Addressing extreme water insecurity in Africa


Access to clean, affordable and safe drinking water is both a fundamental human right recognized by the United Nations and Goal 6 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. However, access to this essential resource in Africa is not yet universal, with 1 in 3 Africans facing water scarcity and around 400 million people in sub-Saharan Africa without access to basic drinking water. . Access to water remains a pervasive development issue across the continent, as a 2019 report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) revealed: Indeed, tackling climate change and mismanagement of resources and of water services is essential to fight against water stress in Africa.

Aqueduct, an online Geographic Information System (GIS) tool produced by WRI to map global water-related risks, reveals Africa’s extensive exposure to water-related risks (Figure 1) . Their model takes into account a variety of measures, such as vulnerability to floods and droughts, water stress and seasonal variability. The “extremely high water risk”, outlined in dark red, covers large areas of arid North Africa, southern Africa and East Africa. However, the water risk across the continent is quite heterogeneous, as clear areas, such as those along the Nile, are interspersed with areas of extremely high water risk. The equatorial and tropical regions around the Democratic Republic of Congo also benefit from a large surface area with significantly less water risk than their continental neighbors.

Figure 1. Africa faces one of the highest water risks in the world

Source: Climate change is hurting the water sector in Africa, but investing in water can pay off ”, World Resources Institute, 2019.

The authors argue that understanding the continent’s water risk factors is an essential prerequisite for bringing about changes to the mismanagement of its water resources and services, as well as building climate resilience. As such, the authors highlight several areas of the water sector that require investments to improve climate resilience and better public service delivery.

According to the authors, the African agricultural sector is poised to face significant exposure to water-related climate risks in the future. Given that 90 percent of the rural population of sub-Saharan Africa depends on agriculture as their main source of income and more than 95 percent of the region’s agriculture depends on rainfall, the consequences of unpredictable rainfall, the rising temperatures, extreme drought and declining agricultural yields are exposing one of Africa’s poorest communities to increasingly severe climate and water-related risks. In view of these risks, WRI proposes that intergovernmental risk-pooling mechanisms, such as the African Union’s African Risk Management Capacity (ARC), could be increasingly sovereign insurance mechanisms. important in mitigating climate disasters because they provide faster payments than humanitarian aid.

The effort will be costly: according to the authors, ensuring universal access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in sub-Saharan Africa requires $ 35 billion per year in investment costs. While effective ‘smart design’ of water management systems can promote greater resilience to climate change for water and sanitation services, WRI considers ensuring adequate income to sustain new infrastructure. as the biggest challenge facing African policymakers and engineers in the water sector.

Investing in climate-resilient green infrastructure offers a multitude of benefits across the economy, including job creation, poverty reduction, and lessening the impact of climate change on local communities. most vulnerable and marginalized in Africa. African governments, according to the WRI, should actively consider these water-related risks to develop infrastructure systems that protect people, save money in the long run, and preserve the delicate ecosystems on which their economies depend and the livelihoods of their citizens.

To learn more about climate change in Africa, read “Figure of the week: Climate change and African agriculture”, “Climate adaptation and the big reset for Africa” and “Africa can play a role in Africa. first in the fight against climate change ”.


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