African countries are linking efforts to improve access to safe drinking water. This was discussed during the ongoing African Water Association (AfWA) International Congress and Exhibition—from February 19 to 23, 2023—in Abidjan, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. Under the theme ‘Acting for sustainable resource management and access for all to water and sanitation in Africa’, the conference brought together experts, engineers, technicians, researchers, and multiple stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to discuss water and sanitation challenges in Africa. ALSO READ: Rwanda to accelerate water, sanitation access Eng. Silver Mugisha, the president of the African Water and Sanitation Association (AfWaSA), said the aim of the conference is to discuss and tackle the challenges in water and sanitation. Trials hindering the progress of water and sanitation were highlighted, and some of them are; weak corporate governance systems, little belief in self-sufficiency and do-it-yourself mind-sets, top utility leadership, and insufficient emphasis on ingenious solutions and actions. Old infrastructure, and hasty urbanisation which negatively affects the existing water systems, are also burdens. Mugisha said the water and sanitation sector was badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, worsening the already existing problems. However, he believes that action can change the African water and sanitation sector, not words. “The water problem can be solved through technological innovation, advancing sustainable infrastructure financing options, and strengthening people and systems, through excessive productivity management measures, leadership competencies, and identifying talents,” he noted. Mugisha said there ought to be a strong continuous rectification culture, through relevant capacity building and learning systems. Bouake Fofana, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Hydraulics, Sanitation, and Health, urged participants to initiate and explore new drives of solutions. He highlighted that this is everyone’s responsibility, including governments, international institutions, technical and financial partners, local elected officials, parliamentarians, the private sector, civil society, and citizens. “Challenges are still stepping in the way towards achieving sustainable development goals connected to drinking water and sanitation, and affordability of water specifically. Funding is still a problem,” Fofana said. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that achieving sustainable development goals on water and sanitation would result in a seven-to-one benefit or cost ratio. It is believed that the investments to provide sustainable water and sanitation services, and the funds required to meet current social and environmental expectations, are excessive. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study, the capital needed globally to finance investments in key infrastructure would amount to about $75 trillion by 2030, almost half of which would go to water and sanitation. ALSO READ: African women urged to opt for positions in water, sanitation and environment sector According to Fofana, the systems are underfunded with detrimental consequences for the poorest populations. “Most technical and financial partners make the mobilisation of the concessional financing necessary subject to an upsurge in the financing of the tariffs, taxes, and transfers.” Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, said water is the primary good, without it there is no life, food, health, prosperity, peace, and humanity. He identified that the issue of water must be first in the mind of everyone, as the fight for safe water is still on, noting that between 2000 and 2020, Africa’s population grew from 800 million to 1.3 billion people. During this period, 500 million people gained access to safe drinking water and 290 million to sanitation services. “But also, nearly 420 million Africans still lack basic drinking water today, or one in three inhabitants and 780 million people. This has resulted in the death of 500 children under five years of age per day in sub-Saharan Africa, due to diarrhoeal diseases related to lack of water and hygiene,” Achi said.