AWW6 renews commitments to implementing the SDGs on Water and Sanitation

Africa Water Week (AWW), the African continents premier biennial event on the water calendar was held in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania from 18-22 July, 2016. The sixth AWW was held under the theme “Achieving the SDGs on Water Security and Sanitation”. The theme was built on the success and deliberations of the 2014 5th Africa Water Week on “Placing Water at the Heart of the post 2015 Development Agenda”. 

During AWW6, delegates used insights on existing challenges facing the continent to drive the most exciting program supporting Agenda 2063 to achieving Universal water access for all. Speaking during the Official opening of the AAW6, various leaders accentuated on the need for more investment in water iinfrastructure, energy, water, and ICT in moving Africa towards Agenda 2063. Bi Mass Taal, outgoing AMCOW Executive Secretary drew attention to the urgent need to accelerate water access and prioritising water budgets in African countries.

Giving the welcoming Statement, Hon. Eng. Gerson H. Lwenge (MP), Host Minister, Water and Irrigation, and AMCOW President highlighted on the need for more reassurance on Research in Water related issues. He noted that although 14% PhD holders were present at AWW6, moving forward in achieving SDGs required the continent to capitalise on research. The Minister bemoaned the low number of women attending the conference (20% of delegates), and emphasized on the need to support women in such future events and gender integration in the sector. Quoting from Albert Einstein’s quote “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking”, Hon. Lwenge reiterated the need for investing in resources and innovative approaches in tackling water solutions.

In addition to the opening statements, the programme included three streamlined subthemes falling under the overall theme on ‘Achieving the SDGs on Water Security and Sanitation”, the subthemes were:

  • Achieving Universal and Equitable Access to Water and Sanitation for All;
  • Ensuring Water Security and Climate Resilience;
  • Strengthening Productive Wastewater Management and Improved Water Quality; and
  • Improving Policy, Financing and Monitoring.

GWP and IWMI jointly convened the subtheme on “Ensuring Water Security and Climate Resilience”. The sub-theme explored a number of technical sessions showcasing fact-based evidence, governance measures, and concrete solutions at country and regional level to achieving water related SDGs.

Adhering to the call on tackling the challenge of water infrastructure gap in Africa, GWP was a lead convener of a high level session on “Project preparation for investments in Water, Climate and Development in Africa” . This session, falling under the subtheme on “Ensuring Water Security and Climate Resilience” explored opportunities for a strengthened continental mechanism and initiatives for supporting African countries to leverage finance and investments from public and private sector. Giving a regional perspective to the need for infrastructure funding, SADC Head of Water Division, speaking during the high-level session on project preparation noted that Mr. Phera Ramoeli the SADC Region will fill outstanding infrastructure gaps (of Project costs estimated at US$200 billion) in surface water storage, agriculture, water supply, hydropower, and sanitation through the implementation of the water sector regional master plan.

Mr. Phera Ramoeli further noted that although a water fund exists for the region, there is need to growing the Programme Fund by broadening the mix of income streams, developing new stream s of income, including major donors. He further noted that the Infrastructure Master plan in the SADC region will be the driving mechanism and framework to implementing projects in storage and irrigation, and hydropower. Corridor development will also encompass the industrialisation strategy as a catalyst in the project preparation process.

The summary outcomes from the various sessions under the theme “Ensuring Water Security and Climate Resilience” pointed to the need for:

  • Embracing SMART ICT tools for farmers and scaling up irrigation approaches that address challenges across the full spectrum of irrigation
  • Improving the understanding and utilisation of groundwater to build climate resilience, particularly in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa where it is an unutilised resource.
  • Moving from crisis management to risk management in the improvement of reliability of Early Warning Systems.
  • Improving Transboundary cooperation by developing appropriate strategies, policies and laws in order to promote cooperation and harness benefits from Transboundary waters and providing adequate mandate to RBOs for facilitating infrastructure development and investments.
  • Focusing on investments and sharing benefits
  • Scaling up financing for project preparation and adopting innovative financing mechanisms. Referring to the USD 8.1/year billion finance gap for project preparation, and USD 50 billion needed by 2040 for infrastructure development, .
  • Improving innovative mechanisms for Project Preparation and enhancing coordination of PPFs that are currently fragmented. , embrace revolving fund approach
  • Adopting a strategic approach to financing water security by considering a revolving fund approach and pooling finance sources from climate change, migration and NEXUS and setting up a “Blue Fund” exclusively for the water.
  • Building capacity in the sector as currently only 20% of skills are available to support AU’s Agenda 2063 in Africa
  • Working with planners to mainstream climate resilience in infrastructure and harmonising procedures and financing requirements for different financing sources.

Held at the Julius Nyrerere International Convention Centre, with over 500 delegates, the event attracted a dynamic and diverse audience, from professionals working across industries relating to water, decision and policy makers through to students, scientists and researchers. The event further united participants from over 30 countries that ushered in a new dawn for tackling Africa’s water challenges. 

A highlight of AWW6 also included the launch of the document on the “African Water Resources Management Priority Action Programme (WRM-PAP): 2016-2025” during a session under the subtheme on “Improving Policy, Financing and Monitoring”.  Speaking during the closing session of AWW6, AMCOW President Eng. Gerson Lwenge informed delegates that the WRM-PAP document sets out four priority key action areas to reinforce and ensure efficiency in water use and accelerate the achievement of the Africa Water Vision 2025. Thus, he noted, this was evidence of responding to Africa’s urgency in ensuring quality monitoring and managing water demand and quality. Among the critical focus areas is the cognizance of the AMCOW policy and strategy for mainstreaming gender in the water sector in Africa and the AMCOW Youth Water and Sanitation Strategy. GWP participated in a number of stakeholder workshops that led to the formulation of the African Water Resources Management (WRM) Priority Action Programme (PAP) – 2016-2025.

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GWP Chair Dr. Oyun Sanjaasuren recorded a video message on the occasion of the event. One of her key messages is that inadequate investment in Africa’s water security constrains social progress and economic development.