Con­fronting Africa's wa­ter chal­lenge

All stake­hold­ers – in Africa and in­ter­na­tion­ally – must re­dou­ble our ef­forts to en­sure clean, af­ford­able wa­ter for all, and to sup­port African coun­tries suf­fer­ing through a his­toric drought.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - By Ak­in­wumi Adesina

Wa­ter is es­sen­tial for life, and yet it is scarce in many parts of the world. Ow­ing to the ef­fects of cli­mate change, Africa is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing its worst drought since 1945, es­pe­cially in South­ern Su­dan, So­ma­lia, Ethiopia, and North­ern Nige­ria.

These frag­ile ar­eas now need the global com­mu­nity's sup­port. We need to build re­silient sys­tems to en­sure ac­cess to potable wa­ter for all peo­ple, and to im­prove wa­ter-de­liv­ery and san­i­ta­tion pro­vi­sions in Africa's rapidly grow­ing ur­ban ar­eas.

We should be­gin by ex­pand­ing Africans' ca­pac­ity to har­ness waste­water. With in­vest­ment and proper man­age­ment, waste­water can be­come a sus­tain­able source of wealth for many Africans, with added ben­e­fits for hu­man health, agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity, and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity.

Over the past six years, the African De­vel­op­ment Bank has in­vested $3.3 bil­lion in projects to ex­pand ac­cess to wa­ter and im­prove san­i­ta­tion, with around $2.2 bil­lion of that go­ing to ur­ban ser­vices that reach at least 17 mil­lion peo­ple.

The AfDB sup­ports an in­te­grated ur­ban wa­ter-man­age­ment model (IUWM) that, in keep­ing with United Na­tions Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goal 6, en­ables com­mu­ni­ties to de­rive a sus­tain­able in­come from man­age­ment of ur­ban liq­uid and solid waste.

IUWM ef­forts re­quire a sig­nif­i­cant ini­tial in­vest­ment, and come with steep cap­i­tal and op­er­a­tional costs. Only a few African cities col­lect and treat any more than 20% of the waste­water gen­er­ated through cen­tral­ized wastew­a­ter­man­age­ment sys­tems. The re­main­ing 80% con­sti­tutes a huge un­tapped source

of po­ten­tially valu­able liq­uid and solid waste. With the right in­vest­ment, fore­sight, and com­mit­ment, this un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated re­source can cre­ate jobs and de­liver sus­tain­able growth.

Waste­water man­age­ment is thus a cen­tral fea­ture of the AfDB's strate­gic pri­or­i­ties, known as the High 5s, which aim to im­prove Africans' qual­ity of life, boost public health, achieve gen­der equal­ity, cre­ate jobs, and in­crease com­mu­ni­ties' re­silience to the ef­fects of cli­mate change. Wa­ter will also play a key role in reach­ing the High 5s' in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and sus­tain­able­farm­ing ob­jec­tives.

In Yaoundé, Cameroon, the AfDB helped to pro­tect some 300,000 peo­ple and their prop­erty by re­duc­ing the fre­quency of floods from 15 in­ci­dents per year to just three. And with a $40 mil­lion san­i­ta­tion project, the AfDB helped to lower the pro­por­tion of the city's malar­i­aaf­flicted pop­u­la­tion from 16% to 12%.

In Abid­jan, Côte d'Ivoire, the $23 mil­lion AfDB-funded Gourou Basin In­te­grated Water­shed Man­age­ment Project sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced flood­ing through­out the Gourou Basin, and im­proved 2.8 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants' liveli­hoods.

In Zim­babwe, af­ter 4,300 peo­ple died in the 2008-2009 cholera pan­demic, the AfDB and other donors sup­ported the $43.6 mil­lion Ur­gent Wa­ter Sup­ply and San­i­ta­tion Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Project, which made emer­gency re­pairs to waste­water sys­tems in ur­ban ar­eas, help­ing 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple.

All AfDB-sup­ported wastew­a­ter­man­age­ment sys­tems fol­low sus­tain­abil­ity strate­gies to en­sure that they en­hance eco­nomic gains, ben­e­fit lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, and re­main af­ford­able. These projects also help coun­tries to har­ness and use waste flows, by con­vert­ing sewage to bio­gas and fer­til­izer.

Mean­while, the AfDB's African Wa­ter Fa­cil­ity (AWF) com­ple­ments its pro­ject­fi­nance work by at­tract­ing down­stream in­vest­ments in wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture. In Fe­bru­ary, flood­ing and strong winds from Trop­i­cal Storm Di­neo dev­as­tated the coast of Mozam­bique and had a se­vere im­pact on the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion. But just a few weeks later, the AWF launched a fea­si­bil­ity study to im­prove liveli­hoods and cli­mate-change re­silience through­out Mozam­bique's In­ham­bane Prov­ince, where the storm struck.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Global Wa­ter Part­ner­ship, the AWF is im­ple­ment­ing IUWM sys­tems in five African cities, in­clud­ing Kinshasa in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo and Maron­dera in Zim­babwe. In the DRC alone, IUWM sys­tems can be ex­pected to im­prove wa­ter de­liv­ery and san­i­ta­tion for 17 mil­lion peo­ple by 2030.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion is also tap­ping into the AfDB's ex­per­tise, by pro­vid­ing an $18 mil­lion grant to fund Phase II of the AfDB's Ur­ban San­i­ta­tion Pro­gramme. This ef­fort will help to de­velop busi­ness in­no­va­tions for af­ford­able and sus­tain­able san­i­ta­tion ser­vices in Africa, which could reach two mil­lion ur­ban dwellers di­rectly and an­other six mil­lion peo­ple through sub­sidiary projects.

Africa's waste­water-man­age­ment chal­lenges are sub­stan­tial and com­plex. But the AfDB is de­ter­mined to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties that pay div­i­dends for African com­mu­ni­ties – in public health, im­proved san­i­ta­tion, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

Im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life for all Africans will re­quire po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment, public-pri­vate part­ner­ships, and ro­bust public in­volve­ment. With the High 5s frame­work, the AfDB is work­ing to bring these three in­gre­di­ents to­gether.

All stake­hold­ers – in Africa and in­ter­na­tion­ally – must re­dou­ble our ef­forts to en­sure clean, af­ford­able wa­ter for all, and to sup­port African coun­tries suf­fer­ing through a his­toric drought. We have a moral obli­ga­tion to do so. Af­ter all, wa­ter means life.

Pres­i­dent, African De­vel­op­ment Bank, Ak­in­wunmi Adesina

Con­ver­sion of waste wa­ter for agri­cul­tural use

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