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FEATURE: Accelerating climate-resilient water management – Africa’s ambitious agenda for change

What will it take for Africa to adapt sufficiently to climate change by 2050? What should stakeholders do to accelerate effective, inclusive climate change adaptation in Africa? Alex Simalabwi, Executive Secretary of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) Southern Africa and Head of GWP Africa Coordination Unit, outlines the ambitious measures that governments and their partners are taking.  

This is one of a series of blogs on ‘Accelerating adaptation action in Africa’ published by CDKN to frame the Africa anchoring event of the Climate Adaptation Summit, January 2021.

Africa is one of the continents most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and yet it has the least ability to adapt due to its limited financial resources to cover the massive, and growing, adaptation gap. The United Nations Environmental Programme estimates that the continent’s adaptation costs could reach US$100 billion annually by 2050, based on the current trends in global emissions.

Climate change has already increased the variability of the water cycle, affecting water availability and quality, exacerbating scarcity – and threatening the livelihoods of African people and the development of their economies. The situation will continue to worsen. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected significantly reduced quality and quantity of renewable surface water and groundwater resources in most dry subtropical regions, intensifying competition for water among sectors.

Responding to the challenge will require regional, national, and local level adaptation strategies. A growing number of countries and cities are including water-related adaptation into their planning, policy, and institutional response to such predicted impacts as rising sea-levels, more frequent droughts, and increased precipitation. These policies include National Adaptation Plans to climate change and other climate-resilient policies. However, commitment to the implementation and financing of these policies is lacking.

Accelerating the development of climate-resilient water infrastructure

Global Water Partnership (GWP)’s recommendations to accelerated and inclusive climate change adaptation in Africa is informed by our experience, along with our partners, in the implementation of the Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP) for Africa. Implemented between 2011 and 2019, the programme aimed to integrate water security and climate resilience in development planning processes, build climate resilience, and support countries to adapt to a new climate regime through increased investments in water security.

During its implementation, WACDEP supported more than 60 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and influenced more than EUR1 billion in water and climate resilience investments. More than 15 investment plans were developed and approved at different levels.

However, despite the progress, delivery of water infrastructure in Africa is lagging behind the continent’s economic and social needs. The African Development Bank estimates that US$64 billion in water infrastructure investment is required annually to meet the 2025 Africa water vision of water security for all; the actual figure invested stands between US$10 billion and US$19 billion per year.

Mobilising water investments in Africa

In response to the water investments gap, we initiated implementation of the Africa Water Investment Programme (AIP) in March 2020, with the goal of transforming and improving the investment outlook for water security and sustainable sanitation for a prosperous, peaceful, and equitable Africa.

The AIP is implemented through three support programmes: Water Climate Development and Gender transformation, Sustainable Development Goal water investments, and transboundary water investments. It supports countries to develop and accelerate implementation of gender transformative climate-resilient regional and national water investment programmes and projects.

With the global pandemic exacerbating and amplifying weakness in Africa’s governance systems for water and sanitation, the AIP will also contribute towards continental efforts on universal access to safe water, sanitation hygiene, integration of water security in Covid-19 economic recovery plans and addressing key bottlenecks that undermine progress in climate resilient water investments.

Supporting countries to access international finance

One of the major obstacles to accessing finance for adaptive climate resilient water projects that we observed is inadequate project preparation. In order to access project finance from the major green funds, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), countries need to present projects designed for impact – reflected through prioritised project ideas, clear climate rationale, compelling concept notes, and comprehensive funding proposals.

However, capacity limitations constrain countries from identifying and preparing catalytic water-related adaptation interventions. Limited understanding of funding modalities and proposal requirements pose further barriers for countries wishing to access global green fund resources for adaptation planning and projects. In a context of increasingly sophisticated analytical methods and constantly evolving technology, African countries find that gaps in data availability and limitations in technical capacity constrain their ability to establish a clear climate rationale for water projects funding proposals.

What we have learnt is that partnership, technical assistance and South-South exchange can enable developing countries to prepare well-prioritised climate resilient water projects that can secure climate funding.

In September 2018, together with our partners, we launched the AIP Project Preparation Platform for Climate Resilient Water Investments, which strengthens the capacity of National Designated Authorities (NDAs), Direct Access Entities (DAEs), and Water Ministries/agencies in Africa to prepare climate-resilient water projects to meet the GCF and investment criteria.

The AIP Project Preparation Platform supports these entities to work together to enable countries to access the support they need to prepare and implement climate-resilient water projects efficiently and effectively. The Partnership supports countries to translate their prioritised water-related project ideas into concept notes and develop these into proposals for submission to the GCF.

Since the launch of the Project Preparation Platform, we have supporting over a dozen African countries to access climate finance from the GCF and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Monitoring Africa’s progress in water and climate resilience investments remains essential. In the coming year, GWP and partners from the African Union Development Agency, African Ministers’ Council on Water, African Development Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa will develop an AIP Water Investment Scorecard. The Scorecard will support, catalyse, and influence high-level political commitment and leadership to accelerate water investments and narrow the water investment gap on the continent.

About the author:

Mr. Alex Simalabwi is the Executive Secretary of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) Southern Africa and Head of GWP Africa Coordination Unit. He is also the Global Head for Climate Resilience at Global Water Partnership.

 

Image: public water tap, courtesy S Silberman, flickr.com

 

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