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African ministers agree investment in water, sanitation, hygiene

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• Nigeria targets green bond for WASH financing

African Finance and sector ministers met last week to explore concrete ways to ensure universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene. They discussed political and institutional reforms required to make better use of existing financing and to attract additional resources for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
    
The objective of the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Africa Finance Ministers’ Meeting (FMM) was to develop and strengthen partnerships with ministers in the region for smart investments in water, sanitation and hygiene. 
  
The virtual meeting underscored the crucial role of water, sanitation and hygiene to the African economy, population and environment during and after COVID-19, and offered ministers practical avenues for financing the sector.

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The ministers discussed examples of success in the region where governments were able to use a mix of taxes, tariffs, external transfers and repayable finance to ensure people’s access to water and sanitation, while at the same time generating substantial benefits for the economy, public health, and the environment.
   
They focused discussions on applicability of these examples to their own contexts and the role of national partners such as the private sector, civil society organizations, development agencies, and donors.
   
FMM is one of three regional convenings organised by the Sanitation and Water for All partnership. The co-conveners are UNICEF, the World Bank Water Global Practice, the African Development Bank, and the African Ministers’ Council on Water.
  
The Africa FMM was preceded by a two-month preparatory process, which brought together multiple stakeholders to prioritise their support for government-led water, sanitation and hygiene priorities.
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Specifically, governments and development agencies identified opportunities the sector offers for economic growth and the required resources needed to improve its performance.
    
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, National Planning and Budget, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, stated that the Federal Government was considering opportunities embedded in green bond and other sources of green finance to fund access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Zainab said: “We see opportunity in green bonds. We are also vigorously trying to access other sources of green financing ideal for the development of our water sanitation sector.”

“Access to clean water in Nigeria is still a daily challenge for many of our people. This problem is particularly acute in the Northern part of Nigeria. It contributes to the very high prevalence of water-borne diseases and threatens lives and livelihood especially of small holders’ farmers.”

Chief Executive Officer at SWA, Catarina de Albuquerque said, “Although African countries have different contexts, they all have something in common: the need and determination to increase the prioritization of water, sanitation and hygiene in national plans and budgets, especially during a time of public health concerns, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
   
“Finance ministers play a key role in making sure this happens, and I was very encouraged by the energetic discussions. SWA is ready to continue to support partner countries to make this ambition become a reality.” 

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African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) Executive Secretary, Dr. Canisius Kanangire, said “The Africa 2020 FMM meeting is happening under an unprecedented threat this year: the COVID-19 pandemic. African Governments and donors must significantly and urgently increase financial resources allocated to the water, sanitation and hygiene sector and ensure that game changing policies and strategies are developed and implemented, that actions targeting the most marginalized and vulnerable people are identified.”
 
The Global Director for Water at the World Bank, Jennifer Sara said: “Business as usual will not work in water, sanitation and hygiene anymore. We need strong and collective action, linking best practice, knowledge and global research to specific country outcomes on the ground. The World Bank remains committed to raising the critical message of linking financing to the achievement of the SDG 6 goals; whether it be public or private finance.”

Closing the financing gap can be achieved through a combination of measures, including maximizing the use of existing resources and mobilizing additional finance from taxes, tariffs and transfers. Although African countries are at different stages of socio-economic development and will have different political and governance arrangements that will be more or less conducive to different forms of financing, they all have something in common: the need to increase the prioritization of water, sanitation and hygiene in national plans and budgets, especially during a time of public health concerns.

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