AfDB/Agonza Innocent
in Kigali, Rwanda
May 13, 2019

The African Development Bank and the United Nations Water Convention have agreed to jointly encourage African countries to join the UN water management organization to promote integrated and sustainable management of surface and groundwater resources.

The move follows a visit by a delegation from the UN Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, (also known as the United Nations Water Convention) to the African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan.

The delegation briefed senior officials of the Bank about the activities of the body and recommended that the Bank’s clients join the Convention. They also explored opportunities to strengthen cooperation – at the continental level and in specific basins and regions across Africa – between the Convention and the Bank.

Climate change disrupts the water cycle.  Photo by Fredrick Mugira

Describing water as a “crucial, strategic natural resource for all countries, ” Wambui Gichuri, Director of the Bank’s Water Development and Sanitation department added that while Africa is endowed with abundant water resources, it is also the second driest continent, with two great deserts, the Sahara and the Kalahari, located in its northern and southern regions respectively. “Drinking water supply and sanitation, food production, energy supply, and industrial development are all completely dependent on the availability of water,” Gichuri said.

In her presentation to the Bank team, Francesca Bernardini, Secretary of the Water Convention, said that the body aims to promote the sustainable management of transboundary waters through cooperation and partnership. “The Convention and its activities are consistent with the African Development Bank’s water sector strategy, particularly supporting the Bank’s Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) policy across all levels of water needs in its operations,” Bernardini said.

According to Bernadini, the benefits of membership of the UN Water Convention include increased sustainability of regional and cooperation projects, and reduction of investment risks typically occasioned by the long-term nature of development programs and initiatives, through legally binding commitments made by parties to the convention. Several activities carried out under the Convention also help to strengthen countries’ capacity for water management and boost the effectiveness of the Bank’s interventions in the long-term.

Water is a “crucial, strategic natural resource for all countries, ” says Wambui Gichuri, Director of the Bank’s Water Development and Sanitation department. Photo by Fredrick Mugira

Mahamat Alifa Moussa, General Director at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Fisheries of Chad was part of the delegation to the Bank. Chad, a landlocked West African nation, was the first African country to sign the Convention.

Moussa observed that in view of the cross-border nature of most of Chad’s water resources, the nation favoured international cooperation to help manage its resources. The global opening of the Water Convention in 2016 to membership for non-European countries was therefore Chad’s opportunity to strengthen cooperation on these shared water resources, he said.

“Faced with the risk of conflicts over water use between Chad and riparian countries, the needs of development, increased individual needs, population growth and to plan for the future by conserving natural environments and biodiversity, Chad has resolved to promote integrated and sustainable management of surface water resources and groundwater,” Moussa said.

More than 840 million people worldwide, or 1 in 9, do not have access to safe water, and 2.3 billion, or 1 in 3, lack access to a toilet. Photo by Fredrick Mugira

The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes was negotiated in 1990-1992 through an intergovernmental process under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Since 2016, membership to the UN Water Convention has been opened up to all United Nations Member States. So far, 44 countries have ratified the Water Convention, six of which are non-European nations.

Water Journalists Africa

Water Journalists Africa (WJA) is the largest network of journalists reporting on water in the African continent. It brings together some 700 journalists from 50 African countries. It was established in...

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