Africa's Watershed Moment
By 2050, Africa will be a very different continent from today. Its population will have soared by another billion. Its towns and cities will house more people than its rural villages. Its economies will have transformed. The question is not where Africa is going: it's whether the continent gets there by following a sustainable and inclusive development path.
The answer will depend to a huge extent on how Africa manages its freshwater resources – the focus of a new report by WWF and Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev).
Launched during World Water Week 2017, Africa’s Watershed Moment highlights how the management of water – and the rivers, lakes and wetlands from which it is sourced – is fundamental to sustainable development across the continent.
With the demand for water and pressure on freshwater ecosystems set to grow dramatically as African populations, cities and economies expand, it's essential that the continent’s decision makers, including those who do not necessarily work directly with water, choose the right path in the coming decade.
“This is Africa’s watershed moment. Decisions taken in the next few years about how to manage our freshwater resources will shape the continent’s development for decades to come,” says Fred Kumah, WWF Director for Africa. “Africa urgently needs to invest in appropriate freshwater infrastructure, management and policies to catalyse economic growth, mitigate water risks and achieve its Sustainable Development Goals – or risk missing the boat.”
Indeed, the SDGs and looming climate adaptation challenges provide the impetus to make the right investments now in water management across the continent, for the benefit of nature, people and business.
“More than just a key ingredient in our products, water is a precious resource for the economic, social, and environmental well-being of African communities,” says Tony Milikin, Chief Sustainability & Procurement Officer at AB InBev, the world's largest brewer. “We recognise the need to act as a responsible steward of water in the areas where we operate, but we also recognise that it will take more than one organisation, company or government to tackle the growing freshwater challenges in Africa.”
The report urges economic planners to catalyse development by investing in water management, while calling on business leaders to play their part by increasing investment in water management to reduce their water risks, advocating with governments, and inspiring collective action.
It encourages investors to explore mechanisms to finance water development that underpins sustainable and inclusive economic growth, while urging city managers to ensure coherent planning between urban and rural areas. And last but not least, the report calls on development agencies to promote water-resilient development, with a focus on the livelihoods of the most marginal people in the least developed economies.
“This report is an important contribution to the debate about Africa’s future, because the continent’s future will be shaped by water,” says Kumah.
“Water resource challenges – increasingly magnified by climate change, inadequate infrastructure, and poor governance – cannot be addressed in silos,” adds Milikin. “We invite decision makers in government, business and finance to read this report and learn more about how water resilience can accelerate growth. And then join us in our efforts to build a Better World for generations to come.”
This initiative was supported by Pegasys Institute, an African think-tank, who also developed a longer case-based technical report from which the main report is derived. Download the technical report (PDF)