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Water & Sanitation Department (OWAS)

The Water and Sanitation Department (OWAS) was established in 2006 to provide an institutional focus for water sector activities in the Bank.  The Department also plays an important role in ensuring the Bank’s leadership role in water sector activities in Africa.

The specific mission of the Water and Sanitation Department is to centralize the Bank’s water and sanitation sector (WSS) activities for better coordination and to facilitate the definition and implementation of sustainable solutions across the water value chain, from strategy, policy-making, institutional reform, advisory services at country and regional levels, capacity building, information and knowledge, fund-raising, project implementation and monitoring.

To that effect the Department supports the Bank’s contribution in the WSS to eliminate poverty and to promote economic growth in Africa, to achieve MDGs targets in the WSS and in other related areas, namely nutrition, education, health, gender empowerment and environment.

Key Focus Areas

Since 2000, following the adoption of its Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Policy, the Bank has increased its focus in the water sector as a way of assisting Regional Member Countries (RMC) achieve the objective of poverty reduction and economic growth recognizing its potential to contribute immensely to achieving the other MDGs for poverty, health, education, and gender. The Bank has adopted a strategy of significantly increasing its interventions in rural water supply and sanitation while continuing to support urban and peri-urban water supply and sanitation and promoting integrated management of water resources. 

Our focus is on:

  • Increasing water supply and sanitation financing
  • Targeting primarily the poorest 65% of population living in rural areas
  • Providing support for peri-urban areas, small and medium towns; and specifically for urban sanitation
  • Promoting transboundary water resources management
  • Supporting the enabling environment to attract more resources

Strategic Priorities

To enable OWAS fulfill its mandate as outlined above, the Department has the following strategic priorities:

  • Advance the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI): mobilize partners and assist the RMCs to elaborate and implement their RWSS programmes to reach the 2015 RWSSI targets.  The overall objective of RWSSI is to accelerate access to water supply and sanitation services in rural Africa with a view to attaining 66 % access to water supply and sanitation by 2010 and 80 % by 2015.
  • Continue to support the development of water and sanitation services for urban and peri-urban areas:  especially. for countries with no appropriate environment for RWSSI programmes and for AfDB only countries.  The objective is to accelerate access to water supply and sanitation services in urban and peri-urban areas with a view to foster sustainable growth and reach the overall MDGs targets for water and sanitation in Africa (attaining 74 % access to water supply and 60% access to sanitation by 2015). 
  • Ensure the Bank’s leading role in the Water sector in Africa:  The AfDB plays a vital role in the socio-economic development of its Regional Member Countries (RMCs) and is therefore strategically positioned to assume a frontline role in the development dialogue with Africa.  This is an area of comparative advantage and strength which facilitates effective dialogue in the water sector on difficult issues such as sector reforms, water security and adaptation to climate change.  OWAS will maintain sustained dialogue with regional institutions such as AMCOW, AU/NEPAD, UN-Water Africa, as well as engage strongly with RMCs in sector dialogue.  The decentralization policy as it unfolds will enhance our engagement on the ground and make our contribution to ongoing country processes more effective.

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