WaterSan Perspective and
African Press Organization
November 8, 2013
A High Level Forum on water and sanitation for all in Africa kick off November 21 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire presenting an unprecedented opportunity for potential investors in water, sanitation and affordable housing businesses in Africa.
The forum will assemble Heads of States, Finance Ministers, Water and Sanitation Ministers, investors and donors from southern countries and also from the north, private businesses and trade associations from Africa, and development practitioners with a focus on identifying business opportunities in the water and sanitation sector.
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Africa is among the fastest growing regions of the world with an average growth of 5.6% per year. Africa is also fast gaining increasing access to international capital, meaning that the potential for investment and expansion in infrastructure is higher.
Africa’s growth is largely constrained by poor infrastructure. A study conducted by the African Development Bank estimated that the total cost of bridging Africa’s infrastructure gap over the next decade will be about $93 million a year.
In 1980, Africa’s urban population was estimated at 28%. By 2008 it had risen to 40% and projected to reach 50% by 2030.
This rapid urbanization rate has created demand for more infrastructure including housing, water and sanitation systems. To spur the growth, many African governments have strengthened their legal frameworks, policy and strategy regimes, anti-corruption policies, and the quality of their human capital.
A woman with a Jerry Can struggling to locate where to fetch water from in the degraded Kikondera wetland in Buhweju district of Uganda. Picture by Chris Mugasha
In 2000, it was estimated that 59 million households had $5000 or more income above which they start spending roughly 50% on non-food items. By 2014, this figure is expected to increase to 106 million households. Thus many more Africans are prepared to exchange cash for quality service especially in water, sanitation and housing.
Despite these positive trends, the water and sanitation sector has not yet received adequate investor attention in Africa. This state of affair is mostly but arguably attributed to the socialist focused development paradigm for the sector; water and sanitation services were branded as social services with strict governmental controls. This limited the business interest in the sector and led to over-reliance on government investment and charity.
Most African countries struggle to provide access to water and sanitation to their people
Today about 400 million people living in Africa lack access to clean drinking water, while over 600 million people lack basic sanitation services. Several millions of children die from preventable water and sanitation-related illnesses every year. In Nigeria and Ethiopia for instance, about 97,000 and 33,000 children die every year of diarrheal diseases caused by poor drinking water and sanitation respectively. All the countries with larger economies in Africa including South Africa, Ghana, Sudan, Angola still lose thousands of children every year through water and sanitation-related illnesses.
This realization has triggered the call for a shift in the development orientation for Africa’s water and sanitation sector from social to the inclusion of more economic and financial models.
With focus on south-south cooperation for water and sanitation sector growth in Africa, the 2013 High Level Forum provides the platform for exploring business opportunities with potential partners from India, China, Turkey, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, not forgetting the continent’s traditional partners from the north. African investors can also explore opportunities outside the continent.
The event, organized by Water and Sanitation for Africa (WSA) in collaboration with the government of Côte d’Ivoire in Abidjan, with sessions like the High Level Panel of Heads of States in Africa and Finance Ministers Roundtable, for instance provides opportunities for direct access to an estimated 25 governments for closer business discussions.