The ninth World Water Forum, a week-long series of conferences and workshops aimed at accelerating universal access to water and sanitation concluded during the weekend with several resolutions and action plans adopted and approved.
The event closed with high hopes for ending the perennial challenge of water in Africa with the announcement of the “creation of a high-level international panel on investment in water in Africa”.
“The objective of the panel is to develop concrete ways to mobilise $30 billion per year until 2030 to implement the African Water Investment Programme and to close the existing water investment gap in the African continent”, Senegal’s water minister, Serigne Mbaye Thiam announced at the closing ceremony of the event held between March 22 and 26th in Dakar.
“On behalf of the Head of State, President Macky Sall, Chairperson of the African Union, I hereby announce the official establishment of an international high-level panel on water investments in Africa”, he announced.
Held every three years, the World Water Forum which constitutes the world’s largest meeting around water took place in Sub-Saharan Africa for the first time since it was initiated in 1997.
The forum, with the theme; “Water Security for Peace and Development,” featured multiple sessions throughout last week, around four priority themes of water security and sanitation, water for rural development, cooperation, means and tools.
Global water challenge
Water is the most essential human need yet one-quarter of the world’s population– estimated 2 billion people, reportedly lack safe drinking water while half, 3.6 billion people, lack safe sanitation.
The damage to human capital is staggering. In 2019, diarrheal diseases were ranked the 8th greatest cause of death in the world, claiming 1.5 million lives worldwide, mainly due to poor water and sanitation, according to World Bank statistics.
For every $1 invested in basic drinking water, there are $3 in returns, and even higher figures for water investments in rural areas.
But despite the proven benefits of investing in water for development, water security – the availability of sufficient water – is far from being realized in many countries. And The Covid-19 pandemic has further underscored critical gaps in water and sanitation services, with serious consequences for public health. This challenge is particularly acute in Africa, where poor water quality is the root cause of several diseases.
‘World’s largest water event’
It is against this backdrop, that the World Water Forum was convened for the first time on African soil. Officials of international institutions, government institutions, decision-makers and academics, participated at the forum.
This year’s proceedings centered exclusively on the impact of COVID-19 on water supply and how to raise more funds for water security.
In his opening speech, Senegalese president Macky Sall strongly insisted on robust investment on water conservation, hoping that the issue remains at the heart of the international agenda.
Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania, stressed the need for more financing.
“We have heard numerous mentions of 114 billion dollars in global market capital investment, excluding maintenance, which will be needed annually to close the gap for the population using safely and managing drinking water and sanitation services.”
Speaking during a session organised by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Daouda Ndiaye, Lead Climate Adaptation Specialist at IsDB, stated that climate finance will contribute greatly to addressing challenges in the water sector because the two are linked.
Encouraging more science-based decisions will be critical in addressing the challenges of water security in Member Countries, experts at the session agreed.
The highlight of the event was the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW).
Former Nigerian leaders – Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Shagari- were honored for their efforts towards the establishment and growth of AMCOW.