Breaking the Water Barrier: How Africa Can Achieve Water Security and Sustainable Sanitation

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A high-level report shows there are pathways by which Africa can close its water and sanitation gaps by 2030 but some tough measures are required.

Photo by Farooq Khan

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'Africa's Rising Investment Tide', a report released by the International High-Level Panel on Water Investments for Africa released on Wednesday (March 22),  shows there are pathways by which Africa can close its water and sanitation gaps by 2030.

The panel, consisting of seven African presidents and international leaders, seeks to develop actionable avenues to close in on the continent's water investment gaps.

In the inaugural report, the panel demonstrates pathways African countries can implement to secure an additional $30 billion to drive water security and sustainable sanitation by 2030.

Africa requires US$50 billion annually the equivalent of US$40 per individual African per year to achieve water security and sustainable sanitation by 2030.

Current water and sanitation investment inflows range between US$10 billion and US$19 billion a year, leaving deficits of between US$11 billion and US$20 billion annually.

The high-level panel's report highlights the opportunities to bridge these gaps.

According to the panel, the goal for African countries should include achieving more impactful water spending and financial leveraging, mobilizing domestic resources, and securing global and continental investment and finance.

According to Senegal President Macky Sall, the panel's co-chair, existing gaps must be closed by "intensifying advocacy and, above all, action."

"The three proposed pathways outline how to unlock and scale unprecedented pipeline of investable water projects through greater risk sharing between public and private finance."

The report highlights the economic value of achieving the 2030 targets, insisting the cost of inaction is already taking a toll on individual countries and heightening economic gaps.

For every US$1 invested in climate-resilient water and sanitation, the report estimates at least US$7 will be gained by ensuring that US$1 is used across developments in various sectors.

Due to the present sector investment gaps, "African countries lose up to $200 billion annually."

Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 5% of its GDP due to a lack of water or contaminated water from poor sanitation.

If this trend continues, African nations could lose $50 billion annually due to climate impacts propagated by water-related hazards.

A change in paradigm in water investing can remedy that.

The panel proposes a 5-point action plan for heads of state and government, businesses, and the global community to reinforce the three pathways.

A cross-sectoral political leadership at the highest level of governance should be created with a commitment to increase budgetary allocations to water and sanitation activities.

The authors also propose establishing mechanisms to track progress, with at least 5% of national budgets and 0.5% of GDP per year dedicated to the sector.

Further, new funding sources and innovative finance methods should be explored to support climate resilience, blended public-private finance, and gender transformation.

These can be met through matchmaking, bringing diverse parties together to collaborate and invest in the sector.

Stronger institutional regulations for water investment will also trigger more incentives besides outlining penalties.

This will boost water efficiency across various industries.

Finally, the panel believes using official development assistance, ODA, models to de-risk water investments will help. The model will generate larger funding streams and will make the pathways actionable.

"If we don't achieve water security and sustainable sanitation on the African continent we will fail at all of the Sustainable Development Goals," alternate panel co-chair Jakaya Kikwete noted.

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