Africa can achieve water security by 2030, says Water Panel

7th April 2023 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Through three proposed pathways, achieving water security and sustainable sanitation for all in Africa is possible by 2030 and is within the power of African leaders.

This is according to the International High-Level Panel on Water Investments for Africa, which proposes three pathways supported by an action plan to unlock and scale an unprecedented pipeline of investable water projects through greater risk sharing between public and private finance.

Ultimately, this would result in an unprecedented acceleration in both the pace and scale of financing that responds to the current global water and climate emergency, the panel pointed out during the release of a landmark report, ‘Africa’s Rising Investment Tide’, at the United Nations 2023 Water Conference in New York in March.

The report will inform the High-Level Panel Investment Plan to be released during the 2023 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit in September.

It outlines three pathways to secure an additional $30-billion to achieve water security and sustainable sanitation in Africa by 2030, including Pathway 1 to achieve more impactful water spending and financial leveraging; Pathway 2 to mobilise domestic resources; and Pathway 3 to secure global and continental investment and finance.

“[About] $10-billion to $19-billion is invested each year in Africa, while at least $30-billion a year is required to achieve water security by 2030. There is therefore a need to close the gap by intensifying advocacy and, above all, action,” says Senegal President and panel co-chairperson Macky Sall, noting that 300-million Africans do not have access to clean drinking water and over 700-million live without access to good sanitation.

The insufficient investment, along with the impacts of climate change and inefficiencies, currently results in a loss for African countries of up to $200-billion each year.

According to the report, every $1 invested in climate-resilient water and sanitation returns at least $7 in societal and economic gains through improvements in health, education, energy, food security, a healthy environment, gender equality and sustainable development goals.

“Without action, climate change will make water shortages worse and lead to more food insecurity, disease burden, human displacement, conflict and obstruct the continent’s economic development.”

The panel proposes a five-point action plan for heads of State and governments, business and global leaders to support the implementation of the three actionable pathways.

This includes the establishment of cross- sectoral political leadership at the highest level, with commitment to significantly increase public budgets and investments for water security and sustainable sanitation, as well as use Official Development Assistance, or ODA, to derisk water investments and leverage larger funding streams.

Another action point is to track progress and enhance mutual accountability for results in the mobilisation of water investments and in peer review mechanisms at all governance levels and recommit to allocation of at least 5% of national budgets for the water and sanitation sector and 0.5% of gross domestic product every year for sanitation and hygiene programmes.

Moreover, there is a need to mobilise new sources of funding and innovative finance by supporting matchmaking, with a special focus on climate resilient, blended public–private finance, and gender transformative approaches and strengthen institutional regulation for water investments, create incentives and penalties for increased water efficiency across multiple industries to lead water stewardship efforts, biodiversity and ecosystem protection.

The appropriate development, governance and use of water resources is a central part of the African continent’s overall development trajectory and will drive that development, as well as offer significant employment opportunities, says the Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who is also co-chairperson of the high-level panel.

“The Netherlands was honoured to provide advice to this great African-led initiative. Now the real work begins: developing the programmes, creating the conditions and getting investors ready to step in,” he says, noting that, if water security and sustainable sanitation on the African continent is not achieved, all the SDGs will fail.