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Johannesburg, 17 Nov 09
City managers from 18 cities across Africa met in Johannesburg in recent days to review progress of UN-HABITAT’s Water for African Cities’ Programme.

The meeting was held at the second Africa Water Week at the Gallagher Convention Centre, in Midrand, Johannesburg, November 8-14.

The Water for African Cities’ Programme will place greater emphasis on improving sanitation among the urban poor and enhancing the technical and managerial capacity of local utilities to absorb and manage increased levels of investments in the water and sanitation sector.

It will also develop interventions to help utilities mitigate the effects of climate change through improved water conservation practices, energy audits, and the adoption of alternative sources on energy. By developing improved monitoring tools that link water and sanitation provision to urban planning, the programme will facilitate better allocation of resources and more effective tracking of progress towards the attainment of the water and sanitation targets of the Millennium Development Goals.

The meeting was opened on behalf of President Jacob Zuma, by the South African Minister in the Presidency, National Planning Commission, Mr. Trevor Manuel. He said that one of the biggest challenges facing the developing world is the rate of unplanned urbanisation.

“It is very clear that the poor will not remain trapped in rural poverty, on unproductive land. One of the immediate responsibilities that arises from this is the provision of adequate sanitation,” he said.

Endorsed as a major regional water and sanitation initiative by the African Ministers’ Council on Water, the Water for African Cities Programme is under implementation in 18 African cities, and focuses on helping utilities improve access to water supply and basic sanitation for the poorest residents of their cities.

Through its collaboration with the African Development Bank, among other partners, the programme has so far contributed USD 21.5 million to improving access to more reliable and sustainable supplies of safe drinking water and basic sanitation for some 400,000 persons. The training and capacity building component of the programme, delivered through partnerships with regional training institutions, has contributed to improved efficiency in the management of utilities in the participating cities.

The city managers also shared experiences with the Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative. The initiative, which covers small urban centres in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is due to be expanded to include Rwanda and Burundi, and has generated enthusiastic support from host governments and development partners.
It has so far invested USD 15 million in the rehabilitation and construction of water and sanitation facilities, and building the capacity of sector institutions. A partnership between the African Development Bank, UN-HABITAT and the East African Community is reviewing scale up of the initiative in the five countries. The European Investment Bank is providing support for programme formulation activities in the larger Lake Victoria towns of Kisumu, Mwanza and Kampala, under the guidance of UN-HABITAT, with the potential for an additional investment of 250 million euros in these towns.

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