How can policy initiatives best accelerate the expansion of sanitation services and help people improve their hygiene practices across Africa?
That was one of the questions WSUP and the Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association aimed to address during AfricaSan, the 6th African Conference on Sanitation & Hygiene.
WSUP and ESAWAS were the lead convenors for one of the four sub-themes for the conference, Inclusive Policy and Strategy for Accelerating Sanitation and Hygiene in Africa.
The theme looked at topics such as the role of the new African Sanitation Policy Guidelines in improving the enabling environment for sanitation, how to strengthen public regulation of sanitation services, the importance of strengthening local government leadership, effective sanitation service delivery models and monitoring frameworks, and preparing the sanitation community agenda for the World Water Forum in Dakar in March 2022.
In the Public Sector Dialogue, WSUP and ESAWAS brought together utilities, regulators, representatives from countries such as Zambia, Gambia, Uganda and Egypt to look at some of the critical bottlenecks and identify potential actions. In this session, World Bank representative, Gustavo Saltiel, elaborated how strong regulation impacts service provision, leading to better relations between stakeholders and, as a result, better partnerships. If given the proper positioning, regulation will enhance accountability and efficiency of resource utilization, and as a result, strengthen focus, equity, and sustainability of non-sewered sanitation services.
In a session entitled Synergizing Experiences for Effective Sanitation Policies and Strategies Across Africa, four partners – ESAWAS, WSUP, The World Bank and UN-Habitat – presented three key initiatives that are central to the increasing focus on sanitation services across the continent.
ESAWAS outlined its work, still at the early stages, to map the regulation landscape across Africa. Many African Union countries have developed policies without considering regulation; yet, effective change in policy environment should lead to well designed and well-enforced regulation, which in turn deliver significant impact on improved services for the poorest. This study’s findings will generate a better understanding of the status, gaps, and opportunities for strengthening water and sanitation services across the African region.
Building on the regulation issue, WSUP presented its analysis from four countries – Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia – on how national institutions can incentivize sub-national actors to improve low-income urban areas. WSUP Advisory, WSUP’s consulting arm for the World Bank, delivered the study.
The analysis found that three elements were consistently seen to be vital by decision-makers in these countries: a fit-for-purpose institutional framework that makes responsibilities for service delivery clear; a healthy regulatory environment with an explicit pro-poor focus and rational approach to setting tariffs; and independent governance of service providers, to eliminate inappropriate political interference.
UN-Habitat’s work around citywide inclusive sanitation aims to significantly change how sanitation services are implemented across large urban areas. The initiative targets improved use of data, adoption of national and subnational urban policies that focus on sanitation, and increased partnerships between utilities to share knowledge. WSUP will support the work by creating a global report on sanitation and wastewater management in urban settings.
Sanitation has long been a neglected aspect of the development agenda; with one billion people living in informal settlements and slums and the vast majority lacking safely managed sanitation services, the need for action is significant.
The barriers – including unclear or overlapping mandates, weak institutional structures, systems and skills, and a lack of/poor allocation of resources – are significant.
But as emphasized in the Synergising Experiences session by Dr Rashid Mbaziira, Executive Secretary of AMCOW, sharing the learning from initiatives across the continent can significantly move the water and sanitation sector forward. The policy and regulatory improvements outlined in the sessions and many others at AfricaSan will help to pave the way for a tangible difference in the lives of under-served low-income urban populations.
Top image: improved sanitation facilities at a school in Madagascar