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Sector leaders reaffirm pledge on clean water access, sanitation

Stakeholders in Africa’s Water and Sanitation sector have reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring universal access to clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

21st African Water Association International Congress
AFWA President Dr. Silver Mugisha, Ivorian Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Ivorian Water and Sanitation sector key players, and International Partners at the opening ceremony

The stakeholders pledged in a statement issued on Thursday, February 23, 2023, on the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group website.

They spoke during the 21st African Water Association International Congress and Exhibition, and the 7th Faecal Sludge Management Conference in Abidjan, Ivorian commercial capital.

Co-sponsored by the AfDB, the conferences brought together public and private sector experts, government officials, development partners, engineers, and researchers to discuss water and sanitation challenges in Africa.

The conference’s theme was: “Acting for sustainable management of resources and access to water and sanitation for all’’.

Ivorian Prime Minister, Patrick Achi, said tackling the water and sanitation challenges in Africa had become more imperative as the continent continued to experience the highest population growth.

“We do not know the value of water until we lack it. Without it, there is no life, peace, or prosperity.

“I urge industry advocates to put more spotlight on sanitation and water. The question we should ask more often is, if drinking water is like eating, what happens afterwards?

“It is quite strange that we have spent a long time before associating water and sanitation,’’ Achi said.

Similarly, Ivorian Minister of Hydraulics, Sanitation and Health, Bouake Fofana, said most African countries would not meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal six target.

Fofana also stressed the need to prioritise the rural communities, which currently represented more than 50 per cent of the continent and where open defecation was still a major issue.

Speaking on behalf of financial partners, the Country Director of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Ouattara Oumar, highlighted the benefits of investing in water and sanitation.

According to him, it contributes to 1.5 per cent of the global GDP and generates at least 200 per cent for each dollar invested.

Oumar urged greater response and awareness, including more funding to improve access to water and sanitation for all.

“Water and sanitation are at the heart of sustainable development and key to the survival of all people.

“Access to water and sanitation reduces the cost of health for people and society. Children are more likely to be enrolled at school if they have access to water and sanitation,’’ he said.

Oumar reiterated the commitment of the IDB to working with member states to address challenges in the sector.

“The IDB is highly committed to tackling the challenges in the water and sanitation sector.

“We are ready to listen to our member countries, and we are asking member states to prioritise water and sanitation to improve livelihoods and social and economic development.’’

Dr Silver Mugisha, President of the African Water Association, highlighted five focus areas for the congress to deliberate.

Mugisha said the areas were technological innovation, evolving sustainable infrastructure financing options and strengthening people and systems.

He said streamlining corporate governance and enabling conversation, and inculcating a strong culture through relevant capacity building and learning systems were part of the areas.

He said the water and sanitation sector is grappling with strategic plans with inadequate clarity, aging infrastructure, rapid urbanisation and insufficient infrastructure financing, resulting in operational inefficiencies.

“In the next three days, we have a great opportunity to make a significant contribution to address these challenges,’’ he said.

Mugisha announced the change of the Association’s name to the “African Water and Sanitation Association” to include sanitation and called for solutions building for water and sanitation.

“It is our actions that hold the real reward. Our actions can change the African water and sanitation sector and inspire others to get up and take action’’.

Jennifer William, Executive Director of Fecal Sludge Management Alliance, reiterated the need to achieve the UN SDG 6 of clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

William called for the preparation, engagement, and mentoring of women and youth in the sector.

“We must prepare our leaders of tomorrow to let them be seen, heard, and give them space to lead us.

“The younger generation can teach us how to set aside our differences and work together,” she said.

By Lucy Ogalue

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