Interview with Dr. Canisius KANANGIRE, African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW)’s Executive Secretary
- What are the sanitation challenges facing Africa?
The challenges facing Africa are numerous and complex, first at the policy-making level; policies are poorly structured which complicates the positioning of sanitation in agendas. We are facing difficulties in penetrating the policy-making world, especially with rationales such as: “we now want to give a special place to sanitation,” such statements put sanitation in competition with other sectors which are high on the agenda of our countries. For instance, energy, digital or transportation infrastructures are very often on the top of priorities. Therefore, the major challenge remains to raise sanitation high on agendas.
Another difficulty arises as we attempt to bring Finance Ministers and Ministers in charge of Budget Planning to consider sanitation as a priority sector in terms of budget because they do not instantly perceive the dangers represented by the lack of access to adequate sanitation for all. Usually, we tend to intervene when cholera epidemics arise, but we intervene little or not when it comes to prevent the disease. This is a challenge that can be resolved through strong advocacy, but also through substantive work to achieve change of mindset. Capacity building is also a sector for which we have not used the right technologies. Currently, many States are still building sewage networks, and that is extremely costly for them. Looking at the continent, we realize that only 10% is connected to a network so, 90% use non-connected latrines. We must adopt technologies that allow on-site and in situ treatment, in a well-controlled manner. Such technologies exist, but they are not effectively shared. Consequently, our challenge is to disseminate those technologies and adopt them, primarily by policymakers, then by technical support services, and finally by the entire population.
2. What is AMCOW’s engagement toward sanitation in Africa?
AMCOW’s engagement toward sanitation in Africa is to first influence policymakers so that Africa gets policies that allow sanitation services improvement, whether in rural or urban areas. This is particularly important as the continent is facing very alarming situations with the rapidly growing populations and urbanization occurring in an uncontrolled manner in many African cities. In Africa, sanitation represents an important issue that needs to be solved if we aim for development.
Within the framework of our activities, we want to increase the financial contribution allocated to the water and sanitation sector. We hope to see a sufficient allocation to the sanitation sector in every country’s annual budget. That will encourage donors and increase their will in supporting African countries. We now have plans to create a platform where we will bring Finance Ministers and their Water and Sanitation colleagues to discuss the water supply needs, as well as sanitation services in order to have substantial resources devoted to the sector. We believe that if we prioritize sanitation, we will certainly contribute to the socioeconomic development of our populations. So, at the policy level, our objective is to improve the capacity from an individual point of view, thus the expertise people will have, namely how our engineers adopt new sanitation technologies, it is an essential component. Secondly, at the institutional level, how are our institutions structured, are they well organized to efficiently deliver the services we expect from them, or are there any improvements to be made? The AMCOW will capitalize all the experiences at both the international and the African levels, and bring them on the platform so that we can have the opportunity to learn from our peers.
3. What are the expected outcomes from the upcoming events Africa Water Week and AfricaSan?
The Africa Water Week and the conference on sanitation, AfricaSan are ideal places to exchange knowledge, ideas and practices, where the world comes to Africa to address critical water and sanitation challenges on the African continent. They also represent privileged platforms for Africans to learn from each other. For instance, a country such as Rwanda can learn from Senegal, will see what is happening in Morocco, in South Africa and vice-versa. We will learn from one another. We will understand what is at the basis of progress in those countries: is it the policies that have improved, is it the teaching method, is it the investments that have changed, etc.? In that case, emulation will be easy.
It is also the opportunity to bring the youth along. There are many scientists and young people coming: we will progressively pass the torch to the next generation that will be in charge of the leadership in that sector. We have high expectations in terms of knowledge and policy change.
There is a political segment to these two conferences. Ministers will have the opportunity to interact with each other and talk about what constitutes the basis of success in other countries, or their way of addressing the questions that will be discussed during the conference. In general, such a political segment ends with a declaration that will serve as a guide for us over the period between the two conferences, with follow-ups which will bring certain countries to prioritize the sectors identified during the conference.
AfricaSan 5, which will be held in February 2019, is very particular because it will occur at the same time as the International Conference on Fecal Sludge Management, FSM5, and that is also a very special occasion as we will be seeing how everyone manages their fecal waste, whether in India, China or Latin America. We will learn of the Western World, which is already developed. Sanitation as handled during AfricaSan will be completed by the knowledge and technologies, experiences that we will have about fecal sludge, which is a very important problem on the African continent where hundreds of millions of people practice open defecation.
The African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) was founded in 2002 in Abuja, Nigeria, to promote cooperation, security, economic and social development, and poverty elimination in member States through effective management of the continent’s water resources and the provision of water services.
Dr. Canisius Kanangire, AMCOW’s Executive Secretary since 2016.