Cote d'Ivoire to host African water and sanitation meet

Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Oct 10 (IANS) The 2013 edition of the 'High Level Forum on Water and Sanitation in Africa' will be held Nov 21-23 in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

The forum assembles heads of states, finance ministers, water and sanitation ministers, investors and donors from southern as well as northern countries, according to a press release issued by the Water and Sanitation Africa (WSA).

Private businesses and trade associations from Africa, and development practitioners with a focus on identifying business opportunities in the water and sanitation sector will also attend the event.

Africa is among the fastest growing regions of the world with an average economic growth rate of 5.6 percent per year.

It is also fast gaining increasing access to international capital, meaning that the potential for investment and expansion in infrastructure is higher.

Africa's growth is largely constrained by poor infrastructure. A study conducted by the African Development Bank estimated that the total cost of bridging Africa's infrastructure gap over the next decade will be about $93 million a year.

In 1980, Africa's urban population was estimated at 28 percent. By 2008 it had risen to 40 percent and is projected to reach 50 percent by 2030.

This rapid urbanization rate has created demand for more infrastructure including housing, water and sanitation systems.

To spur the growth, many African governments have strengthened their legal frameworks, policy and strategy regimes, anti-corruption policies, and the quality of their human capital.

In 2000, it was estimated that 59 million households had $5000 or more income above which they start spending roughly 50 percent on non-food items.

By 2014, this figure is expected to increase to 106 million households. Thus many more Africans are prepared to exchange cash for quality service especially in water, sanitation and housing, the release stated.

Despite these positive trends, the water and sanitation sector has not yet received adequate investor attention in Africa.

This state of affairs is mostly but arguably attributed to the socialist-focussed development paradigm for the sector; water and sanitation services were branded as social services with strict governmental controls. This limited the business interest in the sector and led to over-reliance on government investment and charity.

Today about 400 million people living in Africa lack access to clean drinking water, while over 600 million people lack basic sanitation services, WSA stated.

Several million children die from preventable water and sanitation-related illnesses every year in Africa.

In Nigeria and Ethiopia for instance, about 97,000 and 33,000 children die every year of diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor drinking water and sanitation respectively.

This has triggered the call for a shift in the development orientation for Africa's water and sanitation sector from social to the inclusion of more economic and financial models.

With focus on south-south cooperation for water and sanitation sector growth in Africa, the 2013 High Level Forum provides the platform for exploring business opportunities with potential partners from India, China, Turkey, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, apart from the continent's traditional partners from the north.

The 2013 is being held after two highly successful such forum's in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou in 2011 and Senegal's capital Dakar in 2012.