operate optimally. Only a policy backed up by clear legislation that protects all players will evoke the confidence necessary for investment to flow into the sector.”

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