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Kenya: Water and sanitation access around Lake Victoria to be upgraded

Kisumu, the third-largest city in Kenya, is about to get an $82 million (€70 million) upgrade to its water and sanitation systems.

Representing the Republic of Kenya, cabinet secretary for the National Treasury of Kenya, Ukur Yatani, last week signed an agreement with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation project to improve access to water and sanitation in Kisumu.

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The signing of the agreement will pave the way for the implementation of the project, which is financed with a $23,4 million (€20 million) concession loan from the AFD, a $41 million (€35 million) concessional loan from the EIB and a $5.8 (€5million) grant from the European Union. The government of Kenya will provide counterpart financing of $11,7 million (€10 million).

The project will expand the water and sanitation distribution network in Kisumu, a port city on Lake Victoria. The distribution networks will now be expanded to include informal settlements and expand water supply to the satellite towns of Ahero and Maseno. It will also include a component for water quality monitoring for Lake Victoria, meant to protect the shared regional water resource and ensure the water treatment process is more efficient. The project will be implemented by the Lake Victoria South Water Works Development Agency.

Kenya’s abundance of water sources doesn’t guarantee access to clean water

Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area and the world second-largest freshwater lake by surface area. However, Kisumu’s close proximity to one of Africa’s Great Lakes does not guarantee the 800,000 residents access to clean water. The lake is currently experiencing significant levels of pollution because of the city’s inadequate sanitation infrastructure. Raw sewage is discharged straight into the lake, domestic and industrial waste makes it way in to the water via influent rivers, as does fertiliser and chemicals from nearby farms. Increased logging and deforestation around the Lake reduces the absorption of pollutants into the soil, degrading the water even further.

Since 2005 the AFD has been financing the rehabilitation and expansion of the water supply and sanitation infrastructure of Kisumu which has greatly augmented the city’s water production capacity. This has resulted in Kusumu becoming one of the few cities in Kenya that can provides those who are connected to the water network, with access to clean water 24/7.

AFD CEO, Rémy Rioux, said: “As the first bilateral financier of the water and sanitation sector in Kenya, with commitments standing at approximately $703,4 million (€600 million) over the past 20 years, AFD is proud to improve access to safe drinking water for the population of Kisumu while protecting this scarce resource through enhanced quality monitoring. In others words, to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals by helping the people and protecting the planet. Thousands of Kenyans living on the shores of Lake Victoria will benefit from the financial support of the AFD which has granted a $23,4 million (€20 million) concessional loan as part of a Team Europe effort that will future reinforce the positive social and environmental impacts of this impressive water project.”

Improving access to water improves population’s overall health

Before the AFD became involved in the water sector in Kisumu, only half of the population even had access to running water, with most people buying water of poor quality and high cost from water vendors. Prior to the AFD’s involvement, only 8% of the Kisumu residents had access to a continuous water supply.

The presence of a built-up urban area on the shores of the Lake has always meant a higher risk of pollution, but this will be addressed through the planned construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. The city’s water and sanitation network will in future benefit from significant extension thanks to this new financing from the AFD, EIB and UE, providing for the population’s projected need until 2030.

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EIB vice president, Ambroise Fayolle, pointed out thousands of Kenyans who live on the shores of the lake will benefit from transformed access to clean water and improved sanitation. “This impressive water project will contribute to improved health, reduced infant mortality and address poverty in communities faced by a changing climate and strengthen efforts to fight COVID-19.

“As the EU Bank the EIB is pleased to provide $41million (€35million) long term financing for this project and to contribute environmental and social technical expertise. The Lake Victoria water and sanitation sceheme has been developed under the Mutual Reliance Initiative with the AFD leading international partners and ensuing reducing the burden of administrative procedures,” said Fayolle.

The project should affect more than 30,000 households through improved sanitation and more than 25,000 households should benefit from additional connection to the water supply grid.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.