WASH Leadership Summit: Eastern and Southern Africa Mobilizing Finance and Promoting Systems Change

Nov. 20, 2023

Addis Ababa, November 14–15, 2023 We, the Ministers of Finance, and of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), and delegates present in this leadership summit of the Eastern and South African countries (Annex 1), thank the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the World Bank for co-hosting this summit on Achieving Universal Access to WASH in Eastern and Southern Africa.

This summit builds on prior dialogues to address our region’s WASH crises, most recently among our WASH Ministers during the 2023 UN Water Conference and among our Finance Ministers during the World Bank Spring Meetings. This summit thus reflects the collective will of our key ministries, anchored in our countries’ shared commitment to scaling up WASH for all.

We acknowledge the World Bank and other partners in supporting our implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals to achieve universal WASH access, which would help realize our commitments in the Africa Water Vision for 2025 and Africa Agenda 2063. This Communique affirms those commitments and urges each country to follow its own strategic roadmap, with continual joint monitoring of progress.

I. Preamble

We, the Ministries of Finance and of WASH of select African countries, have convened at the Africa Leadership Summit for Achieving Universal Access to WASH. While acknowledging past efforts, we need to make concerted efforts to address the growing burden that the numerous challenges in WASH continue to impose on our people, impeding development.

It is time to pivot to a new strategy, spearheaded by our respective country leaders, that will enable us to intervene at critical points in our WASH sectors to initiate a system-wide transformation. This will allow us not only to mobilize more resources but to employ them more efficiently to scale up and broaden WASH services.

We need to converge on key agreements, and assisted by our development partners, make practical commitments.

II. The Challenge and Impacts of Poor WASH

Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), WASH faces numerous challenges. Compared to 2000, 37 million more people are currently without basic water supply, and 247 million more people without basic sanitation by 2020. This is no different in Eastern and Southern Africa. Population growth and urbanization have outstripped access to basic WASH, and emergencies and climate events have disrupted progress. While some countries have improved access—albeit well short of the pace needed to realize universal access by 2030—others have been on a downward trajectory that urgently needs to be addressed.

Disaggregating the country-level data more clearly reveals the inequalities across, and within, countries. Most countries have achieved access to “basic” water for a moderate to high percentage of their urban population but only half of their rural populations, many of whom also lack basic sanitation facilities. In many countries, more than 15 percent of the rural population is forced to bear the indignity of open defecation. Across the region, fewer than half of schools have basic sanitation, and more than half the population uses health care facilities that lack basic water and sanitation services (WSS). Were progress to be gauged by the higher standard of “safely managed” water and sanitation, the proportions of the unserved population would be higher still.

Access to WASH service is limited and it exacts huge costs. It compromises the safety and wellbeing of women and girls, promotes disease, and worsens water and environmental pollution. It diminishes the competitiveness of cities and inhibits tourism. Most egregiously, it raises infant mortality rates, causes stunting, and impairs children’s cognitive development. In short, it has long-term, debilitating, generational effects. The economic impact of not investing in WSS in SSA is an estimated 4.3 percent of GDP. By contrast, the benefits of investing in WSS far outweigh the costs.

III. Principles of Action: Employing a New Systems Change Paradigm

Despite past investments, universal access to WASH still eludes us. The gaps arise from interrelated constraints and challenges that will require bold systemic action. Some countries already have well-performing energy and water utilities, good examples of decentralized governance and service delivery, and sound practices in WASH and other sectors that can be emulated. We have regional examples of exemplary inter-ministerial convergence, innovations in service delivery approaches to WASH, and community organizations leading local solutions. In short, we have experiences and practices that provide us with the building blocks for this new government-led, system change-based paradigm.

Acknowledging each country’s unique conditions, we recommend that the relevant convening Ministries adapt the following five systems-change principles to their country context to operationalize them:

i. Create a country-level national platform for WASH

Establish a government-led, multi-disciplinary country-level WASH platform that will anchor the joint planning, coordination, and monitoring of WASH (except in case of countries where this is not applicable because a comprehensive sector ministry exists such as in small island countries). This will include developing a National Investment Program covering the investment needed to reach universal access and the financing strategy to achieve it. The platform could integrate investments across subsectors and subnational levels, coordinate relevant stakeholders to implement the investment program, and aim at maximizing the impact of every dollar invested in accelerating access to WASH services. The Ministries may also consider putting in place a capacitated, multidisciplinary team to steer these national platforms; and support improved transparency by making monitoring information public.

ii. Address sector-level governance bottlenecks

Each country may consider identifying the governance bottlenecks that hold back the WASH sector and strengthen the enabling framework. Many of our policies, institutions, and regulatory regimes need to embrace a new culture of responding to new realities and preempting emerging challenges. This may involve clarifying institutional mandates, strengthening regulatory regimes and organizational systems of WASH organizations, forging new partnerships, upgrading community institutions and capacities, and enhancing performance and accountability across all sectors.

iii. Re-align sector-wide incentives

Experience shows that, given the right incentives, sectoral institutions can improve their performance. Improving efficiencies across the board will not only enhance performance but save financial resources that currently subsidize service provider inefficiencies. Such saved resources can then be targeted to serve vulnerable groups, and to expanding services such as rural sanitation. Local governments could make their utilities and service providers—public and private—more efficient and accountable while offering better quality and affordable services to scale. Infrastructure investments can be planned systematically, and operations and maintenance prioritized leading to sustainable services delivery. Community groups could be incentivized to value and use water judiciously; and improve and sustain their sanitation and hygiene behaviors. Linkages of the water sector to other sectors e.g., to food and energy production may be explored. Finally, revising inter-governmental relations and fiscal transfers will better realign institutional and personnel incentives at every level.

iv. Mobilize more funding, especially from the private sector and climate finance

We support the call both to raise more WASH financing and to make each dollar go farther. As we work to allocate more of our own budgetary resources, such outlays could be positioned to leverage finance from other sources. Improved financial performance indicators can make utilities more creditworthy. This, however, entails governments (a) giving them more autonomy and, (b) strongly signaling policy predictability to build the sector’s credibility and thus ability to attract private finance. We urge our development partners to assist us in crowding in private/hybrid capital, in consolidating and improving the current partnerships and in tapping into fresh and innovative sources of finance such as climate finance. A special consideration may be considered to vulnerability of countries to climate risks.

v. Design WASH systems that are climate- and disaster-resilient

Water is at the centre of climate change and variability and recently, there has been a rise in water-induced disasters. Climate-induced variabilities are a reality that we must mainstream into our plans by considering the options for protecting and augmenting our water resources, both surface and groundwater. Investing in storage can build water supply resilience, and planning is needed for the long lead times involved in building storage infrastructure. We need to incorporate nature-based solutions and circular economy principles in our choices of WASH-related technologies, and the design of WSS systems needs to support communities by reducing their vulnerability to climate change and disasters. Countries’ vulnerability to climate risks will need to be taken account of while developing resilience strategies for the WASH sector.

 IV. Collective Learning and Charting Country Plans and Progress

Having endorsed the above principles, we commit to developing and/or revising our own national roadmaps to accelerate access to WASH, but it is collective strength and leadership that will underwrite our success. Toward that, we support the sharing of knowledge and experiences among our countries, drawing from practices in other regions as well.

To keep track of our progress toward scaling up WASH, we also support the setting up of a collective results monitoring dashboard, with World Bank assistance.

 V. Agreement

We, the Ministers of Finance and of WASH, delegates present in this leadership summit of the Eastern and South African countries agree that following our deliberations at this Summit, we are ready for bold action. We suggest that our countries adopt the Principles of Action, under top leadership, and call on our development partners to support us to scale up WASH universally.

Concluded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on November 15, 2023.


List of participating countries in WASH Leadership Summit: Eastern and Southern Africa

1. Republic of Angola

2. Republic of Botswana

3. Republic of Burundi

4. Union of the Comoros

5. Democratic Republic of the Congo

6. Kingdom of Eswatini

7. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

8. Republic of Kenya

9. Kingdom of Lesotho

10. Republic of Malawi

11. Republic of Mozambique

12. Republic of Mauritius

13. Republic of Rwanda

14. Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe

15. Federal Republic of Somalia

16. Republic of South Africa

17. Republic of South Sudan

18. United Republic of Tanzania

19. Republic of Uganda

20. Republic of Zambia

21. Republic of Zimbabwe