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Africa’s water and sanitation challenges discussed in Côte d'Ivoire

  • Africa’s water and sanitation challenges discussed in Côte d'Ivoire

African countries have come together this week to discuss and tackle the challenges in water and sanitation during the African Water Association (AfWA) International Congress and Exhibition, which has taken place from February 19 to 23, 2023, in Abidjan, Republic of Côte d'Ivoire.

As The New Times reports, the event brought together specialists, engineers, technicians, researchers, and multiple stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to discuss the current difficulties the continent faces regarding water and sanitation.

According to a report of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP), 418 million people still lack access to a basic level of drinking water service, 779 million lack basic sanitation services (including 208 million who still practice open defecation) and 839 million still lack basic hygiene services.

The report also identified that between 2000 and 2020, Africa’s population increased from 800 million to 1.3 billion people. About 500 million people gained access to basic drinking water and 290 million to basic sanitation services

The continent needs to dramatically accelerate the current rates of progress if it is to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (ensuring access to water and sanitation for all).

The president of the African Water and Sanitation Association (AfWaSA), Eng. Silver Mugisha, highlighted during the conference that challenges included old infrastructure, weak corporate governance systems, little belief in self-sufficiency and do-it-yourself mind-sets, top utility leadership, and insufficient emphasis on ingenious solutions and actions.

However, he added that “The water problem can be solved through technological innovation, advancing sustainable infrastructure financing options, and strengthening people and systems, through excessive productivity management measures, leadership competencies, and identifying talents,” he noted.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Hydraulics, Sanitation, and Health, Bouake Fofana, also spoke during the conference urging the sector to explore new solutions. He also said that achieving SDG 6 is everybody’s responsibility including governments, international institutions, technical and financial partners, local elected officials, parliamentarians, the private sector, civil society, and citizens.

During his speech, Fofana said: “Challenges are still stepping in the way towards achieving sustainable development goals connected to drinking water and sanitation, and affordability of water specifically. Funding is still a problem,”

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study, the capital needed globally to finance investments in key infrastructure would amount to about $75 trillion by 2030, almost half of which would go to water and sanitation.

Fofana also took the opportunity to speak of funding in the water sector. According to him, water systems are underfunded with detrimental consequences for the poorest populations. “Most technical and financial partners make the mobilisation of the concessional financing necessary subject to an upsurge in the financing of the tariffs, taxes, and transfers.”

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