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April 02, 2008

Only 4% of African water developed for irrigation

The president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Donald Kaberuka, has said that 340m Africans lack access to safe drinking water and almost 500 million lack access to improved sanitation facilities.

He said this during when launching the First African Water Week (AWW-1) which opened in Tunis last week on Wednesday.

The former Rwandan finance minister told more than 400 delegates at the conference that only 4% of Africa's annual renewable water resources had been developed for irrigation, water supply and hydro power use, compared to 70% to 90% in developed countries.

He further said per capita water storage in Africa is less than 100 cubic metres compared to about 3,500 cubic metres in Europe and 6000 cubic metres in the US.

"Without adequate amounts of water, of the right quality, there cannot be any meaningful progress in the socio-economic development of communities," Kaberuka observed, adding that of all development challenges facing communities in Africa, water was central and perhaps the most crucial.

The AWW-1, jointly organized by the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) and the African Development Bank, is taking place under the theme "Accelerating Water Security for Socio-Economic Development of Africa".

The AMCOW is composed of all African ministers in charge of water. Rwanda is being represented by State Minister for Water and Mines, Prof. Munyanganizi Bikoro, and the Coordinator of the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation, Albert Yaramba.

Prof. Bikoro was yesterday due to present a case study of Rwanda on the public-private partnership in scaling up investment on rural water and sanitation sector.

The chairman of the United Nations Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, His Royal Highness, Willen Alexander, the Prince of Orange, said the fundamental question for the First African Water Week should be finding ways to get Africa on track to meet its water supply and sanitation targets.

"It is clear to me that many countries lack the capacity they need to reach the MDGs yet there are some countries that will not only meet but exceed their targets", said Willen Alexander.

Yaramba toldYaramba told The New Times. that in 2002, only 41% of the Rwandan population had access to clean and safe water.

"In order to achieve the MDGs target, we invested a lot in clean water supply initiatives and as of 2007, we had exceeded the required figure since our study indicated that 72% of the population already has access to clean and safe drinking water," he revealed.

He added that the Government was supporting the initiative such that the remaining 28% will also have access to clean water.

"Evidently by 2015 we shall have reason to celebrate," Yaramba said confidently.

Main deliberations of the First African Water Week will focus on lessons of world experiences on achieving water security, the challenges of water security and the sanitation gap and the infrastructure investment requirements to achieve desired water security.

Participants will also discuss challenges of environmental and social impacts for water infrastructure and the roles of key stakeholders and the development of appropriate partnerships.

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