The president of Botswana, Ian Khama. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Gaborone - Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) chairman and Botswana President Lieutenant-General Seretse Khama Ian Khama has called on member states to show political will to resolve the power and water problems affecting the region.

Addressing the two-day SADC Ministerial Workshop held in Gaborone to discuss the energy and water crises, Khama said only 60 percent of the regional population had access to clean drinking water, while only 40 percent had access to safe and adequate sanitation facilities.

Khama noted that due to lack of implementation of regional development goals on improving access to electricity, overall access to electricity in the rural areas of most member states remained below 10 percent, while overall electricity access for the region stood at 40 percent. He said this was low when compared to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc, where overall public access to electricity was estimated at 44 per cent.

“This less enviable record is a serious indictment on the region’s efforts to roll out water and sanitation infrastructure services. The Regional Infrastructure Master Plan estimates were that in order to support regional development by 2027, there is need to increase the current 14% of the regional stored water resource capacity to at least 25%.

“These figures indicate that the region has to muster greater political will in order to ensure delivery in accordance with priorities of Sustainable Development Goals 6, 7, and 9 on increasing access to safe water and sanitation, access to affordable clean energy and infrastructural development for industrialisation. Clearly, we need better approaches to solve the problems of delivery and implementation of the water and energy infrastructure projects across the region,” Khama said.

Further, he said the meetings should also be used to take stock of progress and challenges encountered in the implementation of the priorities set out in the Energy and Water Sector Projects of the 2012 SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), which covers 34 regional energy and water development projects that have been approved but not implemented.

“We should, therefore, endeavour to act on these plans, which are so well set out and articulated in regional strategic development framework documents. The phased approach to the implementation of the SADC Regional Strategic Action Plans provides an excellent opportunity for member states to address the regional water crisis.

“In addition, the Regional Climate Change Adaptation for water, if fully implemented, could assist the region’s preparedness to deal with floods, drought and other climate change-induced phenomena. It is also important that we broaden our discussions to the existing energy, water and food nexus. The inter-linkages in the energy, water and food sectors cannot be over-emphasised and require efficient management of demand and supply to ensure proper correlation,” Khama added.

The chairman also called on member states to consider reducing the cost of water, electricity and other forms of energy to spur investments and the growth of national economies. In conclusion, he warned that the implementation of the SADC Infrastructure Development Master Plan (IDMP) for the water, energy, transport, tourism, meteorology and telecommunication sectors would remain a pipedream if there was no improvement in the regional energy and water supply situation.

ANA