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Photo of a water pump installed in a rural area in Africa.

Over 300 million Africans lack access to clean and safe water for drinking and 700 million are living in poor conditions without adequate sanitation. Lack of access to clean and safe water has frustrated poverty reduction efforts and hindered economic prosperity. Sub-Saharan Africa loses 5% of its GDP per year because of water-related challenges. In addition, 40 billion hours per year, which could have otherwise been used on productive activities, are spent searching for water sources.

Water challenges

Africa’s water problems continue to grow. Accessing clean and fresh water for drinking and running other daily household chores remains a difficulty for much of the population. Experts have pointed out that most people in Africa rely on surface water, and the continent lacks the financial capability and technology to invest in groundwater harnessing such as the digging of wells. The rising population and strain on the available water resources has contributed to an acute water scarcity, which has triggered both social and economic impacts.

Water is a core ingredient for sustainable development in Africa. Its availability is key to enabling human survival, socioeconomic development, and healthy ecosystems. With adequate access to water in communities, diseases can be contained, and populations will become more productive. A lot of the suffering witnessed by African populations is associated with water scarcity, affecting human health, and contributing to hunger and starvation, as well as influencing stability due to water-related conflicts. In addition, sanitation is a serious challenge that the continent faces. Many people, such as those living in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods or rural settings, lack dedicated sewage systems that can help reduce the spread of diseases.

These are some of the many challenges the African continent faces. However, the challenges also create opportunities.

Opportunities for the sector

The economy is growing fast. Between 2004 and 2018, the economy grew with an annual average of 4,5% (as a comparison, the EU grew in the same period 1,55% per year). It is expected that the economy will continue to grow. This creates opportunities for the Dutch Water Sector to: 

  • contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa, and
  • increase its export and trade

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