Water Week: Crafting solutions that work for Africa

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Stockholm – Africa needs to take charge of its own development and sustainability agenda if it is to keep its head above the water in a world grappling climate change.

This, says the CEO of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, Kandeh Yumkella, is one of the few decisive moves the continent ought to make as attention shifts to how sustainable development can be furthered after the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline.

“… Africa has the opportunity to leapfrog … we can do a number of things in new ways. In some cases, it might be expensive but if you look at the long term, especially for the next generation, you don’t want to give them plans that were relevant 40 years ago or technologies that are old. You want them to be ahead,” said Yumkella.

Speaking to SAnews after participating in a ministerial plenary on Monday, titled “Framing the Water-Energy Nexus within the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, Yumkella – who is also the Under-Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All – said African governments had to be “brave and bold” to target the long-term.

Yumkella’s comments come two weeks ahead of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly and a month after the release of the report with recommendations on Sustainable Development Goals by the UN Open Working Group on SDGs.

The panel discussion, in which South African Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane participated, sought to give impetus to the discussion on the interlinkages between energy and water, and their crucial role in the post 2015 development agenda.

It builds on the conference’s theme, which is “Energy and Water”. Minister Mokonyane said for South Africa to keep the momentum going after the MDGs deadline, the country, like other developing nations, had to be willing to adapt.

She said novel ways of responding to challenges such as rapid urbanisation, water service provision and contamination of natural resources had to be found.

“As developing countries, let’s see the MDGs as a means to help us to be conscious of what needs to be done to reach the targets. The investment in South Africa in the past 20 years has been on service provisioning, contributing towards jobs, the fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality. There has to be financial and institutional support, and there has to be integrity in the solutions [we come up with],” said the Minister.

On Tuesday, one of the sub-themes of the gathering will be “Africa Focus: Growing the Link between Water and Energy for Development”.

Over 100 seminars and plenaries have been scheduled for the conference, which ends on Friday.