|AMCOW President Opens Africa Focus Day at World Water Week|
Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Partners, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Africa Focus Day at the 2012 World Water Week. I also bring felicitations from my immediate predecessor and immediate past President of the African Ministers Council on Water, Dr Hesham Kandil, now the Prime Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt. He sends his warmest regards to colleague Ministers and recalls with nostalgia the meeting together of the AMCOW Ministers at the last General Assembly and Africa Water Week in Cairo in May 2012.
Being new on the saddle I am equally delighted that this meeting provides me the opportunity to meet and interact with the AMCOW regional Vice Presidents and colleague Ministers for the first time. I hope that our interactions will be most fruitful in moving AMCOW forward.
Over the years, it has become a time-honoured tradition at the World Water Week to accord Africa a voice and space through the Africa Focus Day to express ourselves on the challenges that confront us in water resources management. It is gratifying to note that this year’s Africa Focus is organized around two seminars of four sessions. The first seminar explores the theme “Water Security: Opportunities for the 21st Century” while the second examines the theme “Managing Africa’s Water Resources: Challenges and Opportunities.” Both themes are relevant given that water is life, and remains at the core of human existence, survival and well being. As I emphasized at the opening plenary, the availability of water in sufficient quantity and acceptable quality remains vital for improved health, livelihoods, agricultural uses and other economic activities as well as for environmental protection in a world challenged by increasing adverse changes in our climatic conditions. I spoke of the imperativeness that we respond to these challenges which we face in providing enough water for human use in the continent.
If we therefore fail to place water as the engine for growth and at the heart of development planning, on-going efforts to develop our continent will remain a mirage. We must therefore begin to also raise the priority given to water for food and water for energy production, in such proportion and levels of intensity of effort and political will that we currently place on providing access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. It is in this regard that the themes that guide our discourse today remain germane and very opportune.
At the last Africa Water Week held in Cairo, Egypt, AMCOW adopted ‘Water for Growth in Africa’ as the driving force for our work over the next ten years as part of our renewed vigour to achieve the 2025 Africa Water Vision. Our deliberations during the Water Week enabled AMCOW to pay a renewed and devoted attention to water for growth, building again on our commitments from the 2008 1st Africa Water Week: “Towards Water for Social and Economic Development.” For AMCOW our goal is clear and unambiguous which is that Water for Growth – in all of its important and significant connections – should henceforth be elevated to the level of political attention and implementation priority that has been accorded to drinking water and sanitation over the last ten years.
Why is this emphasis necessary? It is necessary because without achieving sustainable economic growth and development, our commitment to providing safe drinking water and sanitation will also remain elusive. Water for Growth therefore represents Africa’s overarching and driving framework for the development, management and utilization of water resources and for our aspirations for poverty reduction; sustainable socio-economic development; as well as equitable and all-inclusive growth. When we fail to do so, we consign our people to donor dependence.
However, while we cherish the support we get from our development partners, it is equally evident that donor support does not have the capacity to tackle the challenges we face and continued dependence on that is no longer sustainable in a world riddled with unstable economies. We must therefore rise to harness our resources especially water in a more coordinated and efficient manner that will engender economic growth and prosperity.
I intend to pursue an agenda that promotes a high degree of collaboration and engagement between the Africa water ministries and the ministries responsible for driving social and economic development such as ministries of finance, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, natural resources, and trade, alongside other stakeholders with wide institutional representation. For AMCOW, that is the way to go because water is at the center of development and we need to flush away poverty in Africa and flow in prosperity.
Permit me to assure our development partners and other stakeholders that AMCOW takes the issue of implementing past declarations and commitments especially the Sharm el Sheikh AU Heads of State and Government mandate on integrated water resources management seriously. We recognize that only by so doing can we advance the well-being of Africa’s people, economy and environment. We will continue to focus on the many challenges that remain and the absolute urgency required in intensifying and scaling up efforts on the ground. We as AMCOW Ministers commit to bringing solutions that add value and we pledge that these commitments will be honoured. We pledge to work together with you to achieve the targets we set for ourselves.
Having said that, it is my singular pleasure to declare the Africa Focus Day open. Thank you.