SADC’s fund for water and basic sanitation remains a pipedream

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Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is yet to establish a regional fund for water and basic sanitation despite inking a deal with Germany in 2012.

The fund is aimed at pooling finances meant to help supply clean water as well as provide basic sanitation needs for SADC countries.

There are about 112 million people in the region, who do not have access to safe drinking water.

The government of Germany at the time provided a grant of R157 million for the establishment of this fund, but six years later, there is no clear indication whether the fund is still being established.

Despite no evidence of the fund’s existence, the SADC Secretariat insisted to The Southern Times this week that it was established.

“The Regional Fund for Water Infrastructure and Basic Sanitation was established and is functioning, hosted by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). There is some information on it on the SADC website,” says the Secretariat.

But a quick glance on the SADC website reveals only information of how the fund is supposed to work. It has no timeline of when it was established or any projects that it helped fund.

SADC member states and KFW Bank Group (German government-owned development bank) were supposed to pump more money into the fund had it been operational by now.

The fund was supposed to be managed by DBSA, a development finance institution wholly owned by the government of South Africa that seeks to “accelerate sustainable socio-economic development and improve the quality of life of the people of SADC by driving financial and non-financial investments in the social and economic infrastructure sectors”.

DBSA was chosen to manage the fund so that it helps SADC increase its water access levels to at least 75% by 2027 for both safe drinking and sanitation.

Questions sent to DBSA were not answered.

The fund was also intended to help SADC increase its annual renewable water storage resources from the current 14% to about 25% during the same period.

SADC member states are still facing huge investment challenges in water supply and sanitation and this fund would have gone a long way bridging this investment gap. It was hoped that it would provide financing for actual investment in water and sanitation projects. Thus member states will have the chance to make use of a full set of instruments, ranging from project preparation to project realisation.

According to information seen by The Southern Times, the fund was structured in a way that the facility offers an important window to facilitate increased access to both water and sanitation services in a region where 70% of water resources are shared by two or more states.

It will also contribute to the effort of creating sustainable access to water in the context of climate change and climate variability.

SADC has 15 shared river basins that are not fully functional. Only six of the 15 basins have been fully established or in the process of being established. These are the Orange, Zambezi, Limpopo, Okavango, Incomati- Maputo and the Kunene-Cuvelai River Basins.

The region has been struggling to attract private sector financing due to water being a social and economic good.

SADC Director for Infrastructure Water Division, Phera Ramoeli had earlier told The Southern Times that despite being assessed, documented and understood, the benefits of transboundary water cooperation have not been communicated well in the region.

These are the kind of projects that the regional fund for water and basic sanitation was expected to help develop.  

“Empirical evidence to support the extensive existing literature on the benefits derived from transboundary water cooperation is still lacking. There is need, therefore, to take further steps of ensuring that the benefits are not only understood but are also realised within the region,” he said.

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