Snapshot from Stockholm: Building Africa’s Leadership in Sanitation Recap

Attendees at “Building Africa’s Leadership in Sanitation,” a panel discussion at Stockholm World Water Week 2017. Photo credit: USAID/WALIS

This is the first in a series of blogs in which participants provide a recap of their Stockholm World Water Week event.

USAID’s Water for Africa through Leadership and Institutional Support (WALIS) project was one of the panelists for a Stockholm World Water Week (SWWW) 2017 session “Building Africa’s Leadership in Sanitation,” which included participants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation/UNESCO and AMCOW Innovations. The session was intended to update participants on sanitation leadership activities, encourage greater collaboration and innovation, and identify gaps in sanitation capacity building.

Improving water quality and halving the proportion of untreated wastewater are among the key objectives of the sanitation sector, especially in developing nations. To meet these objectives while also improving public health, a skilled sanitation work force is needed to meet the challenge at the highest levels of policy development and financing; operate sanitation agencies and enterprises successfully; safely empty onsite sanitation facilities; and promote hygiene. This session framed the challenge and presented key information and new innovative programs and information to help overcome the challenge in Africa and beyond.

Panelists included Jan Willem Rosenboom, Gates Foundation, Mariska Ronteltap, IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education, Canisius Kanangire, AMCOW, Abuja, Richard Rapier, USAID-WALIS.

Below is a list of highlights covered in the session:

  • If the sanitation sector has any chance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.2 Agenda it will need to address our “capacity blind spot.”  There is very little hard data around the capacity needs of the fragmented responsibilities of the sanitation sector.  Some studies have found a significant shortage of trained sanitation professionals, women in the workforce, and human resource strategies to overcome these major gaps. As a sector, we need to track the SDG “enabling environment” for human resources capacity in a comprehensive and cohesive way through better data, coordination, and measures. This is no different than—no farmers, no food.  You must have a skilled sanitation workforce to have SDG 6.2 level sanitation.  

  • IHE-Delft’s Institute for Water Education has developed and will deploy a one-year Masters of Science in Sanitation to help meet the strong demand for sanitation experts. The program will enroll 15-20 students per year and focus on non-sewered sanitation (i.e., on-site sanitation facilities). All graduates will benefit from a dedicated career development program, supported by the Gates Foundation, and will become members of the Global Fecal Sludge Management Learning Alliance and alumni community.

  • USAID’s WALIS program completed a detailed feasibility and market study for an African Sanitation Academy.  The study’s findings reveal that sanitation leadership demands not so much a strong technical background, but cross-cutting, transferable leadership competencies such as being a good advocate, working strategically, and being a good communicator. Core competencies in advocacy, project management, behavior change communication, strategy, and monitoring rose above the demand for technical competencies for sanitation professionals in or aspiring to leadership roles. Furthermore, sanitation professionals generally looked for training opportunities based most on the quality of the training and its relevance to their job while emphasizing that they only have two to three weeks for training. Taken together, the study recommended products, career services, partnerships, marketing, and a five-year business plan that African organizations and other partners could use to start up an African Sanitation Academy.


By Richard Rapier, DAI’s Chief of Party for the USAID WALIS Project

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Water for Africa through Leadership and Institutional Support Project
Richard Rapier
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