Achieving safe sanitation, wastewater management in Africa

The African Development Bank, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and GRID-Arendal have released the inaugural Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa, a tool to benchmark and propel Africa’s progress towards Sustainable Development Goals on safe sanitation and wastewater management.

The Atlas aims to help policymakers accelerate change and investment in the sector. The result of four years of collaboration, the Atlas assesses progress and highlights opportunities where investment in sanitation and wastewater management can improve health and spur economic growth. The publication incorporates maps, graphics and profiles of all African countries, including analyses of their water resources and provision of basic services. It also explores the links between sanitation and wastewater and ecosystem health and human health, and discusses frameworks and circular economy approaches that can lead to better infrastructure and systems.



“Africa cannot have a healthy society without adequate access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene,” said Wambui Gichuri, the African Development Bank’s Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development. “In the past 10 years, the African Development Bank has invested more than $6 billion in sanitation and hygiene improvements, but much more financing is needed from the private sector, development finance institutions, governments and other sources. The new Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa can inform strategic investment going forward.”

According to the report, more than half of the population in 34 out of 38 sub-Saharan Africa nations lack access to basic handwashing facilities. It recommends investment in the necessary policies, infrastructure and human skills capacities to operationalize actions towards the achievement of goals and targets in the 2030 Agenda, including those for sustainable sanitation and wastewater management.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened an already existing need to upgrade Africa’s water and sanitation infrastructure. The report’s authors urge African governments to incorporate sanitation and wastewater programs into their post-COVID-19 strategic planning.

“As the world seeks to recover better after COVID-19, prioritizing wastewater and sanitation infrastructure in Africa is critical. Sustainable Development Goal 6, which calls for making water and sanitation available to everyone, is within reach by 2030 if we commit the needed resources. The Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas of Africa provides the tools for policymakers to focus on this important challenge,” said Leticia Carvalho, Head of UNEP’s Marine and Freshwater Branch.



In addition to advancing SDG Goal 6, the Atlas is expected to promote the African Union’s Agenda 2063 as well as the Africa Water Vision for 2025, an initiative of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Bank and the AU.

“We have gathered a wealth of information on practical and transformative solutions for wastewater management and the provision of sanitation services, which can help to boost public health and secure the sustainability of Africa’s natural resources,” said Clever Mafuta, Head of the Waste Programme at GRID-Arendal, a Norwegian non-profit organization established to support the work of UNEP.