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Centres of excellence as a response to the problem of access to water in Africa

06.06.2005


The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), held a Water Access workshop between 9 and 12 May. The aim of the event, bringing together specialists from Africa and France, was to set up a network of African Centres of Excellence in Water Science and Technology. It was supported by the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD). An action plan is to be put forward to decision makers anxious to meet the many challenges that face efforts to provide access to water resources and their management on the African continent.



African leaders have identified the scarcity of water as one of the main obstacles to development in Africa.

The Johannesburg Sustainable Development Summit of 2002 resulted in a number of fixed objectives to be met by 2015. Crucial among these: a halving of the numbers of people devoid of access to drinking water.


"Today, about 300 million people in Africa, making up over one third of Africa’s population, have no access to drinking water. And 400 million, nearly 50% of the population, have no access to water treatment services. Insanitary water and the fragile state of sanitation systems are the source of many diseases which ravage Africa. Such factors explain the alarming child mortality rates. In most African countries, women and young girls often spend hours on end fetching and carrying water. They have to go many kilometres to find any. This chore is one of the main causes of the low school attendance of girls in rural areas. " (Omar and Camdessus, Le Monde, 11 April 2005).

Sustainable access to drinking water and shared management of water resources at national and regional levels are therefore among the priorities of NEPAD’s action programme.

In order to meet the set objectives, African leaders are putting their faith in investments in science and technology. The task of the Nairobi workshop is to identify the specific difficulties and possible solutions to water-related problems in Africa and to propose projects of research and technological innovation that should be conducted by the African countries. The meeting should also put forward to African political decision-makers recommendations for setting up a network of centres of excellence calling on water science and technology to conduct concrete projects.

Water resources assessment, water quality and treatment, water management, and academic and professional training feature among the subject areas covered.

The workshop takes place at Unep’s offices. Financial backing has been provided by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The IRD takes the role of coordinator for all the French research that is being conducted.

Hélène Deval | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ird.fr

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