Celebrating African Women and Water – A Unique Connection

Celebrating African Women and Water – A Unique Connection

The month of March has arrived bearing two special days – International Women’s Day on the 8th and World Water Day on the 22nd.   Water. Climate. Food. Health. Women. Life. Death.  These are keywords that spring to mind when I think about water, which is embedded in all forms of development ranging from food security, health promotion, poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth in agriculture, manufacturing and energy generation.  But who has access to this water? Especially in the age of Climate Change? I grew up with the privilege of water flowing freely from indoor taps, and whose quality was safe for us to drink, run off to drum up more thirst, and get muddier. Adequate water-supply infrastructure remains a dream for the bulk of Africa’s population.

Today, most urban residents in Kenya supply their own water.  Boreholes are dug for several property developments. Blue trucks ferrying 5,000 liters traverse our towns filling up huge tanks.

The coastal town of Mombasa is littered with hand-carts filled with the ubiquitous black or yellow jerry cans ready for sale anywhere, anytime, right by the mighty Indian Ocean.  The source of the water in the trucks and carts is never verifiable.  Whether it has been tested is irrelevant.  And no one dares to ask if it is indeed safe for consumption.

The irony of water as a rare commodity on a continent with large surface water sources and substantial aquifers is nothing short of calamitous. Worse, the poverty tax associated with water scarcity is becoming increasingly evident.  While suburban residents may pay approximately US$10-15 per month for municipal water, the cost of one 5,000 liter water truck is in excess of US$30 with more than two needed per month in a middle-income household of four. The burden is heavier for residents in informal settlements – averaging US$0.40 – US$0.60 per day for a household with a daily wage of US$6 on a good day.  Spending almost 10% of your income on the water – a constitutional right – is tragic.

Spring Water. Purified Water. Mineral Water. Sparkling Water. As people start to question the quality of water – from boreholes, the municipality or trucks – one thing that has substantially changed over the last few years is the growth of the bottled water market, expected to reach a whopping US$215 Billion by 2025. Recent research has however established that some of the blends of bottled water are more contaminated than normal tap water. Most, unfortunately, the majority of bottled water sales now happen in developing economies where water infrastructure is desperately lacking. In Lagos, one of Africa’s most populous cities, the bottled water market is said to have peaked at US$6 Bn in 2019.

It has been argued that bottled water companies are wasting resources and exacerbating climate change as more than 6 liters of water are required to produce and cool 1.5 liters of bottled water. Environment and climate action champions also highlight that most plastic water bottles are made from toxic compounds obtained from fossil fuels and will take over 450 years to break down into plastic particles. Sadly, a majority of these find their way into our oceans, poisoning the ocean and killing marine wildlife. It has also been argued that the energy required in capturing, conveying and treating water in bottling plants is not justifiable.  Additional energy consumption occurs in producing, cleaning, filling, sealing, labeling and refrigerating bottles.

Lastly, energy is required to transport the bottles across the value chain to retailers and consumers. Australia’s statistics show that the total energy required in the production of bottled water is 5.6-10.2 MJ per liter compared to 0.005 MJ per liter in the treatment and distribution of tap water.

UNICEF estimates that Africa’s population will cross the 2.5 billion by 2050 and urban food markets are set to increase fourfold to exceed US$400 million by 2030.  These mouths will need to be fed and a key concern is that the continued extraction of water from underground aquifers will result in a lower water table, which could have adverse social and environmental ramifications.  The need for transboundary water resource projects has become increasingly evident in terms of water security for socio-economic development. For example, the construction of the Koukoutamba multi-purpose dam between Mali and Senegal is expected to stabilize the flow of the Senegal River to allow irrigated agriculture, river traffic and an increase in hydroelectric power. With over 60% of Africa’s population dependent on the agricultural value chain, the impact of climate change on our water resources cannot be underscored. And who is plowing this parched land?  Africa’s Women.

It is important to note, however, large multi-purpose dams that promise water for irrigation, commercial and domestic use cannot be planned without the engagement of the communities most impacted by these projects. It is estimated that Africa’s women waste 40 billion hours annually fetching water – equivalent to a year’s labor for the entire workforce in France. Depending on the season, women travel two or three times daily, collecting water. At 50-77 minutes per trip, this is 45 days per annum per household and an incredible waste of time.   As the predominant caretakers of domestic water, it is imperative that women engage in the decision-making process for water and sanitation infrastructure and services – they need to have their say about location, design, and management of water points.

Policymakers should implement concrete actions in knowledge building, career development, and dialogue so we have more women participating across the entire water and sanitation value chain – in water committees, water use associations, boardrooms, government planning departments and wearing hard hats and overalls on project sites working along with their male counterparts for equal pay. In an effort to fill the gender various gaps in society, Aspiration 6 in Agenda 2063 promotes inclusivity and encourages “all citizens to be actively involved in decision making in all aspects and where no child, woman or man is left behind or excluded, on the basis of gender, political affiliation, religion, ethnic affiliation, locality, age or other factors.”

The late UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan could not have pronounced it better in 2003 when he said that:

“…there is no effective development strategy in which women do not play a central role.  When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier and better fed; their income, savings, and reinvestment go up.  And what is true of families is also true of communities and, in the long run, of whole countries”.

Author: Mary Chege, member of the ANWIn

This powerful statement still rings true today and the establishment of the African Network for Women in Infrastructure (ANWIn) under the leadership of H.E. Commissioner Amani Abou-Zeid, could not be timelier.  Launched in November 2019, the African Union Commission and PIDA partners expressed their commitment to support gender-sensitive infrastructure planning and it is envisaged that this Network will serve as a regional and global expert platform to promote dialogue, consultation and agenda-setting for women in infrastructure development in Africa. As we conclude the first Priority Action Plan of the PIDA (2012-2020) and move towards the project selection process of PIDA in Priority Action Plan2 (2020-2030), the criteria has been set to prioritize gender-responsive infrastructure. For when Women are fully involved, the benefits are seen immediately.

Regional Consultation Workshop for Southern Africa Project Selections for the PIDA PAP2

Regional Consultation Workshop for Southern Africa Project Selections for the PIDA PAP2

A regional consultation workshop capturing the project selection process for the second phase of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, also known as PIDA PAP2 (2021-2030), was held for Southern African Member States and their Specialised Institutions. As the importance of regional integration in supporting Africa’s economic development is realized by African leaders, the purpose of this three-day workshop, from 4th – 6th March 2020, is to provide the Member States, SADC, and Specialised Institutions with the necessary information and tools to prioritize gender-inclusive, environmentally friendly and smart infrastructure projects that will create jobs and economic opportunities for the African people.

The Africa Union Commission in collaboration with AUDA-NEPAD, AfDB and UNECA has developed the integrated corridor approach framework as a strategic basis for the PIDA Priority Action Plan 2. This approach captures specific goals of addressing youth employment and education, strengthening gender-inclusive socioeconomic development, smart innovation and technologies, environmentally sustainable communities and economies, and regional connectivity through world-class infrastructure linking people, markets, and facilitating trade, as outlined by Agenda 2063 Aspirations 1, 2, and 6. As such, the PIDA strategic objective contributes to the achievement of the aspiration of Agenda 2063.

In her opening remarks, the Director of Infrastructure at SADC secretariat, Ms. Mapolao Mokoena recognized the importance of regional integration by way of infrastructure for socio-economic development. She highlighted, in particular, the importance of trans-boundary water projects now more than ever as climate change drives populations towards sustainable water supplies. Furthermore, as the private sector participation in water projects remains weak, Ms. Mokoena called on the public sector to provide the special support that’s needed.
Recognizing the need for projects to be divided fairly among the four sectors – transport, energy, ICT, and trans-boundary water resources – the selection process of PIDA PAP2 projects has required at least one project in each region to be a part of each sector. The shift in requirement demonstrates a way forward reflective of the lessons learned from PIDA PAP1 as only one water project in the continent was completed during that phase.

As the prioritization and project selection for regional infrastructure proves to be an important, yet challenging mission, the capacity building workshop is designed to provide administrative support and the training to the Member States and RECs on the project identification, consolidation and selection processes. In the final analysis, the projects selected will reflect the integrated corridor approach.

Member States will first propose projects to their RECs, who will take the projects’ key information and fill out forms provided for the screening process. The forms are expected to be complete and submitted to the Task Force members in the coming months after the workshops so that the Task Force members are able to analyze, score and prioritize the proposed projects according to the eligibility and project selection criteria. Once the project selection process is complete and the PIDA PAP2 is developed, it will then be submitted to the African Heads of State and Government for adoption during the AU Summit in January 2021.

Member States in attendance of the Southern Africa regional workshop were the Republic of Botswana, the Republic of Madagascar, the Republic of Mauritius, the Republic of Malawi, Kingdom of Eswatini, Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Namibia, Union of the Comoros, the Republic of Seychelles, the Republic of South Africa, the Republic of Zambia and the Republic of Zimbabwe. The continental and regional organizations were SADC, AUDA-NEPAD, and COMESA.
In the end, 58 projects are to be selected – 10 projects per the Northern African, West African, Central African, East African and Southern African regions, and one additional project for each of the 8 Islands States.

West Africa Regional Consultation Workshop for Project Selections for the PIDA PAP2 projects

West Africa Regional Consultation Workshop for Project Selections for the PIDA PAP2 projects

The African Union Commission (AUC) held a regional consultation workshop for West African Member States and their Specialised Institutions for the project selection process of the second phase of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), also known as PIDA PAP 2 (2021-2030). This three-day workshop, running from 26th – 28th February 2020, aims to provide ECOWAS, its Member States and Specialised Institutions with the necessary information and tools to prioritize gender inclusive, environmentally friendly and smart infrastructure projects that will create jobs and economic opportunities for the African people.  PIDA is identified as a key strategic framework for the development of regional infrastructure contributing to the achievement of the aspiration of Agenda 2063. The Africa Union Commission in collaboration with AUDA-NEPAD, AfDB, and UNECA has developed the integrated corridor approach framework as strategic basis for the PIDA  Priority Action Plan 2, which captures specific goals of addressing youth employment and education, strengthening gender inclusive socioeconomic development, smart innovation and technologies, environmentally sustainable communities and economies, and regional connectivity through world class infrastructure linking people, markets, and facilitating trade, as outlined by Agenda 2063 Aspirations 1, 2, and 6.

H.E. Mr. Pathe Gueye, ECOWAS Commissioner for infrastructure and H.E. Dr. Zouli Bonkoungou, ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecommunications and Information Technologies were in attendance of the opening ceremony for this West African regional consultation.

Mr. Yagouba Traore, Chief of Infrastructure Information Unit at the African Union Commission in its opening speech highlighted the importance of workshop for the delegates as the opportunity to take stock of the parameters and selection criteria and to familiarize themselves with the projects submission tools that will be made available to them. “ECOWAS and its Member States will be able to identify priority projects according to the selection criteria and submit their proposals to the AUC with the support of the Task Force. In the meantime, the AUC will pursue the advocacy at the highest level to promote the development of infrastructure as well as the related political and regulatory frameworks necessary to achieve the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area and improve the lives of African populations. The AUC will work with AUDA-NEPAD, RECs, AfDB, and UNECA to deliver the next phase of PIDA with the utmost diligence.” he said.

In his opening remarks, H.E. Mr. Pathe Gueye acknowledged the collaborative effort from the different partner institutions to make possible the positive changes driven by the PIDA in the region. He stated, “It should be noted that West Africa has been a major beneficiary of PIDA thanks to the financial support for the implementation of major projects in the infrastructure sector. I would also like to pay tribute to the African Development Bank, our bank for the decisive role in the implementation of the PIDA-PAP in general and in the development of West Africa in particular by financing projects in all sectors.”

The capacity building workshop is designed to provide administrative support and the know-how to Member States and RECs on the project identification, consolidation and selection processes so that the projects selected reflect the integrated corridor approach and work towards a more prosperous Africa. Member States will first propose projects to their RECs, who will take the projects’ key information and fill out forms provided for the screening process. The forms are expected to be complete and submitted to the Task Force members in the coming months after the workshops so that the Task Force members are able to analyze, score and prioritize the proposed projects according to the eligibility and project selection criteria. Once the project selection process is complete and the PIDA PAP2 is developed, it will then be submitted to the African Heads of State and Government for adoption during the AU Summit in January 2021.

Libreville, Gabon Regional Consultation Workshops for Project Selections for the PIDA PAP2

Libreville, Gabon Regional Consultation Workshops for Project Selections for the PIDA PAP2

The African Union Commission (AUC) launched the first of five regional consultation workshops for the project selection process of the second phase of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), also known as PIDA PAP 2. This three-day workshop, running from 25th – 27th February 2020, aims to provide the Member States and RECs with the training and tools to prioritize gender-inclusive, environment-friendly, and spatially connected infrastructure projects that will create jobs and economic opportunities for the African people.

The PIDA, identified as a key strategic framework for the development of regional infrastructure by Agenda 2063, has developed the integrated corridor approach framework as part of the  Priority Action Plan 2 (PAP2) which captures specific goals of addressing youth employment and education, strengthening gender-inclusive socioeconomic development, environmentally sustainable communities and economies, and regional connectivity through world-class infrastructure linking people, markets, and facilitating trade, as outlined by Agenda 2063 Aspirations 1, 2, and 6.

The first regional consultation workshop was launched in Libreville, Gabon for Central African Member States and RECs and will make its way across Africa – to Abuja, Nigeria for the training of West African participants, Gaborone, Botswana for Southern African participants, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for East African participants and a location yet to be announced for North African participants. Mr. Guichard Tsangou, on behalf of the Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), highlighted “the strategic framework 2025 of Central Africa Region, emphasized the critical role of infrastructure to connect countries, facilitate trade within the region and support sustainable development. It is within this context that ECCAS welcomes PIDA PAP2 and the integrated corridor approach and expresses its willingness to work with the African Union to select projects that respond to the needs of the region.”

The capacity building workshop is designed to provide administrative support and educate the Member States and RECs on the project identification, consolidation and selection processes so that the projects selected reflect the integrated corridor approach and work towards a more prosperous Africa. Member States will first propose projects to their RECs, who will take the projects’ key information and fill out online forms provided for the screening process. The forms are expected to be complete and submitted to  Task Force members a couple of months after the workshops take place so that the Task Force members are able to analyze, score and prioritize the proposed projects according to the eligibility and project selection criteria.

Ultimately, 58 projects are expected to be selected – 10 projects per the Northern African, West African, Central African, East African and Southern African regions, and an additional 8 projects for each of the islands. As Ms. Souhila Amazouz, Senior policy officer at the AUC and a member of the PIDA-PAP 2 Task Force explained, “Agenda 2063 highlights the need to strengthen efforts and multiply initiatives for developing an inclusive and integrated infrastructure to support the social and economic transformation of the continent. This capacity-building workshop  on the selection process of projects  to be included in PIDA phase 2 ( 2021- 2030)  and the work that we will undertake this year to select  the  10 projects for each region is part of the long term vision of the ‘African Union  for better integration, progress, and collective prosperity.” The sectoral requirement is expected to be filled as at least one project in each region is to be part of the transport, energy, ICT and trans-boundary water resources sectors. Once the project selection process is complete and the PIDA PAP2 project pipeline is developed, it will be submitted to the African Heads of State and Government for adoption during the AU Summit in January 2021.

Heads of State Champion Africa’s Infrastructure Development

Heads of State Champion Africa’s Infrastructure Development

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a recommitment to develop Africa’s infrastructure was made by Heads of State at a side-event for the initiative on championing infrastructure during the African Union Summit. It was attended by the the President of Rwanda H.E Paul Kagame and the President of South Africa, H.E Cyril Ramaphosa and Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat among other delegates.

The initiative, called ‘The Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI)’ which was born out of a proposal by South Africa to accelerate regional infrastructure development enabled through the political championing of projects. It is coordinated by the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD).

“Africa is back on track to return to a surge in economic growth, recorded in the earlier part of the millennium, as the continent moves with a renewed sense of urgency, speed and commitment to ensure inclusive growth,” was the sentiment expressed by the President of South Africa, H.E Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Ramaphosa went on to state that the risk in investing in Africa’s infrastructure is mostly overexaggerated, “Our continent is on the rise!” the President said.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat emphasised that infrastructure projects on the continent need to concretely deliver on improving livelihoods, especially in creating jobs for unemployed youth.

The role of the champions at Head of State level is to bring visibility, unblock bottlenecks, mobilise resources and ensure project implementation. The PICI presents an opportunity for African Heads of State and Government to be actively involved in the development and implementation of projects.

“I would like to commend the completion of the ICT Broadband and Optic Fibre Project for all the EAC countries, championed by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; The finalisation of the VICMED Feasibility Study – Phase 1, Championed by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt; The construction of first berth of Lamu Port and Isiolo – Moyale (505Km), championed by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya; the great progress made on the North-South Corridor championed by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa; the Kinshasa-Brazzaville Bridge Road/Rail Project championed by President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo; and the International Logistics Hub championed by President Hage Geingob of Namibia,” Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of AUDA-NEPAD stated in his opening remarks.

The high-level representation and commitment as reflected in the examples cited above demonstrates the ability of the PICI champions to bring visibility and unblock the pathway to accelerate the implementation of these important projects. They also show that the initiative puts Africa on the right track towards unlocking its potential.

Over the period from 2011 to 2019, the membership of the PICI increased by 50% from 8 to 12 members, reflecting the unequivocal commitment of political leaders to upscale infrastructure across the African continent. Along with South Africa as chair, the PICI comprises Algeria, Benin, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Namibia, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda and Senegal. Furthermore, in 2019, the PICI members accepted and endorsed the membership of Sudan.