AfricaSan 4: New commitments to sanitation in Africa

AfricaSan, held every three to four years, serves as a platform for exchange on policy, technology, and practice in the sanitation and hygiene sector. The conference seeks to prompt action by examining the progress made so far in providing sanitation for all in Africa and determining, by consensus, what further steps African governments and partner organizations need to take.

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AfricaSan 4 took place in Dakar, Senegal, on May 25-27, 2015

Ministers and government officials from over 40 governments, non-governmental organizations, private-sector actors, and key funders of the sanitation and hygiene sectors attended AfricaSan 4 in Dakar, Senegal, on May 25-27. Over the three days, they shared perspectives and lessons learned on policy and technical issues. They reviewed progress against the eThikwini Declaration from AfricaSan 2 in 2008, the first set of high-level commitments made by African governments to sanitation. In parallel, delegations from African governments conducted formal negotiations for a new set of shared commitments.

Experts in the opening plenary pointed out that while the continent’s average sanitation coverage was 21%, this number masks the disparities within and between countries. The poorest and most vulnerable populations have little access to sanitation. Very few African countries have achieved the goal of halving open defecation, which is part of the Millennium Development Goals expiring this year.

This is why the outcomes of AfricaSan 4 – the Ngor Commitments – are so important. The Ngor Commitments are as follows:

1. Focus on the poorest, most marginalized, and unserved, aimed at progressively eliminating inequalities in access and use and implement national and local strategies with an emphasis on equity and sustainability;

2. Mobilize support and resources at the highest political level for sanitation and hygiene to disproportionately prioritize sanitation and hygiene in national development plans;

3. Establish and track sanitation and hygiene budget lines that consistently increase annually to reach a minimum of 0.5% GDP by 2020;

4. Ensure strong leadership and coordination at all levels to build and sustain governance for sanitation and hygiene across sectors especially water, health, nutrition, education, gender, and the environment;

5. Develop and fund strategies to bridge the sanitation and hygiene human resource capacity gap at all levels;

6. Ensure inclusive, safely managed sanitation services and functional hand-washing facilities in public institutions and spaces;

7. Progressively eliminate untreated waste, encouraging its productive use;

8. Enable and engage the private sector in developing innovative sanitation and hygiene products and services, especially for the marginalized and unserved;

9. Establish government-led monitoring, reporting, evaluation, learning, and review systems;

10. Enable continued active engagement with AMCOW’s [African Ministers’ Council on Water] AfricaSan process.

The most critical of these commitments – and the one that delegates burned the midnight oil to negotiate – was on establishing and tracking budget lines. The 0.5% of GDP was an aspirational goal set in the eThikwini Declaration. The past seven years have shown that many governments have struggled both to raise expenditure to that level and to credibly track expenditure. By staking out a path to reach 0.5% by 2020, and by insisting on comprehensive tracking mechanisms to monitor the expenditure, African governments will be under peer pressure to lift their budgetary commitments.

Critically for private-sector operators such as Sanergy, Ngor Commitment 7 strengthens the foundation for the sanitation value chain. Sanergy is developing by-products for use in the agricultural and energy sectors in Kenya, which will be essential to supporting our business model and extending sanitation to the hardest to reach places. Ngor Commitment 8 on enabling and engaging the private sector to developing innovative hygiene and sanitation products points toward public-private partnerships, which could be an exciting way of rapidly increasing sanitation coverage in informal urban settlements – see our separate blog post on the issue here.

With AfricaSan 4 completed, governments and partner organizations now return home to turn these commitments into action. Private-sector operators, such as Sanergy, will continue to be a critical part of the solution.

This post was authored by Alex Marks and Subhadra Banda of Sanergy’s Policy & Advocacy Team. 


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