AfDB President Pledges to Place Water at the Centre of Africa’s Socio-Economic Development

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AfDB President Pledges to Place Water at the Centre of Africa’s Socio-Economic Development

Tunis, March 26, 2008 – The First African Water Week opened on Wednesday in Tunis with a call by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Donald Kaberuka, for more efforts to be made to ensure that water security is a reality on the continent at both the national and regional levels.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Mr. Kaberuka reminded more than 400 participants at the conference that only 4% of Africa’s annual renewable water resources had been developed for irrigation, water supply and hydropower use, compared to 70 to 90% in developed countries. About 340 million Africans lack access to safe drinking water and almost 500 million lack access to improved sanitation facilities.

Although Africa contributes very little to climate change, experts hold that the continent will be hit the hardest by climate change, especially in terms of increased water stress, Mr. Kaberuka said, adding that adaptation to climate change constituted a development priority. In recognition of this, the AfDB is developing a climate risk management and adaptation strategy to guide its efforts on the continent.

Over the last few years, the AfDB has placed water at the core of its priority. In this regard, the Bank has established the Rural and Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative, the largest initiative ever launched by the institution. The initiative aims to address the problem of low access to water supply and sanitation in rural areas, where the majority of the population lives. Its overall objective is to accelerate access to water supply and sanitation services in rural Africa with a view to attaining 80% coverage by 2015, up from 47% and 44% for water and sanitation in 2000, respectively. Seventeen programmes worth US$1.8 billion have, since 2003, been approved. These programmes are expected to extend water supply and sanitation services to some 30 million and 28 rural people respectively by 2010.

The Bank Group’s overall financing in water supply and sanitation has increased five-fold, from an average of less than US$ 70 million per annum by 2002 to over US$ 330 million per annum since 2003.

"Clearly, it is no longer acceptable that the African continent continues to utilize only 4% of its water resources, when a huge proportion of the people do not have access to safe water, and when large populations are faced with frequent floods and drought, in addition to food and energy shortages. Action is urgently needed," Mr. Kaberuka added.

The main objective of the First African Water Week (AWW-1), held in Tunis from March 26-28, is to create a forum for African water sector professionals, stakeholders and partners to discuss opportunities and challenges of achieving water security for the continent’s socio-economic development; as well as formulate concrete policies, strategies and actions to accelerate water resources development and the provision of services taking into consideration challenges and impacts of climate change and variability.

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