South Sudan faces up to its water challenge
- From: Vol 12, Issue 3 (March 2011)
- Category: General
- Region: Africa
- Country: Sudan Republic
- Related Companies: Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Equity Bank, Japan Industrial Cooperation Agency (JICA), Kenya Commercial Bank, Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation in Juba and World Bank
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The world’s newest economy will need to address basic infrastructure needs before it can begin to grow. Richard Nield reports from Juba.
On 9th July 2011, the southern part of Sudan will become a separate state, after a referendum in January returned an overwhelming vote in favour of secession from the north. But the world’s newest state will immediately become one of its poorest, with an almost complete dearth of infrastructure on which to base economic growth.
Water infrastructure is no exception. In Juba, the capital city, the limitations of the distribution network mean that most water is supplied either by tankers or by young men pushing bicycles through the streets with plastic water containers strapped to the sides. Elsewhere in the country, water distribution relies on old oil drums dragged along by donkeys, and women and children bringing it from the nearest well.
“Coverage is still very low for water supply and sanitation,” admits Isaac Liabwel, undersecretary at the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation in Juba. “According to our rough calculations, about 47% of people outside the main towns have access to clean water supply, and only 6-7% have sanitation. Including the towns, it’s probably a bit higher – about 50% for water supply and 10% for sanitation.”
Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, an institutional framework for south Sudan’s water sector has gradually developed. The ministry itself was created in January 2006, and its first water policy document was published in 2007. A more detailed strategic framework for south Sudan’s water policy is being developed. “We hope to finalise the strategy by the end of the first quarter of 2011,” says Liabwel. “It will enable us to enact more specific laws on the provision of water for industry, agriculture and the population. The fully fledged laws will be enacted in the second half of 2011.”
A series of programmes is now underway to address the infrastructure deficit. In 2006, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) agreed to co-finance the development of rural water infrastructure with the World Bank’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), a fund administered by the World Bank but reliant on international donors for financing.
The programme has had a difficult inception. Total investment of $86.1 million was originally planned, with funding for the $30 million first phase – scheduled for 2006-10 – to be split equally between GoSS and the MDTF. GoSS had originally been due to bear the bulk of the $56.1 million second phase, due for implementation between 2011-13, but now the programme has been scaled down to $60 million, with the GoSS share in phase one reduced from $15 million to $11 million, and the second phase to be entirely funded by international donors.
“By the time we got to the second phase, the global financial crisis hit, and it was clear that the government would be unable to make its contribution,” says Laurence Clarke, manager of the World Bank in Juba. “We were expecting the donors to pick up some more of the total, but because of the international financial crisis, we couldn’t get up to the planned $86 million.”
A series of other donor-financed schemes is underway. “GIZ [Germany’s Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit] is building a new water purification station in Yei which will cost about €4 million [$5.6 million], and USAID is building one in Wau and one in Malakal,” says Liabwel. “They will be completed in the next three years.”
The Japanese link
The largest single project is an estimated $40 million scheme to more than double water treatment capacity in Juba. JICA (Japan International Co-operation Agency) received approval in December from GoSS for the project, which will increase the capacity of the city’s existing water treatment plant from 7,200m3/d to 18,000m3/d. The scheme will benefit an estimated 350,000 people.
“We are now waiting for approval from the Japanese cabinet, which we expect to have by April,” says Kiyotaka Tamari, JICA’s co-ordinator of water, health, road and bridge projects, told GWI. “Then we will start the detailed design survey and the procurement process. Construction will start in February 2012 and be completed by January 2014.” Juba’s existing network currently supplies clean water to fewer than 100,000 residents out of a population of more than 500,000.
JICA also started work in November on a $4.5 million contract to support technical capacity building at the South Sudan Urban Water Corporation – which will operate the new water treatment facilities – and the water ministry. Tokyo Engineering Company is the contractor on the project, which will expire on completion of construction activities. Both contracts are funded entirely by grants from the Japanese government.
Plugging the funding gap will continue to be the greatest challenge in the medium term. “We estimate that to address the gap in services in water supply and sanitation, investment of $350 million a year is required,” says Clarke. “Our relative contribution through the MDTF of $30 million over three years is still very small. What is required going forward is to move beyond donors, and the World Bank is going to try to encourage private investors to come to the market.” The water ministry will only have about SDG20 million ($7.3 million) at its disposal for infrastructure development in 2011, according to Liabwel.
The undeveloped state of south Sudan’s banking sector means it could take a number of years before significant private investment is forthcoming. Local banks have struggled to stay afloat, and although Kenya Commercial Bank, Equity Bank, and Commercial Bank of Ethiopia have all established healthy banking operations in the south, they remain reluctant to lend on a large scale.
“Up to now, we have had grants, but the government has not yet been successful in raising loans,” says Liabwel. “This is a goal for the future. We need the confidence of investors that we are a viable country. The referendum will be the first step towards this. We also need to develop our capacity to absorb and manage resources, to develop our policies and strategy, to introduce new laws and to ensure that they are enforced.”
Government officials in Juba say that negotiations on World Bank membership are underway, and that a public-private partnership (PPP) law is under consideration. “The new water strategy will lay out our investment plan,” says Liabwel. “In the strategy we have alluded to PPPs, and to build-own-operate projects. These may ultimately be part of our goals.” The institutional challenge is significant, but the scale of the country’s infrastructure deficit means that private sector involvement in the development of south Sudan’s water sector will be just a matter of time.