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Water, a sector of preference for the AfDB


The problem of water resources in the Sahel is one of the major concerns for the African Development Bank. This challenge threatens agriculture, animal farming and food security for this region.

At the brink of the 2015 threshold, fixed for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the rate of access to drinking water in the Sahel region is about 54 %, that of access to sanitation services is still below 30 % whereas decreases in renewal water resources are below 5%.

Thus, the efficient and sustainable management of water resources in order to increase the use of potable water for household and agricultural use as well as sanitation services for the populations is a highly important regional concern. 

For the African Development Bank water is a sector of preference. In this vein, the Institution has, in the past years developed two major initiatives to support African countries in water management, and provided investments for water security, access to potable water and sanitation in rural areas by the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative and the African Water Facility.

High level operations of the AfDB in the Sahel

The Sahel countries have greatly benefited from the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative   (RWSSI), launched by the AfDB in 2003. One third of RWSSI investments are mainly directed to Sahel countries. The Initiative’s leading objective is to attain an 80 % access to drinking water services and basic sanitation by 2015, and attaining global access latest by the year 2025. 

Since 2003, the AfDB has provided drinking water to around 6 million people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, including other Sahel countries. In some of these countries RWSSI operations have been highly successful and as such other operations have been launched   (Mali I and Mali II, Niger I and Niger II…).

In the past eight years, more than eight RWSSI operations have been funded by the Bank in the Sahel, mainly in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Chad in order to provide increased access to drinking water and sanitation services to improve the livelihood of the   populations. 

Another key initiative of the African Development Bank is the African Water Facility (AWF) set up by the African Council of Ministers in 2006.

Again, the Sahel has greatly benefited from AWF operations. If the AWF has funded 84 projects since the commencement of operations in  2006, for an amount of  EUR 103 million,  one fourth of these operations are found in Sahel countries : 9  national projects and 11 multinational  projects . Eight of these projects are in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad including five support interventions to multi-national projects.

In all, AWF support to these four countries are aimed at national capacity building leading to the implementation of  water resources integrated management in these four countries. They also seek to present  an inventory of water supply and sanitation services, the preparation of investments for the upgrading of  urban  centres in Chad and in Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou),  the creation of catchment areas and setting up the appropriate framework for a concerted water resources management  ( the  Volta basin and   lake Chad,  the  Ilullemeden, Taoudeni aquifers and the  Niger basin)  furthering the management of information on water resources in the Niger.

Strategic support 

Beyond its contribution and improving the access rate of rural populations to drinking water and sanitation, the AfDB has helped Sahel countries  build up the management mechanisms of their resources with due consideration to questions concerning women’s involvement in the  sector.

These operations have had a positive impact in the fight against poverty by improving women’s incomes, but also for the school enrolment of young girls, who normally are busy with the chores of fetching water.

For the African Development Bank, the water and sanitation sector remain a priority given its importance in economic development and thus « reaffirms its commitment to provide the necessary support to Sahel countries so that the crucial problems of potable water and sanitation and water security be definitely resolved in the Sahel », declared Mohamed El Azizi, Director of Water and Sanitation.

Bank support will be pursued by undertaking other AWF operations as well as the setting up of drinking water supply and sanitation projects in rural areas.

The Sahel region is made up of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad. Climatic conditions in the Sahel are essentially marked by a low rainfall pattern, but more importantly by its annual spatial variability throughout the year. 

Due to these climatic conditions, water problems and food security are critical in this region, more so for rural populations in spite of the availability of important water resources in the region.

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