World Water Day - Osward Chanda, Director for Water and Sanitation Development, Reflects On the African Development Bank's Interventions to Help Africa Achieve SDG Goal 6 On Water and Sanitation

23 March 2023
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African Development Bank (Abidjan)
press release

This year's World Water Day theme is "accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis". What does this theme mean to you?

Accelerating change, "to solve the water and sanitation crisis" and "leaving no one behind", requires bold policy actions and investments to ensure that Africa's populations have access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation by 2030. This means going beyond business as usual in addressing SDG 6 commitments and changing how water is managed and utilized. It also means enhancing sector governance and political commitment, promoting innovative practices (like citywide inclusive sanitation), technologies for strengthening user efficiency, bolstering human and institutional capacity, expansion of infrastructure investments and optimizing access and use of finance, and strengthening partnerships between water and related sectors such as agriculture, energy, and climate change, where water is critical for progress.

The One WASH National Program approach in Ethiopia is one example of the African Development Bank's engagement (including a contribution of $88 million) to address rural water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), institutional WASH, sector governance and capacity development through programmatic approaches. Phase 1, which was concluded in 2019, provided 4.1 million beneficiaries with access to WASH services. More than 3,400 schools and 4,900 healthcare facilities benefited from the institutional WASH project,

Most African Countries are off-track vis a vis SDG 6 targets. What are the Bank's solutions and mechanisms to help take the countries back on track?

To support achievement of SDG-6 targets, the Bank launched its Policy on Water (2021) and new Water Strategy (2021-2030) in 2021. Our vision, "towards a Water Secure Africa", is to be delivered through four pillars: (1) Integrated and Sustainable Water Resources Management; (2) Inclusive, Sustainable and Climate Resilient Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene for all; (3) Water for Food; and (4) Water for Energy.

The Bank's mechanisms are anchored in the provision of knowledge and finance. The Freetown WASH and Aquatic Environment Revamping Project in Sierra Leone exemplifies the Bank Group's efforts to catalyze investment finance. The project cost is about $180 million--the Bank's contribution is $13 million--and co-financing mobilized to date includes $13.9 million from the Kuwait Fund and $20 million from the OPEC Fund for International Development. Through additional convening efforts, the Bank has catalyzed commitments estimated at $100 million from the Netherlands, the Green Climate Fund, and the Islamic Development Bank. This has reduced the financing gap to $33 million.

The United Nations 2023 Water Conference is the second of its kind, and the first in nearly 50 years. What are the Bank's key expectations from this conference?

The UN 2023 Water Conference, coming almost five decades after the first UN Conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1977, provides an opportunity to accelerate action toward achieving SDG 6. Currently, government budgets for financing WASH in Sub-Saharan Africa remain low at an estimated 0.52% of GDP[1], which constrains access. The Bank expects improved prioritization of WASH investments by countries to improve access, enhance health outcomes and leverage the productive capacities of Africa's population. The Bank is encouraging partnerships with private sector actors to finance and deliver water sector services. The private sector has enormous potential to leverage finance.

How can stakeholders take this opportunity at the UN Water conference to accelerate change?

The UN Water conference is an opportunity for stakeholders to help mobilize political leadership to tackle water and climate challenges, promote inclusive and collaborative management of water resources, provide innovative solutions for improved access to WASH services and foster inclusive finance. Stakeholders will play a vital role during this conference and the outcomes must inspire action-oriented commitments to accelerate the delivery of SDG 6 goals and targets.

How do you see the African Development Bank contributing to advancing SDG6 in Africa?

For many African countries, the priority remains expanding access to basic water services.

Collaboration and partnerships will be crucial and transformational in addressing the continent's water sector challenges. Africa needs more resources to invest and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6. But more importantly, the continent needs mechanisms that strategically use donor finance to catalyze private investment through blended finance to fill the financing gap in the water and sanitation sector. In addition to deploying finance, we need to spend more effectively and efficiently, targeting the resources where we can have the highest impact.

[1] UN-Water global analysis and assessment of sanitation and drinking-water (GLAAS) 2017 report: financing universal water, sanitation and hygiene under the sustainable development goals. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO

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