SWAKOPMUND – Africa is lagging when it comes to the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation, as these basic services are still not accessible to 800 million Africans.
At the same time, African cities and urban centres are growing rapidly – and by 2050, they will be home to over 1 billion people.
This grim reality was shared by agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein during the opening of the African Sanitation Conference underway in Swakopmund.
Over 500 delegates from Africa, international partners and the African Union are attending the conference that was initiated to provide a platform for technical and political dialogue with governments and stakeholders to identify and share knowledge to address the sanitation and hygiene challenges in Africa.
The conference promotes high-level political prioritisation of sanitation and hygiene issues across the continent as well.
Speaking at the opening, Schlettwein said Africa is cognizant of the fact that rapid urbanisation, poverty, and inequality limit planning capacities and other urban dynamics, which increase people’s exposure and vulnerability to hazards.
“This has, thus, turned cities into disaster hotspots across the continent, and we have to recognise that we are far off target. We must do better; Vision 2030 is just seven years away, and we are lagging,” Schlettwein said.
He then urged the participants to revitalise Africa’s pursuit of achieving the targets on sanitation and hygiene.
The minister then appealed that the delegates produce ideas that will accelerate the water, sanitation and hygiene agenda forward.
“Let us think of how we can collectively turn the ideas into tangible impacts on the lives of our people. The nexus between water, food, sanitation and the environment needs to be highlighted. Unsustainably high carbon emissions are the main cause and can be mitigated through the agreed transformation of energy generation, moving away from coal, oil and gas towards alternative clean sources,” Schlettwein said.
In a speech read on his behalf, Leonel Correia Sacko, the commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) of the African Union Commission, said the conference is taking place at a time when Africa is strengthening systems and partnerships for accelerated action on safely managed sanitation and hygiene.
“We need to ask why Africa is lagging in targets. That is a very critical question, as we need to seek answers and solutions for the challenges we are facing. Is it because of inadequate political commitment or policies in Africa, inadequate resources, including financial, or is it because of inadequate capacity for action for implementation?” he questioned.
He then urged the participants to make sure they find solutions and ensure they translate to the Africa everyone wants.