Outgoing UNESCO Africa water envoy shares solutions to Africa’s water challenges

His role focused on raising awareness on the importance of water and education in national policies, conveying UNESCO hydrological messages to political leaders and being an interlocutor between governments and UNESCO.

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UNESCO Africa water envoy
Mr Kibaki, the outgoing Unesco Envoy for Water in Africa, was the third President of Kenya.

The outgoing Unesco Envoy for Water in Africa and former President of Kenya – His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, has reminisced his two term tenure at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), sharing his solutions to Africa’s water challenges.

Mr. Kibaki expressed gratitude for the privilege to have served for two terms of two years each that ended in April, in an Op-Ed published in the Daily Nation.

His role focused on raising awareness on the importance of water and education in national policies, relaying UNESCO hydrological messages to political leaders and being an interlocutor between governments and UNESCO.

Kibaki acknowledges learning immeasurable lessons and insights on how water could affect human existence and aspirations in the foreseeable future.

He observes that Africa is particularly impeded in the struggles, noting that at least two billion people suffer “high water stress” while about four billion experience “… severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year, as reported in the Water Development Report 2019.

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“During my tenure, I met water ministers from across Africa, discoursed with ambassadors and high commissioners accredited to Kenya on continental water issues, and met UN envoys representing Pan-African water-bound initiatives. I also assigned delegations to key conferences. Besides, being the patron of the Millennium Water – Africa (MWA) for close to a decade has been a tremendous eye opener,” he wrote.

He notes that under the special envoy’s docket, and beyond the information researchers have shared, a number of the water-related events have ultimately borne worthwhile insights into the future of water in the development of Africa.

Lasting solutions to Africa’s water challenges
“The challenge of rethinking water in an existential context has been compounded by the prevailing worldwide onslaught on the Covid-19 pandemic. At no time in my recollection has the role of water in averting a potentially sweeping disaster been so markedly underlined.”

Mr. Kibaki advises that lasting solutions to Africa’s water-related afflictions should be thoughtfully sought the earliest possible, observing that hundreds in Kenya have recently lost lives, homes and livelihoods to floods.

“Water, ideally, is a blessing, not a curse. We should encourage people right across Africa to join the solution-seeking crusade. This is particularly crucial in these days of aggressive rising water levels in lakes and oceans,” he advises.

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He offers solutions by advocating for two initiatives that may, according to him, improve the continent’s efforts at overcoming water-related challenges.

Firstly, he proposes a central repository of water experts and a reservoir of shareable know-how. To ensure that Africa’s water-bound knowledge is regularly updated, it would help to presage, or better yet, mate Amcow’s (Africa’s Ministers’ Council on Water) biennial “Water Week” with an Africa water experts’ conference.

Secondly, an annual continental media award focused on sharing information on ingenious water conservation and aquifer recharging methods. “This can help to identify replicable innovations and appropriate knowledge in securing our dwindling water towers and capture and amplify homemade solutions,” he states.

“The power to transform our water challenges in Africa may seem daunting, but it is within sight, if we so purpose,” he concludes.