Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass at the Ninth World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal – World
President Sall, Presidents, Distinguished Guests, Honorary Speakers, Friends,
Thank you for inviting me to speak at the opening of this year’s World Water Forum. This is a historic and timely event – the first time this forum has met in sub-Saharan Africa.
Thank you to the organizers for having concentrated this year Forum on Water Security for Peace and Development. Today more than ever, the world needs more peace and more development.
Recent trends in these two imperatives are disheartening.
We are witnessing an unprecedented increase in conflict and violence – here on the African continent and more recently in Europe. The costs and losses are devastating – including violence, starvation and malnutrition. Millions of people are facing crises that will shorten their lives or end them abruptly.
At the Fragility Forum at the World Bank in early March, we showed that 23 countries – with a combined population of 850 million people – are facing high- or medium-intensity conflict. More than 300 million people living in situations of fragility and conflict experienced acute food insecurity in 2021, and the war in Ukraine is further exacerbating food shortages and spikes in food prices.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic reversals in development outcomes. Indicators of poverty, growth, nutrition, education and security are all deteriorating, rather than improving as needed for the world to truly develop. The final hammer blow is inflation and rising interest rates. They hit the poor hardest and deepen inequalities.
The world today faces other enormous challenges. The Water Forum today focuses on the importance of water security for development and peace. Population growth and increased water use are creating water scarcity and intense competition for water. Ongoing climate change is aggravating the water crisis, which is glaring in Africa.
Only 58% of Africans have access to drinking water. Only 10% of the hydroelectric potential is exploited. Globally, 2 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water and more than 3.6 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation.
This has serious implications for human capital. Poor water quality is the cause of 70-80% of disease in Africa. The health effects also lead to learning losses, especially for girls, with lifelong repercussions.
Water is essential for production, including power generation, mining, industry and of course agriculture, which accounts for 23% of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa. With nine out of ten climate events related to water, better water management is essential for adaptation and resilience.
Filling water data gaps is an essential part of improving water resources management. We recently launched the World Bank Water Data Portal. It consolidates curated water data in one place for the first time. We are currently collaborating with the World Meteorological Organization, through the Coalition of Water and Climate Leaders, on a global water information system to bring together water and climate data.
Once the data is collected, coordinated action is urgently needed on three fronts to address the water crisis: first – targeted policy measures and better institutions, second – increased public and private investment and third – greater citizen participation. Allow me to take a few minutes to describe each of these key actions.
First, policy and institutional reforms are essential to enable sustainable and equitable water use, properly value water and improve service delivery. Reforms require strong political leadership to create the economic, social and mental changes needed to better manage water resources and deliver services effectively to more people.
Water and sanitation services can achieve significant efficiency gains. Helpful reforms also include stronger safety nets to cover water shocks, improved storage solutions, and better urban planning to improve water management.
A circular economy approach to water security could bring huge benefits – helping countries scale up wastewater reuse for aquifer recharge and irrigation; and capitalizing on wetlands and green infrastructure to improve stormwater management and capture.
The World Bank is working closely with the government of Senegal on a multi-sector program to ensure water security. If successful, the program could become a model for other countries in the region.
Cross-border water cooperation is essential, especially in Africa, where 90% of water is found in watersheds that cross national borders. Sharing water data – through initiatives such as the Global Water Information System I mentioned earlier – is key to managing the impacts of climate change on the hydrological cycle; and essential to help countries manage water resources to meet their development and growth needs.
Several steps are necessary to facilitate this work. Accurate information must be available and shared publicly. Effective water management across borders has immense value. This requires measurements, information sharing and trust in the use of shared resources. For example, advance notification of any planned changes to the water flow regime is essential. Sharing information enables early warning and creates better decision-making on how water is shared across various sectors, administrative boundaries and countries.
We work to strengthen regional integration through the OMVS – Organization for the Development of the Senegal River – in cooperation with national irrigation and rural development agencies in Senegal, Mauritania, Mali and Guinea . The aim is to support the development of a shared vision and master plan; and creating a cost-sharing formula, which is essential to financial sustainability.
The second important action is to increase investment. Providing and sustaining water and sanitation services requires large-scale public and private investments and partnerships. To enable the water sector to operate effectively, these must be underpinned by sound policies and appropriate incentive structures and regulations. The estimated annual cost of providing universal safe water and sanitation worldwide is $150 billion. The public sector cannot do it alone. Africa will need investments of nearly $20 billion a year, but countries today only allocate 0.5% of their GDP to the sector on average, or about $13 billion. Innovative investment platforms and enabling environments are needed to attract private sector partners.
The third action that I will highlight is the importance of greater citizen participation in order to achieve a significant transformation of the water sector. Here in Senegal, the World Bank is helping farmers work with irrigation agencies to set up climate-smart solar irrigation systems and rehabilitate water mobilization systems. This will increase efficiency and production, reduce risk, create jobs and increase farmers’ incomes.
At the World Bank, we have a vision of a “world without water for all”. We are the largest multilateral source of financing for water in developing countries, with a portfolio of $27 billion for water projects in more than 70 countries, and an extensive program supported by IFC through the private sector.
The world needs bold leadership, investment, innovation and partnership. In this spirit, I would like to thank all the participants in this Forum for their work and dedication. It helps us get closer to our goal: a world without water for all.