EXPERTS on water and sanitation have asked African governments to get more committed on issues of water if the continent is to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.
The call was made at the start of the second East African Young Water Professionals forum that kicked off in Kigali yesterday. According to water professionals, forecasts for the water situation in Africa are still quite distasteful. The conference has brought together participants from 20 African countries across the globe.
Experts say many African nations will fail to achieve the Millennium Development Goal's target to reduce by half the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015, and that many more will miss the sanitation target.
According to Nelson Gomonda from Action Aid, Africa loses five per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to poor coverage of water and sanitation, two per cent to power outages, between five to twenty five to droughts and floods in affected countries, and a further five per cent to the future impact of climate change.
"In Africa where young people are over 50 percent of the population, only seven per cent of hydropower has been developed.
Africa's agricultural water management is woefully deficient, with a food import bill of over US$17 billion," Gomonda noted.
Stanislas Kamanzi, the Minister of Natural Resources, while officiating at the opening of the forum, noted that there is need to forge strong political will, supported at all levels of decentralisation.
"Translating national policies and strategies into results on the ground is critical to improving access. However, these gains are only possible at the national level if the political leadership actively supports and drives progress towards the targets," Kamanzi explained
He added that in Rwanda, this support has come from the very top. The President identified sanitation as a key approach to reducing poverty under national poverty reduction strategies and other policies.
Kamanzi said the meeting is an opportunity to discuss various aspects of water including integrated water resource management, innovations in appropriate technology, Water governance and financing, youth empowerment and gender, climate change, sanitation and hygiene.
"Water scarcity is one of the leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally. The struggle for access to clean drinking water in Africa contributes daily to the stalling and reversal of human progress on the continent," said one of the participants.
The Young Water Professionals is a forum comprised of water professionals and students below the age of 35 and the main focus of the YWP is to engage the youth in the water sector to prepare them to become the future leaders of the water sector.
The theme of the three-day conference is focusing on "Water for the future: A contribution of the Youth". It brings together the East African young water professionals, senior water professionals and other various stakeholders to support the continuous development of a workforce adequate in size, capable in skills and strong in leadership to make a valuable contribution in addressing the issue of water for the present and the future.