Water central to achieving High 5s and Sustainable Development Goals in Africa

09/09/2016
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The Senior Advisor to the President of the African Development Bank for Inclusive and Green Growth, Prof. Kevin Urama, has underscored the critical role of water in achieving long-term poverty reduction and economic growth in Africa. Speaking at a gathering of world water leaders in Stockholm, Sweden, Urama outlined the new strategic priorities of the AfDB and the centrality of water to these goals.

“Water is central to the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said. As the global community pivots to the implementation of these new goals, there is an acknowledgment that without transformative action in the management of water resources in Africa, it will be considerably difficult to achieve the SDGs and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Stockholm event called for a Green Water Initiative for Africa to speed up action towards the delivery of these goals in Africa.

Urama told the gathering of about 3,000 water actors that, while Africa stands out as the most vulnerable of the water-scarce world regions, there are many opportunities available to manage water for sustainable economic growth and social progress in Africa. “The technologies and innovations that improve rainwater use efficiency in agricultural production are available and can be quickly deployed to achieve a water-based green revolution, especially in Africa. These technologies, especially rainwater harvesting, micro-dams, terracing, and flood diversion approaches, are both cost efficient and environmentally sustainable.”

The 2016 World Water Week, which took place from August 28 to September 2, 2016 on the theme “Water for Sustainable Growth”, enabled global water experts and leaders to explore new solutions and emerging perspectives to deliver sustainable growth through better management of water. It emerged from this year’s event that investment in water security continues to be a challenge, despite the existence of substantial financial resources available globally. Donors and development financial institutions, it was recognized, should play a catalytic role to bridge this gap through knowledge-generation and -sharing, identifying risks and developing mechanisms for harnessing market-based financing.

Political leadership, it emerged, is cardinal to develop resilient, sustainable, and inclusive cities. There is a range of innovative technological, institutional and policy options for the management of water resources, water service delivery, waste management, resource recovery and reuse, and disaster management in Africa’s urban spaces.

The key role of multilateral development institutions in delivering water services in fragile situations was highlighted. While challenging, these services are essential to cushion the effects of fragility. Here, development partners have amongst other responsibilities – strengthening the capacity of public and private entities involved in the provision of services.

Achieving the new strategic priorities of the Bank will require integrated water resource management approach. “We consider water as a critical resource to realize the hydropower component of the New Deal on Energy for Africa,” said Urama “It is essential to the Feed Africa agenda from the perspective of rain-fed agriculture and green water harvesting.” On the linkages between water and Industrializing Africa, the Senior Advisor to the President argued that “the blue economy” holds great potential for Africa’s industrialization.

“Water also connects many countries and regions of Africa and is a critical resource for Integrating Africa,” he said. “Without effective transboundary water management, regional conflicts ensue, and development of water-based transport infrastructure will be in jeopardy. While traditional investments in the sector have mostly focused on water and sanitation intervention projects that directly improve the quality of life for Africans, enormous opportunities exist in all the High 5s for the Bank to scale up water-based structural transformation in Africa.”

World Water Week was also attended by leading staff of the Bank’s Water and Sanitation Department. In addition to sharing emerging perspectives on how to efficiently and urgently tackle the water challenge in the world in general and Africa in particular, the team met with several development partners to further build a broad water coalition for Africa. Over 340 million people are without clean drinking water, and about 550 million people are without adequate sanitation services.

The AfDB is a leading provider of water and sanitation services in Africa, with a total financing volume of approximately US $7 billion. In 2006, the Bank created a Water and Sanitation Department to lead and coordinate water-sector activities and to promote Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) across all Bank Water Supply and Sanitation interventions.