Africa Finance Ministers’ Meeting seeks US$30 billion boost for water and sanitation

31 October 2023

Geneva, 31 October 2023 – Finance ministers from across Africa convened today to deliberate on political and institutional reforms that will help mobilize an additional $30 billion annually for water and sanitation. This is as much about financing as it is about political will, participants heard.

The virtual meeting was hosted by Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), UNICEF, and the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW). It gathered over 50 finance and sector ministers and development partners.

Funding needs to be at least three times higher in Africa to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal targets. However, this is far less than the US$170 billion – nearly 5 per cent of GDP – lost by sub-Saharan African each year due to inadequate water resources, contaminated water and poor sanitation.

By mid-century, the economic toll from water-related climate impacts on African nations could reach US$50 billion annually. Every dollar invested in climate-resilient water and sanitation in Africa yields a return of at least US$7.

Finance ministers discussed several specific approaches that can close the investment gap for water and sanitation:

  • Increasing the national budget allocation for water and sanitation to 5 per cent and 0.5 per cent, respectively.
  • Partnering with development banks to secure long-term finance that aligns with universal water and sanitation access goals.
  • Ensuring that sufficient finance is available for universal access to safely managed sanitation – a key development indicator that significantly reduces the public health burden.
  • Investing in climate-resilient water and sanitation infrastructure by tapping into climate finance.
  • Reducing debt and ensuring African nations can access a fair share of Special Drawing Rights.

The event organizers urged participants to mobilize political will and view investment in water and sanitation as a means to achieve economic growth, improve public health and reduce inequalities. Ensuring access to clean water and sanitation is especially paramount for safeguarding the health and well-being of children. It not only lays the foundation for a flourishing generation but also plays a pivotal role in shaping a brighter future for the region.

The meeting also sought to counteract the narrative that Africa is in need of hand-outs or is behind on the Sustainable Development Goals. Instead, participants heard, the continent is rich in resources and is expanding access to water and sanitation at a rate that is often much higher than countries that started with better access to these essential services.

Catarina de Albuquerque, CEO of SWA: “Today’s meeting serves as a reminder that the challenges in the water and sanitation sector are as much about financing as they are about political priorities. It’s equally vital for governments to prioritize water and sanitation in their budgets and on their policy agendas. We’re glad to see so many finance ministers committing to lead the way.”

Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director: “Universal access to safe water and sanitation is critical to achieving the sustainable development goals, and to ensuring the wellbeing and healthy development of children. Working together, we have made significant progress. But with 1000 children still dying every day from diseases linked to unsafe water and sanitation, we must do far more, and we must do it urgently.”

Media contacts

Christine Luby
Senior Media Advisor
Sanitation and Water for All (SWA)
Sara Alhattab
Tel: +1 917 957 6536

About the Africa Finance Ministers’ Meeting

The Africa Finance Ministers’ Meeting gathers ministers of finance from around the region to discuss the political and institutional reforms required to make better use of existing financing. It also seeks to attract additional resources for the water and sanitation sector to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Other regional finance ministers’ meetings will be held in Asia and Latin America in 2024.


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