Can new pan-African policy guidelines help bring about national sanitation programmes?

Themes: Hygiene Regulation Research Sanitation Sewerage Tools and guidance Urban Sanitation Research Initiative Utilities WASH
Countries: Ghana Kenya Madagascar Mozambique Uganda Zambia

With 72% of the 962 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to basic sanitation, and governments struggling to increase access, new action is required to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.

This situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, further underscoring the need for African governments to meet their national, regional, and global water, sanitation, and hygiene obligations.

Now, a new initiative aims to help push forward the development of national sanitation and hygiene policies across the continent. But what will the African Sanitation Policy Guidelines, created by the African Council of Ministers on Water (AMCOW) aim to achieve?

Construction of a sanitation block in Ghana

ASPG will guide African Union member states to create national and sub-national sanitation policies and strategies. The guidelines aim to resolve major enabling environment bottlenecks that stand in the way of accelerating access to basic sanitation for all. Presently, most African governments have not met their commitments to the 2015 Ngor Ministerial Commitments on sanitation and hygiene.

A suitable enabling environment provides a solid foundation for inclusive sanitation planning, investment, and management. It clarifies and defines institutional and market player roles, thereby strengthening stakeholder inclusion, coordination, and participation. Further, it unlocks the potential for capacity strengthening of institutional and market-based players, paving the way for development and financing of large-scale public sanitation programmes and entry of private sector investors.

Read more about on the importance of good governance, finance, policy and regulation

The development and roll-out of ASPG is envisaged to resolve multiple, systemic institutional and market barriers, whose removal will accelerate provision of safely managed sanitation and hygiene services in Africa and help meet SDG 6.2 global targets.

The process started with a 26-country assessment conducted by AMCOW in 2019, revealing that most existing sanitation policies and strategies do not adequately address the critical elements of the enabling environment necessary to ensure access to safely managed sanitation for all.

WSUP supported the development of ASPG through its active participation in the Task Force, alongside representatives from organizations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, WHO, African Development Bank, GIZ and the World Bank. WSUP also provided stakeholder consultations’ organization support in Kenya and participated in Zambia and Ghana country meetings. This is in addition to offering technical support in the synthesis and compilation of findings from the 12 country consultations.

Improving the sewer network in Githima, Kenya

In particular, the regulation part of the guidelines cite analysis conducted by WSUP and the Eastern & Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulator Association (ESAWAS) on different regulatory frameworks for sanitation in our joint report entitled Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation.

Read the report: Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation

It also alludes to the findings of research commissioned by WSUP in four African cities of Kisumu (Kenya), Nakuru (Kenya), Malindi (Kenya) and Kumasi (Ghana) and one Asian city (Rangpur, in Bangladesh). This study showed that the costs of developing and maintaining sanitation services depend primarily on the context and the sanitation systems selected by the residents.

WSUP will partner with AMCOW and other stakeholders to ensure the successful roll-out of ASPG across Africa. WSUP is committed to actively participating and providing leadership in developing and reviewing sanitation and hygiene policies in our six core markets in the continent – Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana.

Top image: A boy visiting a toilet in Githima. Credit: Brian Otieno