As I welcome you to the AMCOW official website, permit me to recall that the Abuja AMCOW Declaration in 2002 was the culmination of a long process to forge and formalize a coordination structure for water policy dialogue and policy formulation in Africa with a clear mandate on AMCOW to provide political leadership, policy direction and advocacy in the provision, use and management of water resources for sustainable social and economic development and maintenance of African ecosystems.
The role of AMCOW got more significance by being accorded the status of a Specialized Committee for Water and Sanitation in the African Union. Since the 2002 Abuja Ministerial Declaration, AMCOW has recorded important landmarks which carved its historical developments including the 2003 Addis Ababa PANAFCON on Water, the 2004 Sirte Declaration, the 2008 Tunis declaration, the 2008 eThekwini Declaration, the 2008 Sharm El-Sheikh Summit commitments, the Sirte Ministerial Conference declaration, the 2009 Johannesburg Ministerial Statement, the 2009 5th World Water Forum Africa Regional Paper, and most recently the 2012 6th World Water Forum report on targets, commitments and solutions. At this dividing moment I promise to work closely with all AMCOW partners and move forward with your help and support to accomplish AMCOW’s mission. I am more fortunate to start from an advanced point where work done in the past has set the stage and scored tangible results.
At the onset, the Water Vision for Africa 2025 identified many key challenges such as sustainable access to safe and adequate water supply and sanitation; water for food and energy security; … etc. However, many challenges remain and still need us to intensify and scale up our work to achieve results on the ground that people can feel and enjoy especially in the least advantage areas which exist in every country in Africa. For example, there are still over 300 million Africans who don’t have access to safe drinking water while over 500 million lack access to improved sanitation. Also, according to several reports the water sector in Africa faces a financing gap of more than USD 8.5 billion per year. Available evidence suggests that the financing gap is at least 30% of the total annual financing needs. To minimize this gap, appropriate investment plans must be developed in order to promote domestic as well as foreign financial resources allocation for implementing national and regional water and sanitation development activities. Also, effective management of African civil society and public-private participation in water and sanitation activities and programs are to be strongly encouraged and promoted.
Perhaps the greatest cause of Africa's problem is the lack of technical and institutional capacity to effectively utilize its water resources. Though approximately 4 trillion cubic meters of water is available every year, only about 4% of that is used. Nevertheless, the hydrology of the continent is characterized with enormous temporal and spatial variability in rainfall and runoff. While there is almost no rain fall in the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Namibian Desert, the western part of the continent near the equator receives as much as 4,000 millimetres annually.
At this point, allow me to emphasize that in countries, such as Egypt, which are suffering from severe scarcity, it is now water, not land that is limiting factor for improving agriculture production. The most viable option is to substantially increase water productivity, in particular in agricultural sector. It is also needed to shift water security higher in national and international policy priorities, based on the principle that water resources must be allocated in a reasonable and equitable manner among all users.
As the same time efforts should be given to ensure agricultural growth, and poverty eradication, foster socio-economic development and increase employment. Parallel to that AMCOW must give the highest importance to the development of groundwater resources to improve livelihoods and managing the risk associated with climate change. Concerning Energy sector, efforts must be strongly directed to urge and encourage the continuous support of the regional and international development partners to this vital sector, side by side with the other sectors of water and agriculture.
As we all know, the concept of green economy carries the promise of new economic growth paradigm that is suitable to earth’s ecosystems and can also contribute to poverty alleviation. Besides, this concept is very much compatible with the old concept of sustainable development. AMCOW in its Agenda for the future should emphasize looking to the application of the green economic growth for its development plans.
At the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit, the African Head of States and Government have mandated the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) to elaborate annual reports on progresses realized in water and sanitation area with the help of regional partners. The implementation of a Pan African monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system was retained and recommended for helping to fulfil the commitments made at this Summit. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is therefore one of the powerful performance management tools that could help to achieve regional commitments in the water sector, and the aims of M&E is to develop, strengthen and harmonize M&E Systems at national, sub-regional (RLBOs and RECs) and continental (global system at AUC/AMCOW) levels in Africa, by 2015.
I entreat our friends then to continue the valued support to AMCOW now that AMCOW is set to implement its work programme especially the role of monitoring and evaluation and reporting on the Sharm El-Sheikh Heads of State declarations on water and sanitation. Let us use this communication channel for not only creating awareness on what we do but also for knowledge propagation and sharing. I say welcome.
Dr Mohamed Bahaa El-Din
Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation, Egypt, / AMCOW President 2012-2014