Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Think creatively about water, sanitation provision - water utilities in Africa urged

By Edmund Smith-Asante, NAIROBI
Mr Evans Ondieki, an Executive Committee Member of the Nairobi City County making his presentation. To his left is  Mr Philip Gichuki, Managing Director of the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company.
Members of the Science and Technical Council (STC) of the African Water Association (AfWA), have been urged to see beyond policies and laws governing the provision of water and sanitation services, to more innovative ways of ensuring access.
The AfWA is an association of water utility companies in Africa, while the STC is its permanent body that consists of the members of the association who are tasked with studying managerial, legal, financial, technical and scientific problems related to the water and sanitation sector, which its members may face.
The STC is currently meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to discuss common problems militating against water and sanitation access in Africa and find ways of solving them.
The three-day meeting, which is on the theme, “Sanitation and Gender in Africa towards Sustainable Development Goals”, is a precursor to the AfWA’s 18th International Congress and Exhibition on the theme “Sustainable Access to Water and Sanitation in Africa” in February 2016 in Nairobi.
Some of the delegates at the STC Meeting
Addressing the opening on Monday, an Executive Committee Member of the Nairobi City County, Mr Evans Ondieki, said policies alone are not self-implementing. “Don’t hide in the law and don’t hide in policies, we need common sense,” he stressed.
“Why can’t we adopt innovative ideas and methods to solve problems,” he asked, adding, “Sometimes we make life so complicated because we hide behind the law and policies.”
Stating that the STC was very critical when it came to formulating the best policies, he urged, “Think, create and innovate because the moment you stop thinking there is a problem.”
Filling water, sanitation gaps
Presenting the keynote address on behalf of Kenya’s Minister of Water and Irrigation, Mr Eugene Wamalwa, the Director of Water Services at the Ministry, Mr Lawrence Simitu, said although the latest figures from the Joint Monitoring Platform (JMP) of UNICEF and WHO indicated there had been a 20 per cent increase in water coverage in Sub Saharan Africa, there was still a huge funding gap in water provision.
He therefore, urged the meeting to find new financing mechanisms such as Public Private Partnership (PPP) to fill the water gap of $500 million and the sanitation funding gap of $300 million that existed.
“We need innovative, strategic and consistent strategic partnerships. Don’t just think about challenges but think about innovative ideas,” Mr Wamalwa said.
He also proposed that water must be made a high priority in policy debates and that water and sanitation must be provided on the basis of justice for all, while there was the need for political willingness at the highest level.
Public Private Partnerships
The Managing Director of the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), Mr Philip Gichuki, listed one of the challenges that the utility company faced, as intermittent water supply which had been occasioned by the deficit in the supply, and which he said, required huge investment for it to be addressed.
He said although the government, with the assistance of the World Bank, was providing other sources of water for the city of Nairobi, it was not enough to deal with the current deficit. Mr Gichuki said the current situation was due to the competing needs of water, which called for preferred serving models for water service expansion in Africa.
“With the support of the Minister of Water and Irrigation, we are establishing public private partnership roles within our company. This is a requirement of our established Partnership Act of 2013 and is supposed to establish a PPP arrangement.”
Mr Gichuki said the PPP role is supposed to provide financial, technical, procurement and other arrangements. He said the PPP was an appropriate arrangement to fast track the development of infrastructure for additional water supply, to reduce the deficit.
Why Gender?
Mr Olivier Gosso, 1st Chair of the Science and Technical Council (STC).
The 1st Chair of the STC, Mr Olivier Gosso, explained that the theme chosen for the meeting was to emphasise the importance of the involvement of women in issues of water provision so that they could adequately contribute to programmes to achieve the set goals.
“If women are educated in water and sanitation, the whole continent will be educated,” he said.
In his remarks, the French Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Remi Marechaux said there was the need for massive investment in water and sanitation and asked development partners to be more generous.
He said sustainable provision was also dependent on good governance. Expressing his worry about the incidence of water cartels, Mr Marechaux said an increase in the number of water points would ensure that the cartels are not able to control water distribution.
To control the wastage of water, he called for effective pricing so that Africa is able to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of water access for all by 2030.
Writer’s email: edmund.asante@graphic.com.gh

This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on November 25, 2015

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