Africa's Watershed Moment

Posted on August, 30 2017

WWF and AB InBev report on how better water management can underpin Africa's sustainable development
By 2050, Africa will be a very different continent. Its population will have soared by another billion. Its towns and cities will house more people than its rural villages. Its economies will have transformed. The question is not where Africa is going: it is whether the continent gets there by following a sustainable and inclusive development path.
And the answer will depend to a huge extent on how Africa manages its freshwater resources – the focus of a new report by Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) and WWF.
Launched during World Water Week, Africa’s Watershed Moment highlights how the management of water – and the rivers, lakes and wetlands from which it is sourced – is fundamental to sustainable development across the continent.
With the demand for water and pressure on freshwater ecosystems set to grow dramatically as African populations, cities and economies expand, it is essential that the continent’s decision makers, including those who do not necessarily work directly with water, choose the right path in the coming decade.
“This is Africa’s watershed moment. Decisions taken in the next few years about how to manage our freshwater resources will shape the continent’s development for decades to come,” said Fred Kumah, WWF Director for Africa.

“Africa urgently needs to invest in appropriate freshwater infrastructure, management and policies to catalyse economic growth, mitigate water risks and achieve its Sustainable Development Goals – or risk missing the boat,” added Kumah.
Indeed, the SDGs and looming climate adaptation challenge provide the impetus to make the right investments now in water management across the continent, for the benefit of nature, people and business.
“More than just a key ingredient in our products, water is a precious resource for the economic, social, and environmental well-being of African communities,” said Tony Milikin, Chief Sustainability & Procurement Officer at AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer.

“We recognise the need to act as a responsible steward of water in the areas where we operate but we also recognize that it will take more than one organization, company or government to tackle the growing freshwater challenges in Africa," added Milikin.
The report focuses on four key themes – sustained growth requires water investment; feeding a billion more people; rural water vulnerability, poverty and migration; and cities as the engine of water-resilient development.
And it concludes with a call to action targeted at five critical groups of decision makers on the continent. These recommendations acknowledge the value of freshwater resources and urge decision makers to seize the opportunity to promote better water management, which is critical for sustainable development.
For example, economic planners can catalyse development by investing in water management. Business leaders have an important role to play by increasing investment in water management to reduce their water risks, advocating with governments, and inspiring collective action.
It also encourages investors to explore mechanisms to finance water development that underpins sustainable and inclusive economic growth, while urging city managers to ensure coherent planning between urban and rural areas. And last but not least, the report calls on development agencies to promote water-resilient development, with a focus on the livelihoods of the most marginal people in the least developed economies.
“This report is an important contribution to the debate about Africa’s future, because the continent’s future will be shaped by water,” said Kumah.

“Water resource challenges – increasingly magnified by climate change, inadequate infrastructure, and poor governance – cannot be addressed in silos,” added Milikin. “We invite decision makers in government, business and finance to read this report and learn more about how water resilience can accelerate growth. And then join us in our efforts to build a Better World for generations to come.”
Pumping station in South Africa
© WWF-SA / Scott Ramsay
Africa's Watershed Moment
© WWF & AB InBev
Water management training in Tanzania
© Brent Stirton
Dam on the Kafue river in Zambia
© Sarah Black / WWF Zambia
Children playing in an irrigation channel full of water from the Great Ruaha river
© Brent Stirton