by Sohna Aminatta Ngum (Gender Specialist in the department of Gender, Women and Civil Society at the African Development Bank Group)
January 4, 2018 The African subcontinent has experienced rapid economic growth since 2000. African Development Bank (AfDB) Group demographic projections indicate that Africa’s population will increase from 1 billion in 2010 to 1.6 billion in 2030. The continent’s urban population is expected to increase from 40% of the total population to over 50%, increasing the already high unmet demand for water. The majority of both increases will occur in the poorest, most crowded areas.
The sixth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG6) aims to ‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’. Africa faces a huge task in providing clean and accessible water for its citizens, especially considering target 6.2, which aims to ‘achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030…paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations’.
Demand for urban water and sanitation interventions continues to increase, especially due to the large numbers of people living in informal and congested urban settlements. Some 84 million urban Africans gained access to improved water supply and 42 million to improved sanitation between 2000 and 2010 – an average 3.9% increase in access over the decade; but urban populations also grew by an average of 3.9%.
Bringing water to urban populations
A huge infrastructure gap in Africa’s water sector restricts its transformation: the continent withdraws about 210 cubic metres of water per year per capita for economic activities, which is less than 40% of the global average. Water storage capacity is also very low, at less than 200 cubic metres per capita, compared to 1,100 in Mexico. African governments are lagging when it comes to meeting the continent’s massive infrastructure needs: the AfDB found that the continent invests only 4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in infrastructure, compared to China’s 14% investment. Bank estimates find that GDP growth could increase by an estimated 2 percentage points a year if Africa were to bridge its infrastructure gap.
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