World Water Day Interview: Osward Mulenga Chanda, Division Manager, Water Development and Sanitation Department

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In this interview, Osward Mulenga Chanda, Division Manager, Water Development and Sanitation Department, African Development Bank, raises the issue of access to financing for water, which he says is not the only aspect to be taken into account for the development of the sector.

Has enough money been invested to meet the targets of the African Water Vision and the sustainable development goals (SDGs)? What are the financial projections?

Official development finance to water nearly tripled between 2003 and 2014, rising from an annual allocation of $6 billion in 2003 to close to $18 billion in 2014. This increase coincided with the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and the International Water Decade adopted by the United Nations. Such trends show that real efforts have been made by the global development finance community, which significantly helped the world meet the MDG for water. The financing requirements associated with meeting the SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) are much greater than those associated with the MDGs, as they also span all aspects of the water sector.

The investments required to meet the Africa Water Vision demanded that the Bank’s regional member countries invest at least 0.5% of their GDP annually in water and sanitation supplemented by investments from international financial institutions and the private sector. Only a handful of governments met this benchmark. The current financial projects for Africa are that an annual investment of US $13 billion is required to meet the SDG 6 target for water supply and sanitation without addressing the operation and maintenance of existing infrastructure.

Is it only a financing issue or rather a lack of initiatives?

Financing is only part of the problem, it is not the only problem. Governance and knowledge play equally key roles in attracting financing, giving confidence to the financiers of guaranteed returns on investments. Therefore initiatives that are designed to help create an enabling environment by addressing the shortcoming in governance, capacity and promote knowledge bringing about innovations and smart solutions contribute to increased financing. Initiatives aimed at ensuring service provision is technically and financially sustainable, tend to attract and tap private sector investment.

This year’s theme, “Nature for water” is innovative as it focuses on nature-based solutions for water. In what way can nature provide relevant or innovative solutions to water issues?

Nature-based solutions are actions or interventions that use or mimic nature to address water and sanitation issues. These can range from the development of constructed wetlands though to active watershed management to improve the quality and quantity of freshwater. These types of approaches can help to protect the environment but also provide numerous economic and social benefits. Africa has a wealth of natural resources, including biodiversity and ecosystem services, that can be called upon to help address water management issues, beyond applying technology or building knowledge. This World Water Day is intended to demonstrate their huge potential.

For more information about the Bank’s work in Water and Sanitation sector :

Water and Sanitation sector

African Water Facility (AWF)

Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI)