Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stronger political will, funding access needed 
to improve Africa’s water sector

While investment in the water sector in Africa is improving, water projects still do not receive the necessary political priority and funding in some African countries, says Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (Dwaf) chief director of water services Helgard Muller.

In fact, the Southern African Devel-opment Community secretariat reported last year that it was becoming increasingly difficult to raise funds for water projects in the region. 
And Africa Project Access MD Paul Runge, who tracks infrastructure projects across the continent, revealed that there had been a noticeable drop in the number of new water-related projects entering the pipeline.

However, amidst the concern for funding Africa’s water sector, development partners increased funding to $1,34-billion in 2006, up from $787-million in 2003, and the World Bank increased investment in water projects on the continent to some $720,5-million. 
A joint UK-Netherlands initiative launched late last year will result in the allocation of £85-million to help 20 poor countries in Africa and Asia draft and implement their own water and sanitation plans, while the UK is to double its assistance for water and sanitation in Africa from £95-million a year in 2007/8 to £200-million a year by 2010/11.

“Civil organisations and government need to achieve greater political support and influence on national budget allocations. Bodies referred to include the African Ministers Committee on Water that will be chaired by Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks, who is aiming to enhance Africa’s water sector on the international agenda,” Muller tells Engineering News.

Meanwhile, another initiative high on the agenda is WaterTec Africa 2009, which comprises an exhibition, conference and matchmaking programme aimed at showcasing industry opportunities and challenges in Africa’s water sector.

The event will be held in Johannesburg from June 9 to June 11. Stakeholders will be able to interact, identify opportunities and 
extend their networks, while innovation, developments, and new technologies will be some of the features of the show.

“It is important for Africa to see what is available on the continent, such as the technologies designed and developed for our conditions, equipment that is robust and easy to maintain and with lower energy demands,” Muller tells Engineering News.

The event is endorsed by the African Water Association, the Chemical and Allied Industries Association, the South African Irrigation Institute, the Water Institute of South Africa and Dwaf.

Event spokesperson John Thomson says that increased investment in Africa is creating business and growth opportunities across the continent.

The World Health Organisation calcu-lates that every $1 invested in water sanitation will yield an economic return of $3 to $4, dependent on the region.