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Water infrastructure in Africa, a $29bn need

A top African Development Bank official said private capital has to have a role if the continent is going to upgrade its water and wastewater infrastructure. Public funding, in turn, has been acknowledged as insufficient.

Bettering water and wastewater management in Africa could cost as much as $29 billion annually, a problem private funding can help address, according to a senior African Development Bank (AfDB) official.

Calling public finance “insufficient,” Sering Jallow, head of water and sanitation for the AfDB, said privatisation, in particular “well-structured” public-private partnership (PPP) use, is a “need”.

Jallow, a 12-year AfDB official and a water engineer, explained a generally accepted estimate put the cost of water supply, sanitation, operation and maintenance between $18 billion and $29 billion a year.

“We are mobilising only $8 billion” in publicly available money, he said.

The AfDB, founded in 1964 to promote economic and social progress in Africa, judged the continent as primed to attract private sector investment in water-related infrastructure.

Jallow provided his assessment of water and wastewater management in Africa while speaking at a PPP conference in Dakar, Senegal, located in the westernmost part of Africa. The conference is a G8 initiative hosted by the AfDB.

In his opening address for the conference, Senegal prime minster Abdoul Mbaye said privatisation has helped his country increase its resource mobilisation without increasing its national debt.

Mbaye said a PPP is not a “panacea, but a powerful tool”.