Mayors from across Africa on Monday, February 24, 2020 reaffirmed their commitment to create and improve inclusive sanitation policies across African cities, at the 20th AfWA International Congress and Exhibition.
At the congress’ Mayors’ Forum, 12 African city leaders made commitments to strengthen City to City partnerships for advancing the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) agenda at city level. Strategies were agreed to implement the ‘Citywide Inclusive Sanitation’ (CWIS) approach to accelerate ‘access to Sanitation for all by 2030’.
Opened by Erias Lukwago, Lord Mayor of Kampala City, the Mayors’ Forum featured introductory comments from Africa Water Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a keynote address from WaterAid, and presentations from city leaders and sanitation experts.
Participants also shared their practical experiences on progress made following the Cape Town 2019 Mayors’ Declaration last year, alongside panel discussions and brainstorming sessions to strengthen intercity partnerships.
The event was also attended by Political Heads of Local Authorities and cities from across Africa, development partners, civil society organisations (CSOs), CEOs from the utilities and private sectors, as well as high level government officials.
Participants were required to commit and demonstrate political will to take an innovative approach to leverage financing and adopt technical sanitation. Discussions focused on the need to develop comprehensive approaches to improve sanitation that encompass long-term planning, technical innovation, institutional reforms and financial mobilisation, to benefit the lives and health of local populations.
Sylvain Usher, Executive Director of the African Water Association (AfWA), says: “With limited financial and human resources, a changing climate and rapid unplanned urbanisation, cities are struggling to cope. When it comes to sanitation in Africa, the ‘business as usual’ approach is not working, and we urge cities and Mayors to step up and take charge of sanitation. That is why, at AfWA, we are proud to host this forum, and get back on track to achieving SDG target 6.2.”
Juliana Gondwe, Mayor of Lilongwe, Malawi, adds: “Access to adequate sanitation not only benefits citizens, it supports progress on a wide range of health and economic development issues, extends lifespans and protects the urban environment, including water and food supplies. As the mayor of a rapidly growing city, I recognise that it is my duty to advocate for my people, and to best represent their interests.
“Mayors play a vital role for their citizens in delivering and managing services that improve lives, and without their engagement, effecting positive change would be impossible. For cities to achieve this for the WASH sector, comprehensive approaches to sanitation improvement must be made.”
The objectives of the forum aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Ngor Declaration’s goal of achieving universal access to adequate and sustainable sanitation and hygiene services and eliminate open defecation by 2030.
In most African cities, over 90% of the population relies on on-site sanitation, a large proportion of which is unimproved and unsuitable. With increasingly rapid urbanisation and a younger population, the pressure on Africa’s sanitation infrastructure is increasing exponentially.
Municipalities therefore have an increasingly important responsibility to provide adequate sanitation facilities to serve city needs. Poor sanitation conditions lead to public health risks ranging from disease outbreaks, pollution and deterioration of water quality, as well as negative socioeconomic outcomes.