filtration ponds wastewater treatment facility
Filtration ponds at a wastewater treatment facility. Image: Ivan Bandura -

A new sanitation and wastewater management benchmark tool highlights opportunities to boost health and economic growth in Africa.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), UN Environment Programe (UNEP), and GRID-Arendal have released the inaugural Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa. This is a tool to benchmark and drive Africa’s progress towards Sustainable Development goals on safe sanitation and wastewater management. The Atlas aims to help policymakers accelerate change and investment in the sector.

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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. The publication incorporates maps, graphics and profiles of all African countries. It also includes analyses of their water resources and the provision of basic services. It also explores the link between sanitation and wastewater and ecosystem health and human infrastructure. Then it goes on to discuss frameworks and circular economy approaches that can lead to better infrastructure and systems.

Wambui Gichuri, AfDB 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.”

Report recommends targeting better water management policies and infrastructure

According to the report, more than half of the population in 34 out of 38 sub-Saharan Africa nations lack access to basic handwashing facilities. It recommends investment in the necessary policies, infrastructure and human skills capacities to achieve the goals and targets in the 2030 Agenda, 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.

Leticia Carvalho, UNEP head of marine and freshwater: “As the world seeks to recover better after COVID-19, prioritising 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.”

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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 2050, an initiative of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Bank and the AU.

Clever Mafuta, head of the waste programme at Norwegian non-profit organization established to support the work of UNEP, GRID-Arendal: “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.”

 The Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa is available online.