World Water Day Interview: Wambui Gichuri, Director, Water Development and Sanitation Department
With her extensive experience in water management at the World Bank where she developed and implemented several strategies and programs, Wambui Gichuri joined the African Development Bank on March 15, 2018. Her arrival as Director of the Water Development and Sanitation Department coincides with the World Water Forum in Brasilia, Brazil, taking place from March 18 to 23. On the occasion of World Water Day, we spoke to her about the African Development Bank’s development priorities vis-à-vis the water and sanitation sector.
How do you view the challenge of providing sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation on the continent?
As reiterated in African Development Bank’s five overarching development priorities, the High 5s, water security is key to energy security, agricultural security, industrial development, regional integration, and to improving quality of life. Addressing the challenge of safe drinking water and sanitation for the unserved 330 million and 680 million, respectively, in Africa requires scale up of policy, institutional and governance reforms as well as investments that focus on ensuring services to everybody especially the poor who comprise the majority of the unserved. An estimated US $13 billion per annum is needed to meet the SDG targets of universal access.
How do you plan to reach this target?
Our approach will include using the African Development Bank’s position as a trusted partner and its convening power to bring various partners together and exploit synergies to address three major challenges: governance of the water sector, new financing mechanisms, and knowledge uptake; and work with regional member countries to promote blended financing so that components that are profitable can be financed commercially with mechanisms for private-sector financing. We will promote uptake of smart technologies and proven innovations in the water and sanitation sector to address the challenges of low water and sanitation access focusing on reducing inefficiencies and the very high non-revenue water levels among utilities; and the full-cycle sanitation solutions from containment to reuse (including turning waste into resources that can generate revenue for the water utilities). We will also strengthen collaboration with other sectors such as health, agriculture, urban development, social development, and energy, among others, to build integrated solutions and maximize benefits from water and sanitation.
What are your expectations in terms of results and concrete actions coming out of this year’s World Water Forum in Brazil?
The World Water Forum in Brazil is critical for the sector. The knowledge and recommendations coming from the Forum will serve as best practice in responding to the challenges of climate change variability, water extremes (droughts and floods as currently demonstrated by the effects of drought in Cape Town and floods in Nairobi), urbanization and limited development finance that face the world today. The Forum provides an important platform for developing partnerships that are key to securing co-financing and smart innovations in the development and management of water and sanitation services. The knowledge acquired from those that have succeeded is key in defining how to address challenges in Africa going forward.
For more information about the Bank’s work in Water and Sanitation sector :