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Africa must invest in innovative sanitation and wastewater management to achieve development goals, new report finds

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, 2 Feb 2021 — The African Development Bank, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and GRID-Arendal have released the inaugural Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa, a tool to benchmark and propel Africa’s progress towards Sustainable Development Goal targets on safe sanitation and wastewater management. The Atlas aims to help policymakers accelerate change and investment in the sector.

atlas cover

The result of four years of collaboration, the Atlas assesses progress and highlights opportunities where investment in sanitation and wastewater management can improve health and spur economic growth. It incorporates maps, graphics and profiles of all African countries, including analyses of their water resources and provision of basic services. The publication also explores the links between sanitation and wastewater and ecosystem health and human health, and discusses frameworks and circular economy approaches that can lead to better infrastructure and systems.

“Africa cannot have a healthy society without adequate access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene,” said Wambui Gichuri, the African Development Bank’s Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development. “In the past 10 years, the African Development Bank has invested more than $6 billion in sanitation and hygiene improvements, but much more financing is needed from the private sector, development finance institutions, governments and other sources. The new Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa can inform strategic investment going forward.”

According to the report, more than half of the population in 34 out of 38 sub-Saharan African nations lacks access to basic handwashing facilities. It recommends investment in the necessary policies, infrastructure and human skills capacities to operationalize actions towards the achievement of goals and targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including those for sustainable sanitation and wastewater management.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened an already existing need to upgrade Africa’s water and sanitation infrastructure. The report’s authors urge African governments to incorporate sanitation and wastewater programs into their post-COVID-19 strategic planning.

“As the world seeks to recover better after COVID-19, prioritizing wastewater and sanitation infrastructure in Africa is critical. Sustainable Development Goal 6, which calls for making water and sanitation available to everyone, is within reach by 2030 if we commit the needed resources. The Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa provides the tools for policymakers to focus on this important challenge,” said Leticia Carvalho, Head of UNEP’s Marine and Freshwater Branch.

In addition to advancing SDG Goal 6, the Atlas is expected to promote the African Union’s Agenda 2063 as well as the Africa Water Vision for 2025, an initiative of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Bank and the African Union.

“We have gathered a wealth of information on practical and transformative solutions for wastewater management and the provision of sanitation services, which can help to boost public health and secure the sustainability of Africa’s natural resources,” said Clever Mafuta, Head of the Waste Programme at GRID-Arendal, a Norwegian non-profit organization established to support the work of UNEP.

The Atlas is available for download here.

About the African Development Bank Group

The African Development Bank Group is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the African Development Bank, the African Development Fund and the Nigeria Trust Fund. On the ground in 41 African countries with an external office in Japan, the African Development Bank contributes to the economic development and social progress of its 54 regional member states. For more information: www.afdb.org

About the United Nations Environment Programme

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. For more information: www.unep.org

About GRID-Arendal

GRID-Arendal transforms environmental data into innovative, science-based information products and provides capacity-building services. GRID-Arendal supports environmentally sustainable development through partnerships with UNEP and other organizations. For more information: www.grida.no

Media contacts:

— African Development Bank, Olufemi Terry, Communication and External Relations Department, email: o.terry@afdb.org

— UN Environment Programme, Moses Osani, Communication Division, email: moses.osani@un.org, tel: +254 716 145 616

— GRID-Arendal, Lisa Hymas, Communications Department, email: lisa.hymas@grida.no, tel: +47 40 40 61 30 and +1 206-853-2673

Release date: 02 Feb 2021


GRID-Arendal's activities are nearly always a cooperative undertaking made possible through collaboration with partners and donors.

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