World Water Day 2016: Water and employment
Held every year on 22 March, World Water Day is dedicated this year to the theme of water and employment. In West Africa as elsewhere, water is a job creator (building and maintenance of infrastructure, distribution, etc.) and is necessary for agriculture (irrigation) as well as for urban development. As a public good, targeted by Sustainable Development Goal 6, access to water and sanitation leads to indirect positive effects on employment, due to its role in the development of human capital. The World Health Organization estimates that the time savings (water collection) and health benefits (decline of waterborne illnesses, improved productivity) of improved access to water could increase the GDP of sub-Saharan African countries by an average of 4.3%. All West African countries have recorded progress in this area, but total coverage is still far from being achieved, particularly in rural areas (see Maps & Facts). This dual effect of job creation and human development justifies an increase in funding for the water and sanitation sector in the region, which continues to receive less public investment than other sectors. Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger annually devote less than 0.8% of their GDP to the sector, while the OECD recommends an annual commitment of 1% to 2% of GDP to achieve development objectives. Investment remains mostly public and attracts very little private sector interest. To meet the challenge, the Global Water Coalition for the Sahel, an initiative of the heads of state of CILSS countries, seeks to increase investment in water. The aim is to mobilise the skills, expertise and financial resources to make water management a strategic priority. The Coalition thus will contribute to creating jobs in the water sector in West Africa.