Focusing on Country Dialogues at the AfricaSan5 Conference

Cameroon presents its Country Plan at AfricaSan5, held in February 2019. Photo credit: Richard Rapier/USAID WALIS

Around the world, only 71 percent of people use safely managed drinking water and only 39 percent use safely managed sanitation services. In sub-Saharan Africa, those numbers plummet to 24 percent for water, and data are insufficient to estimate sanitation use, according to Joint Monitoring Programme 2015 statistics.

To address these significant shortcomings, Africa adopted the Ngor Declaration on Sanitation and Hygiene in 2015. The Ngor Declaration is a Pan-African–led approach that outlines 10 commitments to achieve universal access to adequate and sustainable sanitation and hygiene services and eliminate open defecation by 2030. These are the commitments that the ministers responsible for sanitation throughout Africa agreed upon to address the huge burden of disease caused by lack of access to improved sanitation and poor hygiene practices. The accurate monitoring of the implementation of the Ngor commitments on sanitation and hygiene is critical for Africa to assess their progress and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2.

During the AfricaSan5 Conference held in Cape Town, South Africa, in February 2019, participants and countries focused on progress in the four years since the adoption of the Ngor Declaration on Sanitation and Hygiene and looked forward to next steps in the conference’s country dialogue sessions. To prepare for the country dialogues, USAID—through the Water for Africa through Leadership and Institutional Support (WALIS) activity and in collaboration with UNICEF—supported the African Council Minister’s on Water (AMCOW) in completing the first-ever Ngor baseline monitoring. The country-by-country results helped inform the country dialogues. These sessions served as structured peer-to-peer knowledge-exchange fora. Using the results of country-by-country baseline monitoring as a starting point, the specific objectives of the sessions were: connecting with new knowledge and exchanging knowledge with peers; identifying specific ideas and interventions to apply to make progress in their country; and prioritizing actions to be taken after the conference.

To enable a focused knowledge exchange, the country dialogues concentrated on five of the Ngor commitments:

  • Eliminating inequalities
  • Mobilizing support and resources
  • Establishing budgets
  • Bridging human resource capacity gaps
  • Ensuring institutional sanitation

At a previous round of subregional meetings, participants identified these particular commitments because they are either key drivers of sanitation coverage, low performing commitments, or pledges that required additional discussion.

A total of 35 countries participated in the country dialogue sessions at AfricaSan5. The final stage of the country dialogues provided country teams with an opportunity to reflect on their existing sector and/or Ngor commitment plans: how well they address urgent gaps in the country’s Ngor commitments, what lessons from other countries could be replicated, and how the Ngor commitments could be more fully integrated into national planning and monitoring processes. The Deputy Minister from the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia noted, “This was a great platform where we’ve been able to learn from one another. These meetings are key to progressing.”

As part of its mandate to monitor country progress against the Ngor commitments on sanitation and hygiene, AMCOW will continue to support and track country actions. With strong feedback from countries participating in the country dialogue sessions at AfricaSan5, it is clear that monitoring, planning, and peer dialogue opportunities are highly valued. To continue to see progress toward the achievement of the Ngor Declaration and SDG 6, WALIS recommends the following actions for continued improvement:

  1. Develop a country-led approach with Ngor actions embedded in national plans and ensure swift follow up
  2. Take a longer-term approach to planning and reporting through existing sector meetings/processes
  3. Link the Ngor commitment monitoring and actions to other global processes
  4. Maintain timely communications with country focal points
  5. Think and work politically to overcome challenges to reform

Countries must make further efforts to define and strengthen their specific and measurable targets, indicators, and systems to track and measure annual performance against their vision, commitments, and policy objectives.

By Alayne Potter, Operations Manager, and Theophane Boutrolle, WASH Specialist, for WALIS