Assessment of urban water management in African cities

Workshop results of the 20th International AfWA Congress and Exhibition

On 27 and 28 February the University of Bath, KWR, UNESCO Division of Water Science and the International Water Association (IWA) organised a workshop on water security in sub-Saharan African cities. The workshop was held at the African Water Association (AfWA) Congress in Kampala (Uganda). During the meeting, the results of the assessments of urban water management using the City Blueprint Approach were presented. These water management assessments were carried out by local young professionals in five African cities.

Aim of the workshop was to train young professionals in how to develop a roadmap to enhance action for improved water security. Moreover, the workshop has been the kick-off for developing a city-to-city learning programme on water security and water governance.

The key conclusions were that capacity-building is essential for achieving sustainable development goal 6 on clean water and sanitation. In order to do so, the City Blueprint Approach provides an indispensable diagnosis for understanding the key priorities, exploit the largely untapped potential of city-to-city learning and develop concrete city roadmaps for meeting SDG 6.

kwr at international AFW Congress

Participants of the workshop, from left to right: Professor Kees van Leeuwen (KWR), Ibrahima Abdoulahi (UNESCO) representing Yaoundé (Gabon), Kizito Masinde programme officer IWA, Gwladis Ovenga (UNESCO) representing Libreville, professor Jan Hofman (University of Bath), Tariro Marekwa (UNESCO) representing Harare, Vanessa Grekonzy (UNESCO) representing Bangui, Georgina Mukwirimba (UNESCO) representing Harare, Doctor Stef Koop (KWR) and Humphrey Ozoani (UNESCO) representing Abuja.

Enabling water security  in African cities

Africa’s population is growing unprecedentedly. Population projections indicate more than doubling to 2.5 billion in 2050 and further growth to 4.3 billion in 2100. Most of this growth will be absorbed in cities and urban areas, posing a huge challenge on water security, especially in urban areas. Action to improve water availability at a quality fit for purpose and protection of life, property and ecosystems are becoming extremely urgent and more important than ever.

To prepare for the workshop, baseline assessments were carried out, using the City Blueprint Assessment framework, in five African cities: Harare (Zimbabwe), Yaoundé (Cameroon), Abuja (Nigeria), Bangui (Central African Republic) and Libreville (Gabon). Stef Koop and Kees van Leeuwen, both scientists at KWR, have been working with representatives of the UNESCO IHP Focal Points and local young experts in each of these five cities to collect data on the key social, environmental and financial trends and pressures that can limit good water management – as well as the data needed for carrying out the City Blueprint assessments of water management performance. As a next step, a governance capacity analysis will be conducted in Libreville and Yaoundé to identify the capacity development priorities.


The workshop has layed out a roadmap for enabling the uptake of the results of the City Blueprint assessments by practitioners and decision makers in each city. For this purpose, exploration of bankable projects are key. Next, a guideline for a city-to-city learning alliance has been initiated that has the ambition to include all capital cities in Africa.

Moreover, the workshop launched an initiative to develop a guideline for a city-to-city learning alliance that should, ultimately, encompass all capital cities in Africa. Each city participating in this new learning alliance will, as a first step, conduct a City Blueprint assessment (carried out by local young professionals) to create a shared fact-based understanding of the key water security challenges.


Location of the five African cities where young professionals have carried out the City Blueprint Assessments

Workshop layout

Jan Hofman of the University of Bath and KWR took the initiative to organise the workshop in Kampala, as a follow-up project from Kees van Leeuwen’s appointment as Global Chair in Bath (2018-19). The workshop was held immediately following the the African Water Association’s 20th International Congress and Exhibition, which took place from  24 to 27 February 2020 in Kampala.

  • Keynote speakers

The workshop kicked off with keynote speeches, setting the scene for the discussion, by Dr. Callist Tindimugaya from the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment, and IWA Executive Director professor Kala Vairavamoorthy.

Next, young experts from UNESCO presented their findings of the baseline assessments in the five cities (Harare, Yaoundé, Abuja, Bangui and Libreville). Representatives of these five cities participated in the workshop, effectively forming an knowledge network that ther African cities can join in order to become acquainted with the City Blueprint assessment approach. In this way, a network of cities in Africa will develop, and effective knowledge sharing can be established to tackle the water challenges in Africa.

  • Enhancing water security in urban Africa

On the second day, the workshop focused on developing roadmaps for a pro-active approach to ensuring water security. In the longer term, these roadmaps will serve to support cities in Africa in developing projects for improving water security and water governance that can attract funding.

These projects will also help to sustain the water security networks in African cities. Through this initiative, well-considered investments may be supported that can enhance water security in urban Africa.