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World Water Forum 2018 - Brazil

Potential Applications and Lessons Learned from Africa // Outcomes from the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus Session at the 8th World Water Forum in Brazil

By Kidanemarian Jembere and Isabel Pasternack. Africa’s sustainable development largely depends on goods and services derived from its environment and natural resources. As Africa pursues sustainable growth pathways and structural transformation, the management of natural capital and most importantly water, land and energy resources, is critical.

National Development Plans of African countries set ambitious targets in a variety of sectors, including water, food and energy. In order to avoid sector dominance, minimize of trade-offs and create of synergies between different development agendas, integrated planning and cross-sectorial coordination are crucial.       

The Water-Food-Energy (WEF) Nexus approach in Africa is facilitating better interactions and synergies between the water, food, and energy sectors in order to unlock and optimize development potential for economic growth and transformation. The session “Potential applications and lessons from Africa” at the World Water Forum in Brasília, Brazil on March 20, 2018 focused on sharing experience between different WEF-Nexus initiatives in the African continent, especially focusing on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Niger Basin in West Africa.

The water minister of Burkina Faso, Jacob Ouedraogo, highlighted in his keynote speech the relevance of the WEF-Nexus for socio-economic development on the one hand and for disaster management and the management of extreme weather events on the other. The Nexus approach can serve as a catalyst in the African context where resources need to be mobilized. Capacity development, investment and the mobilization of financial resources can advance the continent by addressing gaps and backlog in water infrastructure for agricultural management and energy. As an example, the minister draw attention to the case of irrigation, which would allow nourishing Africa’s population if only half of the agricultural land would be irrigated.

Kenneth Msibi, Policy and Transboundary Water Management Expert for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), presented the Nexus approach as a development opportunity for the region. The Nexus approach plays a strategic role in taking forward the implementation of the SADC industrialization strategy, including for example agro-processing value chains. He emphasized the need to tailor the WEF-Nexus approach to the regional context and challenges, focusing on poverty reduction, improved livelihood, and jobs. Political will is thus of crucial importance when encouraging the Nexus approach, aiming for cross-sectoral planning and implementation. As an example, he introduced the environmentally detrimental water hyacinth as an opportunity for biofuels, fodder or manure, thereby creating jobs and overcoming energy constraints when harvested and processed.

As another initiative, Kidanemarian Jembere from Global Water Partnership in South Africa presented the WEF-Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme being implemented in the SADC region. Political as well as technical dialogues are used to encourage the implementation of the Nexus approach and to build an enabling environment. In this context, the Nexus is seen as a tool for addressing challenges such as poverty, population growth or resource degradation. He stressed the necessary contextualization of the Nexus in the region for identifying objectives, values and benefits. The Regional Programme Manager further mentioned that the EU funded project is supporting SADC to establish a regional WEF-Nexus Operational Framework to facilitate investment in the region.

In a final panel discussion, the three speakers together with the German Development Cooperation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für international Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and the European Commission’s DEVCO reflected on the question whether the Nexus approach is relevant and Africa ready for its implementation. Especially in the frame of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this was reaffirmed unanimously. The question about opportunities for financing could be equally affirmed as the Nexus approach brings sectors together and makes investments even more beneficial. The session confirmed once more the importance of the Nexus approach, having a multi-sectoral character that can help the world to manage its resources more efficiently.

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