African ministers discuss water challenges

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pretoria - The shortage of water in Africa will form part of key discussions at the week-long African Ministers' Council on Water Summit which kicked off in Johannesburg this morning.

The African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW), the initiator of the Africa Water Week, will focus its attention on establishing a sustainable roadmap on increasing Africa's water supply at the conference.

A reduction in the number of Africans without access to water is yet to be achieved.

AMCOW executive secretary, Bai-Mass Taal, said it was a challenge to reduce the number of Africans that are still living without adequate access to water.

"Our efforts in providing water access to areas in need are fruitful, however, it cannot be seen owing to the ever-increasing African population," said Taal.

Taal stresses the importance and need for Africa Water Week to be able to reach and carry forward the commitments made at African Union (AU) Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on water and sanitation.

The Heads of State had committed to implementing the New Millennium Goals, which stipulates that every African country should radically reduce the number of people that do not have access to safe drinking water to half by 2015.

"It is of utmost importance that Africa Water Week is a building ground in establishing a realistic strategy for the next six years to meet our 2015 target of providing water to Africans in need," Taal said.

Currently, 26 countries are faring well in supplying water to the poor. However, there are countries that are "off track" owing to a lack in financial resources and adequate policy planning.

Taal emphasises the importance of the meetings that will be held at the Africa Water Week to be able to come up with a national plan for each country to invest in itself and meet commitments made.

"Last year's Water Week was only the start and, I hope, with the Africa Water Week which is being hosted by South Africa this year, it will be the starting point of a roadmap for a future filled with water availability to all Africans," he states.

Africa Water Week will be both unique and innovative in character as the main focus will be on implementation and partnership, setting Africa on a sprint towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals targets.

It will bring together a strong unity of purpose through participation of African countries and United Nations agencies, civil society groups, the private sector and development cooperation partners, to address the critical issue of water and sanitation, which is key to sustainable development on the continent.

Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Sonjica and AMCOW's President, Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua were expected to open the proceedings of the conference.

Special focus will be placed on financing of water and sanitation infrastructure, how to close the sanitation gap, climate change and water adaptation as well as management of Africa's transboundary waters.

"Many donors approach us with strategies that are not ideal for Africa therefore, it is important that all African water ministries speak with the same voice, with Africa in concern," Taal added as he emphasised the relevance of the week's gathering for Africa.

"Africa cannot depend on outsiders (other continents) to provide it with solutions. Africa first needs to invest in its own resources and then we can start thinking of bringing outside donors in to assist in our own investments," he said.