African Finance Ministers Urged to Invest More in Water Resources

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By Dike Onwuamaeze

The Chief Executive Officer of the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Partnership of the UNICEF, Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, has tasked African finance ministers and financial decision-makers to create an enabling environment for investing in water needs in the continent by mobilising new sources of finance.

This can either be from taxes, tariffs, transfers or repayable finance and is expected to help avert consequences that could adversely affect their societies for generations.

She made the call during a media briefing as a prelude to the SWA’s Africa Finance Ministers Meeting that would be attended by Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Nigeria, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, to discuss on funding universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene’s budget for Africa that the World Bank projected at $40 billion annually to meet the Sustainable Development Goal’s (SDG) sixth objective of water supply.

Albuquerque said: “By nature of their work, the finance ministers must use evidence to make smart decisions that help their counties flourish. In the case of water, sanitation and hygiene, the evidence is clear: continuing to neglect these services will only continue to stunt the growth of our economies, populations and societies.”

The SWA, which coordinates and monitors progress toward the sanitation, water and hygiene-related targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, had stated that the finance ministers’ meeting is co-convened by the UNICEF and the Global Water Practice of the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Ministers’ Council on Water.

It said the meeting, which would be held virtually today, would enable the ministers of finance to agree on smart investments in water, sanitation and hygiene for countries in the region.

The SWA said: “The meeting will agree on actions to close the financing gap for universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene, and to ensure economic development, climate change mitigation and disease prevention.”

Other finance ministers that are billed to participate in the meeting include Minister of Finance, Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Maait; Minister of Finance, Mauritania, Mr. Mohamed Dhehby; Minister of Finance, Zimbabwe, Prof. Mthuli Ncube and Minister of Finance, Lesotho, Mr. Thabo Sophonea.

In addition, participants in the meeting would include ministers responsible for water, sanitation and hygiene as well as the heads of United Nations Agencies and high-level representatives from civil society, private sector, bilateral and multilateral financing institutions, and research and learning.

The meeting, according to the SWA, “will underscore the crucial role of water, sanitation and hygiene to the African economy, population and environment during and after COVID-19, and will offer ministers practical options to use the opportunities offered by the sector to improve economic recovery. Ministers will also discuss options and agree actions to be taken to ensure the necessary investments are made in order to maximise the economic benefits offered by the sector.”

It noted that several African countries are implementing innovative policies that are already demonstrating positive impact of water, sanitation and hygiene on the economy, environment and people and emphasised that the meeting of the finance ministers is expected to provide solutions that would help Africa to close the financing gap in water supply, which could be achieved through a combination of measures, including maximising the use of existing resources and mobilising additional finance from taxes, tariffs and transfers.

The World Bank in 2015 estimated that Africa needed $40 billion in capital investments every year until 2030 to achieve the SDG 6 objective of ensuring access to water and sanitation for all. This figure, however, does not include maintenance and operation costs or the efforts in climate change mitigation.

In 2016 and 2017, commitments to the water sector in Africa stood at $12.2 billion and $13.2 billion respectively, observing that Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), although decreasing, played an important role in the water and sanitation sector across Africa.

“Although African countries are at different stages of socio-economic development and will have different political and governance arrangements that will be more or less conducive to different forms of financing, they all have something in common: the need to increase the prioritisation of water, sanitation and hygiene in national plans and budgets, especially during a time of public health concerns, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Sustainable Development Goals demand a higher level of services beyond basic access: safely manage water and sanitation. Africa only has data on these types of services for eight countries, and for six of these, the figures fall below 50 per cent of the population for both water and sanitation. Date per country can be found here,” the SWA said.