Namibian Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform Hon. Carl Hermann Gustav Schlettwein is the new AMCOW President after officially taking over from H.E. Alain-Claude BILIE-BY-NZE, State Minister and Minister for Energy and Water Resources of the Republic of Gabon at the 12th Ordinary Session of the General Assembly of the Governing Council of the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) held virtually on the 18th February 2021.
“I accept this appointment graciously cognizant of the numerous challenges ahead in ensuring that we deliver sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services for all our people across the 55 member states in Africa by 2030”. Hon. Schlettwein said in a speech read on his behalf by the Executive Director in the Ministry, Mr Percy W. Misika. “I pledge to serve AMCOW with commitment and determination, and I will continue to build on the solid foundation that has been laid down by my predecessor and those who served before him.”
Bringing together the 55 Ministers responsible for Water and Sanitation, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), the Member States Focal Point Officials, as well as representatives of the Africa Union Commission, the African Development Bank, development partners and affiliated organizations, the Assembly was preceded by the TAC Session coming earlier from the 15th to 17th. At the General Assembly, 15 Ministers and Deputy Ministers were in attendance as well as 19 representatives of Ministers.
“We need to strengthen our strategic leadership and coordination as the governing council of AMCOW to work together to drive resilience, recovery and growth for Africa through improved access to water and sanitation services for the more than 300 million Africans and support each other to build back better,” H.E. Alain-Claude BILIE-BY-NZE said. “As much as this is a sad situation, it presents an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the continent and leave a legacy that will speak in posterity.”
At the General Assembly, the Governing Council considered recommendations from the TAC and considered decisions which will guide policy and strategic directions for AMCOW in the next two years.
“COVID-19 is a global threat that has awakened the whole world to the utmost importance of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene,” H.E. Amb. Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment at the African Union Commission said. ”Even with the provision of the vaccine for Coronavirus, sanitation and hygiene is still critical for human existence in all countries on the planet and for the socio-economic development of our dear continent. As we are all aware, these preventative measures are already embedded in the July 2008 African Union Sharm El-Sheikh Commitment on Water and Sanitation and other continental and regional water related frameworks.”
The General Assembly also considered the adoption of the African Sanitation Policy Guidelines which will provide the necessary guidance to enable African countries to develop Sanitation and Hygiene policies that can provide the necessary foundation for improving access to sanitation and hygiene services to ultimately improve the health and wellbeing and strengthen Africa’s resilience to pandemics like the COVID-19.
“We have been able to complete the development of the African Sanitation Policy Guidelines which has been recommended by AMCOW TAC for your approval, official launch and implementation for the benefit of member states,” AMCOW Executive Secretary Dr. Canisius Kanangire said, in a speech read of his behalf by Mr. Thomas Banda, the Director of Finance and Administration at AMCOW. “I wish to thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the financial support towards the development of the guidelines, as well as the World Health Organization, Centre for Water and Security Cooperation, Speak Up Africa, UNICEF, African Sanitation Experts and other partners for the development of the guidelines.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic having put increased pressure on existing water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure but worse still, slowed down investments in the water and sanitation sector, further discussions on AMCOW’s strategic leadership and coordination as the governing council to drive resilience, recovery and growth for Africa through improving access to water and sanitation services were discussed.
“We appreciate the progress that AMCOW has made in recent years, and we believe that a strong AMCOW provides an opportunity to collectively engage on important issues for the sector on the continent and perform the important task of monitoring how countries engage with development partners globally,” Mr. Brian Arbogast, Director of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said. He added: “I would like to congratulate AMCOW on the successful completion of the Africa Sanitation policy Guidelines. When we agreed to support this process, there was uncertainty as to how it was going to turn out, and I thank the African Members States present for their deep engagement and feedback to the process and their interest in using the guidelines for their national policy development.”
During the General Assembly, new members of the EXCO were elected with Ethiopia representing Eastern Africa, Cameroon representing Central Africa, Mauritania representing Northern Africa, Mozambique representing Southern Africa, while Nigeria, AMCOW host country, will represent Western Africa.