Africa – the plan, the people and the partnerships

It is absolutely fitting that IWA’s new Strategic Plan includes a commitment to grow our membership in Africa. The plan sets the course for the Association over the next five years. These will be five crucial years for shaping the trajectory of Africa’s progress as it heads towards the 2030 deadline of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Having a plan is important.

Having a plan that focuses on membership – people – is even more important. We are a membership organisation, meaning we are a group of people who both care about and contribute to the field of water. Each additional member brings their expertise to this group. Each additional member multiplies the number of connections that can be made with other members and beyond the organisation. Each additional member in Africa therefore escalates the contribution IWA can make by capitalising on the power of networks.

Africa’s water and wastewater utilities are key actors in delivering the progress that is needed. This applies in the traditional activities of these service providers, such as carrying out or overseeing the sustained work necessary to break out of the cycle where intermittent supplies undermine efforts to reshape utilities into effective organisations. It applies also to the exciting opportunities for off-grid sanitation, with utilities ideally placed to provide an anchor for progress, securing local institutional, operational and technical foundations.

Each additional member in Africa escalates the contribution IWA can make by capitalising on the power of networks

African utilities can and do connect directly into IWA’s international network as members. These act as beacons, providing a local point of reference within our global network. We look forward to welcoming more utilities.

IWA’s reach and influence, and the potential to grow both, owe much to the power gained from the organisation being founded on a governing membership that draws in national representation. This format helps channel IWA’s contribution to the strategic level that is needed for a new direction to be set.

We ultimately hope to add to our African governing membership. Just as importantly, IWA has a responsibility and opportunity to help countries establish national water associations. These can then take a lead developing, organising and coordinating the local network of all water sector professionals within a country.

African utilities will not, however, look only to international organisations such as IWA. Beyond their national borders, within Africa they share issues and concerns playing out over similar timeframes with other utilities across the continent. They have much to gain from working shoulder to shoulder with their peers. This makes the African Water Association (AfWA), with its regional offering, the relevant force for marshalling efforts to shape and build solutions owned by, and relevant to, the African context.

This is why IWA regards AfWA as an essential partner as we seek to help realise Africa’s water ambitions. We see a kindred spirit – another that is tapping into the energies and abilities brought together through a network. More than this, IWA relies on such a valuable partner for us to be able to make our fullest contribution.

Our plan is set – for now. The people and the partnerships are not yet set. We have a fantastic base to build upon. Our aim is to grow the numbers within our network and connect with others, as together we can shape a new water future for Africa.

Diane D’Arras, President, IWA