By Babatope Babalobi, who was in Tunis email@example.com
In the year 2012, the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization announced cheering news that the world has achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water, three years in advance of the 2015 MDG deadline.
Titled: Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012, the report says 89% of the world’s population, or 6.1 billion people, used improved drinking water sources, at the end of 2010. This was one per cent more than the 88% MDG target.
The report was received with excitement globally, but people living in most parts of Africa, received it with mixed reactions as the report did not reflect the reality on the ground. The report itself admitted the fact that global coverage figures mask massive disparities between regions and countries, and within countries.
The truth is that Africa still has the lowest total water supply coverage of any region in the world. Currently about 300 million people in Africa do not have access to safe water and about 313 million have no access to sanitation. Only 61% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to improved water supply sources compared with 90% or more in Latin America and the Caribbean, Northern Africa, and large parts of Asia. Over 40% of all people globally who lack access to drinking water live in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to figures provided by Sering Jallow, Director Water and Sanitation Department& African Water Facility, AfDB, as of 2010, 47.6% of Africans had access to water supply, and 27.9% had access to improved sanitation, but these figures are far below the MDG targets of 70% for water supply, and 62% for sanitation. Only about 16 countries in Africa are on target to meet the MDGs for water while less than 10 are likely to meet the sanitation targets necessitating the need to develop new initiatives to accelerate access.
At the current pace, an African Development Bank (AfDB) study calculated that most sub Saharan African countries will meet access-to-water target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) only in 2040, and the access-to sanitation target in 2076.
Apart from massive disparities among continents and countries, there are also massive disparities within countries, with most rural areas having the lowest access figures compared to urban areas; yet, most African, about 62% live in rural areas. Access to services is estimated to be 47% for water supply and 44% for sanitation. In view of the low access to WSS services in rural areas, rural populations are burdened to a greater extent by preventable water and sanitation related diseases, suffer great deprivation of women and children from embarking on productive economic activities due to time and efforts used to fetch water. The deprivation also results in low enrolment rate in education. These problems contribute to accentuate poverty in the rural areas.
Challenges of Rural Water supply and Sanitation in Africa
The challenges facing Rural Water supply and Sanitation (RWSS) services in Africa include the following:
- Inadequate investment for sustainable service delivery and access.
- Poor policy and institutional framework to foster effective and efficient implementation and management of RWSS services.
- Lack of human capacity to establish community-managed RWSS services as well as engineering and drilling/construction capacity to deliver WSS facilities.
- Inefficient management of Operation and Management of water supply and sanitation services as many facilities have fallen into disrepair due to lack of spare parts and maintenance.
- All these scenarios are worsened by water resources variability and scarcity (droughts, population pressure, and environmental degradation) in some countries.
Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI)
The Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI) is one of the donor led efforts to accelerate access to water and sanitation in Africa and it aims at attaining 66% access to water supply and sanitation by the year 2010, 80% by 2015, and full access by 2025. The African Development Bank Group conceived the RWSSI in 2002 within the framework of the Bank Group’s strategic plan (2003 –2007) and in response to the Africa Water Vision and the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Launched in 2003 by AfDB, it was then adopted by African governments and international development partners as the common Framework for resource mobilization and investment at the First International Conference on Rural Water Supply and Sanitation in Africa, held in Paris in April 2005.
The Initiative has received backing from the international community including the G8 Summit at Evian, the World Panel on Financing Water Infrastructure and the African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW) as well as several bilateral donors.
Thus, RWSSI is a joint programme coordinated by the AFDB at the continental level, but financed by many donors, other partners and Regional Member Countries (RMCs)
The overall objective of the RWSSI is to provide access to sustainable water supply and sanitation services to 271 and 295 million people in rural Africa, respectively, to reach the target of 80 percent coverage by 2015.
By its estimates, a total of approximately 270 million rural people will need to be provided with access to improved water supply and about 300 million to sanitation in order to meet the 2015 RWSSI target of 80% access to water supply and sanitation.
This objective of achieving 80% access in 2015 and universal access by 2025 may become a pipe dream as there is a large gap between current financial flows and financial requirements to meet the goals for 2015 and 2025. Annual flows would need to be significantly increased by up to US$1.2 billion to meet the targets. An estimated USD 14.2 bn required to provide water to 271M people and sanitation facilities for 295M people; while the total financial resources required to achieve the 2015 RWSSI targets were estimated at USD14.8 billion.
Other challenges identified in the course of implementing the RWSSI programme include the following:
- Entrenching decentralisation: Though many African countries have embarked on the process of devolving responsibilities for water and sanitation services to local authorities, in most cases, decentralization has only been on paper with little practical manifestation. More importantly, there is a need to increase financial flows and transfer authority to local level structures.
- Improving supply chains: Existing supply chains managed by governments are weak and most RWSS programs have not incorporated the establishment of privately-driven supply chains. Communities are exposed to very weak supply chains and post-construction support.
- Low sanitation coverage: According to the JMP 2010 report, only 6 countries in Africa are likely to meet the sanitation MDG target. Without further political and financial commitment from Governments and development partners, the sanitation situation might actually retrogress on the continent. In most countries the management of sanitation is fragmented and there is no designated budget and institutional home for sanitation provision.
- Conflicting financing mechanisms for sanitation: The majority of the RWSS programs finance only community mobilization and training in hygiene education and construction of public sanitation facilities. There is a need for policy guidance on the financing of household sanitation facilities.
- Improving Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) frameworks: Despite financial support through a number of RWSS programs for the establishment of M&E systems, most countries are unable to provide reliable data for sector planning and information management.
- Weak knowledge dissemination: Best practices and experience from use of innovative technologies are not efficiently shared across the region due to lack of knowledge and information dissemination mechanisms, and thus the benefits of innovative approaches and experiences are often lost.
A study by the African Development Bank (AfDB) concludes on country experiences indicates that increased efficiency in the water and sanitation sector would only be achieved if the following elements are put in place:
- Improved sector coordination, with assignment of clear responsibility to one ministry accountable for progress in the achievement of water and sanitation targets;
- Increased integration between policy making, planning, budgeting and monitoring and evaluation;
- Increased focus on capacity building, especially at the local level, and for all stages of water and sanitation projects – from planning to procurement, to execution, monitoring and maintenance;
- Promotion of linkages among stakeholders, including government bodies and donors, and civil society organizations.
- Adoption of well-designed water utility reforms are substantially improving access to services and making progress in financial capacity to sustain and expand the services.
The RWSSI hopes to accelerate access to sustainable RWSS in Africa through:
- Awareness raising;
- Beneficiary participation;
- Adoption of fast track mechanisms;
- Using demand driven programmatic approaches;
- Raising the profile of sanitation;
- Emphasis on capacity building; and
- Mobilization of more funds from governments, communities, NGOs and donors.
The RWSSI prides itself as the only continental initiative focusing on RWSS services at such large scale; and as of Dec. 2012, the initiative had implemented 37 programmes in 26 countries, providing water supply and sanitation access to 45 million and 30 million people (2011 values), respectively.
Launch of RWSSI Coordinating Committee in Tunis
From the foregoing discussions two key factors are strategic for up scaling and sustaining the delivery of water and sanitation services in rural Africa- they are adequate financing and effective coordination.
- Financing: With an estimated additional USD 8.1 billion required, there is need to attract much improved levels of financing into the sector; and
- Coordination at continental level: Is a need to develop more inclusive governance with greater involvement and effective participation of key stakeholders to jointly support and achieve the financing, implementation and reporting requirements of the initiative to deliver better results on the ground.
The process of improving financing and coordination of RWWS activities at the continental level received a major boost, recently when major stakeholders gathered in Tunis, capital of Tunisia, March 26 and 27, 2013 to brainstorm the operational modalities of a Coordinating committee as a platform that will facilitate improved coordination and sector learning among partners and stakeholders towards the achievement of the RWSSI’s goals and targets.
The specific objectives of the meeting are:
- Appraise stakeholders on RWSSI progress, achievements, challenges and plans leading to 2015. This will also include a discussion on some of the key issues affecting sector progress (sector monitoring and performance reporting; sub-sector financing; sustainability; sector coordination) and how Africa should address them;
- Share country and field experiences in co-ordination to inform the way forward for RWSSI;
- Obtain partner and stakeholder inputs towards identifying opportunities and addressing co-ordination challenges to achieve Africa’s rural water supply and sanitation targets
- Define the process of establishing of a Coordinating Committee for RWSSI, review the draft terms of reference and membership of the RCC, and propose undertakings for the first year (including modalities for their achievement); and,
- Launch the Coordinating committee.
The meeting in Tunis was attended by officials from the AfDB, African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), the World Bank, UNICEF, WaterAid as well as water and sanitation Journalists networks. It lasted for three days, divided into five sessions, during which participants discussed issues related to the establishment of the Coordinating committee for the RWSSI.
The opening session on ‘Progress and plans of the RWSSI’ was addressed by Mr. Gilbert Mbeshrubusa, AfDB Vice President, Operations III – Infrastructure; Mr. Francois Kruger, Executive Director, AfDB; Mr. Bai Mass Taal, AMCOW’S Executive Secretary; Hon. Christian G. Herbert, Deputy Minister for Rural Development and community Services, Liberia; and Mr. Sering Jallow, AfDB Director Water and Sanitation Department.
During the second session, Mr. Bai Mass Taal mounted the podium again to introduce the essence of the proposed RWSSI Coordinating committee.
The third session focused on how national coordination of RWSS could be strengthened at country levels. One of the speakers- Bethlehem Mengistu, Regional Advocacy Manager of WaterAid in East Africa, who shared experiences on ‘Sector Coordination and Performance Monitoring’ in Malawi. According to Mengistu, the effects of poor coordination of RWSS at country levels include the following:
1. Duplication of efforts and investments
2. Un sustainability of WASH services
3. Poor WASH sector accountability
4. Lack of ownership of initiatives/investment
5. Corruption in WASH Sector
6. Marginalization (no participation, equity and inclusion in WASH service provision
7. And consequently right to water and sanitation not realized!
Megistu explained how WaterAid in East Africa is promoting better sectoral coordination of RWSS at country levels using its interventions in Malawi as a case study:
“In Malawi, WaterAid is supporting decentralized structures, and so far a total of 10 local government areas have been supported to develop District Strategic Investment Plans (DSIPs) which provides direction to planning, implementation, and monitoring of water and sanitation programmes, while about 12 districts are currently being supported by UNICEF to do the same”.
She, however, admitted that this best practice is not without its challenges: “due to lack of devolution, DSIPs struggle to mobilize resources to implement plans, although the Local Development Fund was introduced as a mechanism for supporting projects, tiny amounts are available for water and sanitation on a competitive basis”, said Megistu.
Other initiatives supported by WaterAid to promote better sectoral coordination in Malawi include
1. Establishment and strengthening of civil society Networks capable of influencing the design, implementation and evaluation of effective WASH policies at all levels
2. Strengthening sector performance monitoring including data reconciliation/harmonization with international standards and Water Point Mapping
3. Supporting budget advocacy and tracking
4. Engagement with Parliamentarians to champion increased sector financing in WASH.
In the fourth session, participants were distributed to workgroups that extensively discussed the functions, structure, and 2013 work plan of the proposed Coordinating committee.
The first work group assessed how to effectively monitor, evaluate, and report RWSS programmes in Africa and the questions posed to them are: How could the Coordinating Committee support to improve Monitoring and Evaluation (M and E) at country and regional level? What should be the short‐term deliverables and work‐plan for the newly formed Coordination Committee in the area of RWSS monitoring and Evaluation, and Reporting? What are the major needs and barriers for effective country M and E and Reporting?
Presenting their report to the Plenary session of the Tunis meeting, participants in this group recommended that the new Coordinating Committee should assist in harmonizing and standardizing RWSS indicators for use in the AMCOW’s M and E; assist countries to develop capacity for RWSSM and E and reporting; provide platform for linkages to existing instruments, AfDB, African Water Facility (AWF), and promote peer to peer learning and exchanges as well as scaling up good experiences.
The second work group deliberated on ‘Financing and resource mobilization for rural water supply and sanitation services’ in Africa; and its report recommended the following:
1. Development of Investment plan and financing strategy by all countries
2. Identification of projects to be financed
3. Need to place emphasis on infrastructure investment instead of support to soft wares such as workshops
4. Need to improve water and sanitation governance to inspire visibility and confidence
5. Implementation of sector reform policies to improve efficiency
6. Development of absorption /implementation capacity by beneficiaries
7. Use of call for proposals with transparent and clear time frames; an
8. Ownership/personal involvement of political leadership.
Other recommendations of the group include:
1. Development of strategic approaches for post-conflict/fragile states, “aid orphans” such as Central African Republic, Sudan and Guinea Conakry.
2. Identification of users as a stable source of finance: participation, and the need to balance tariffs and subsidies.
3. Consideration of the private sector involvement in RWSS based on the examples of Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Senegal.
4. Learning strategies from urban water supply and sanitation UWSS and scaling up where appropriate.
5. Cross-sector collaboration: e.g. agriculture, and rural development.
6. Promotion of government contribution for stability.
7. Greater involvement in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) and mobilising communities.
8. Campaigning more on the role of Water supply and sanitation in health and food security
9. Identification of champions to promote innovative financing.
Another work group considered the structure of the proposed coordinating committee of the RWSSI; and the questions it considered include:
- Based on your knowledge of existing Africa wide institutions and ongoing activities, what should the membership of the proposed Coordinating Committee be and why?
- How should it be structured? What are your views on the proposed structure?
- What should be its short‐term work plan?
- What are the resources implications for the Coordinating Committee?
In its report, the group recommended a name change from Regional Coordinating Committee of the RWSSSI to Coordinating Committee of the RWSS, arguing that the word ‘regional’ is confusing. Participants also decided that the RWSSI Coordination Committee will comprise of eighteen (18) members drawn from AMCOW, Donor community, AfDB, Civil society, and Water and Sanitation Journalists network.
Specifically, the group recommended that the Coordinating committee should be co chaired by the AfDB and‐ AMCOW Secretariat; and its memberships should include regional representatives AMCOW’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Countries: (Chad, Kenya, Libya, Angola and Nigeria); representatives from Ministries of Finance/Planning in AMCOW’s TAC countries: (Chad, Kenya, Libya, Angola and Nigeria); a donor representative; a representative from RWSSI‐Trust Fund; one representative from United Nations (UN-Water); Non governmental organizations to be represented by the African Network for Water and Sanitation; the media to be represented by Water and Sanitation Journalists Network; and the civil society to be represented by a well known group.
The group also recommended that the structure of the Coordinating committee should be finalized within three months and the inaugural meeting of the body should be convened within the next six months.
One major achievement of the Tunis meeting was the approval of the understated terms of reference for the proposed Coordinating Committee of the RWSSI. It was agreed that the Coordinating committee will embark on:
1. Regional and international awareness of RWSSI for broader ownership and greater impact.
2. Advocacy and promotion of resource mobilization for national RWSS programs;
3. Inter-governmental coordination facilitating sharing;
4. Regional sector monitoring and reporting;
5. Promote Transparency and accountability; and,
6. Promote Knowledge sharing and peer support in: National RWSSI strategies and policy development, Donor harmonization and coordination, Capacity Building, and Monitoring and evaluation for advocacy.
The meeting was rounded up, with the launch of the Coordinating committee of the RWSSI by Christian G. Herbert, Deputy Minister for Rural Development and community Services, Liberia who represented the Liberian President- Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
For more information on the RWSSI, contact: Nalubega Maimuna- firstname.lastname@example.org