Towards an International High-Level Panel for Climate Resilience Water Investments in Africa at COP26

by | Nov 8, 2021 | Events, High-Level Panel, News

In an event on the margins of the World Leaders Summit at COP26, former Tanzanian leader and Chair of Global Water Partnership Southern Africa and Africa Coordination, H.E. President Jakaya Kikwete called on the international community to support the establishment of an International High-Level Panel on Water Investments for Africa, which is urgently needed to accelerate investments in water security on the continent.

H.E. President Kikwete was addressing delegates from COP26’s first ever Water Pavilion on 2 November during the event, “Towards an International High Level Panel on Water Investments for Africa”.

Africa calling for Panel

‘’We urgently need the Panel because of our circumstances. One in three Africans face water insecurity, about 400 million Africans have no access to safe drinking water and about 700 million do not have access to good sanitation. The economic and service sectors do not get the water they need for optimal performance thus impeding socio-economic growth and development,” said H.E. President Kikwete.

“I am delighted to inform this assembly that GWP has joined hands with the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), African Development Bank (AfDB), UNICEF, UNDP and Global Centre for Adaptation (GCA) to convene the Panel. Work of appointing persons to be Members of the Panel is ongoing by the convenors.”

“We in Africa can’t wait to see the Panel established and start working.”

H.E. President Jakaya Kikwete, Former President of Tanzania

Watch H.E. President Kikwete full address here.

Africa’s water investment gap wide, and growing

Ambasador Henk WJ Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Kingdom of The Netherland, who moderated the side event stated that the Panel, which will be assembled from Heads of State in Africa and abroad over the course of 2022-2023, plans to develop a high-level action-forcing report and investment plan for the 2023 UN Conference and African Union Heads of States with a clear pathway and recommendations for countries to mobilize US$30 billion per year towards bridging the water investment gap in Africa.

“The AfDB estimates that US$64 billion would be needed to be invested annually to meet the 2025 Africa Water Vision for Water Security for all,” said H.E. President Kikwete. “Currently, the figure stands between US$10 billion and USD 19 billion, thus, leaving a huge investment gap to be filled.”

Need to address Africa’s climate change challenges

H.E. President Kikwete added that Africa’s water insecurity is only worsened by climate change.  

The 2021 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the rate of temperature increase in Africa is faster than the global average. Despite being most affected by climate change, the continent contributes only 4% to global emissions. 

Global water stress hotspots (Photo credit: UNFCC)

Panel to support AIP implementation

The High-Level Panel on Water Investments for Africa is supporting the goal of the Continental Africa Water Investment Programme (AIP), which originated in the 2018 report recommendations by the United Nations and World Bank convened High Level Panel on Water.

“The AIP is one of the biggest successes of the UN-World Bank High Level Panel on Water,” said Nchedi Moripe, Chief Director, Global Cooperation and Strategic Partnerships in the South African Department of Water and Sanitation and Sherpa to the UN-World Bank High Level Panel on Water.

“We call on African leaders to ensure that the African Union is pulling both the AIP and the proposed International High-Level Panel on Water Investments in Africa from the front. Water ministers also have a role to ensure that their leaders remain engaged throughout.”

Nchedi Moripe, South African Department of Water and Sanitation

Moripe was speaking at the same event during COP26.

AIP and Panel aligned to pan-African agenda

The AIP was adopted by the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government as part of Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa – Priority Action Plan 2 (PIDA-PAP 2) during the 34th ordinary session of African Union summit on 7 February 2021.

“The AIP was selected as part of PIDA-PAP 2 because we saw its potential to contribute to transboundary and regional investments in water – especially emphasising a nexus approach that finds linkages between health, energy, water and food security,” said Dr. Towela Nyirenda-Jere, Head: Economic Integration Division at AUDA-NEPAD, speaking on behalf of CEO H.E. Dr Ibrahim Mayaki.

“We are honoured to be part of the convenors of the Panel that will move Africa’s water agenda forward,” added Dr. Nyirenda-Jere.  

Securing financing is AIP’s biggest challenge

The AIP will aim to leverage financing from development agencies, green climate funding, national budgets, and the private sector. The latter is a historically low source of funding for the African water sector, with only about US$3 billion invested in Sub-Saharan African water projects compared to USD 41.7 billion in East Asia and the Pacific and USD 36 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1990. Reversing this trend will be a key challenge for the AIP. 

Dr Ania Grobicki, Deputy Director for External Affairs at the Green Climate Fund (GCF) said that leveraging private investment funds would be very important for water investments in Africa.

The GCF is the largest global fund dedicated to help fighting climate change, and was established within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to assist developing countries to respond to climate change.

In terms of de-risking the African water sector and making it more attracting to investors including those from the private sector, the AIP plans to work with partners such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to establish a water investment facility with an element of technical support offered to African regulators and water utilities.

“We need to raise the standards and capacities of African utilities so that they are able to attract financing on their own merit,” said Dr Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Executive Coordinator and Director: UNDP. 

Osward Chanda, Acting Director of Water and Sanitation at the AfDB, said that as part of the drive to increase private sector interest in Africa water should be an examination of how Africa’s governments themselves use their national budget allocations and resources as a means to leverage external finance flows.

The AfDB Group has recently approved a new Water Policy, prioritizing water security and the transformation of water assets to foster sustainable, green and inclusive economic growth in regional member countries. This is expected to support the implementation of the AIP and its goal to transform the outlook for water investments in Africa.   

New hope for Africa

“The AIP represents new hope for Africa because it brings together governments, investment banks, development agencies and the private sector and pulls them in the same direction,” said Dario Soto-Abril, CEO of GWP. 

“This is an Africa bound and created initiative and a beacon for countries in the global north to invest in commitment they have made in the Paris Agreement and all UNFCC conferences.”

Dario Soto-Abril, GWP

In its support to the AIP, the International High-Level Panel on Water Investments will drive global political mobilization and international engagement to narrow the water investment gap on the continent and meet the socio-economic needs for water.

Panel supported by AIP Water Investment Scorecard

“The Panel will bring high level visibility and unlock increased political commitment and resources. And it builds on initiatives that we already have in place – such as the AIP Water Investment Scorecard,” said Kelly Ann Naylor, Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF.

UNICEF is one of the partners supporting the development the AIP Water Investment Scorecard, under the leadership of AMCOW and AUDA-NEPAD, which will inform the work of the Panel by supporting African countries to track progress on the mobilisation of investments in the water sector and raise awareness among Heads of State and government decision makers on bottlenecks.  It’s anticipated that the AIP Scorecard will then be presented to the African Union Heads of States in February 2022.

Panel launch seen for Q1 of 2022

Also in the first quarter of 2022 is the anticipated launch of the International High-Level Panel on Water Investments.

Most recently, in September 2021, the Executive Committee of AMCOW formally welcomed the nomination of H.E. Dr Hage Gottfried Geingob, the President of the Republic of Namibia, and the current host country of the Presidency of AMCOW as Panel Co-Chair.

H.E. President Kikwete has been nominated as the alternate Co-chair, while the Kingdom of the Netherlands, host government of the GCA and co-host of the 2023 UN Conference on the Water Action Decade, will be approached to Co-Chair as a representative of the Global North.

“A roadmap for the Panel has already been adopted by the convening organisations,” said Alex Simalabwi, Executive Secretary: GWPSA-ACU and Head: Joint Secretariat for the Panel.

“Key events for the Panel will include the World Water Forum 2022 in Senegal, the African Bank annual meetings, World Water Week, and COP27 planned to take place in Egypt in the final quarter of 2022,” said Simalabwi.

Co-Chair of the World Water Forum 2022’s International Steering Committee, Mr. Aboulaye Sene, also participated in the COP26 event and welcomed a Panel meeting during the world’s largest event on water, which takes place every three years, and will be the first one in Sub-Saharan Africa – a region with critical and urgent water needs.

“An inaugural meeting was hosted by the GCA, on the side-lines of the High-Level Dialogue on Climate Adaptation with Global Leaders ahead of COP26, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 7 September 2021,” he added.

World leaders at the High-Level Dialogue on Climate Adaptation with Global Leaders

During the GCA High-Level Dialogue, H.E. President Kikwete urged world leaders to place water at the centre of adaptation action – specifically for Africa.  He reiterated that message at COP26 this week.

“It is of utmost critical urgency that increased attention is paid to adaptation interventions and investments related to water retention, storage, rainwater harvesting, water source protection, and water infrastructure,” said H.E. President Kikwete.

“We call on international leaders assembled here at COP26 to support the AIP, the AIP Water Investment Scorecard, and the formal establishment of the International High-Level Panel on Water Investments for Africa,” he said.

Headline photo credit: UNFCCC