Opening Remarks and Context Setting
It was an exciting and fulfilling experience for the Republic of Namibia and its Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reforms led by Hon Carl Hermann-Gustav Schlettwein to start the one-week AfricaSan7 Conference. Many water and sanitation actors came in worldwide, including African Union member states, development partners, civil society organisations and the academia. Everywhere was charged with the joy of meeting again in AMCOW’s largest gathering after the 2019 COVID-19 pandemic.
The Executive Director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform, Namibia, Ms Ndiyakupi Nghituwamata, moderated the AfricaSan7 Conference opening plenary. The Conference, themed “Strengthening Systems and Partnerships for Accelerated Action on Safely Managed Sanitation and Hygiene”, seeks to unite key stakeholders to address sanitation and hygiene challenges in Africa and globally.
The Governor of Erongo Region, Hon. Neville Andre, welcomed the conference delegates. In his welcome address, he highlighted the disparities in sanitation between rural and urban areas and the need for improved systems and partnerships.
AMCOW’s Executive Secretary, Dr Rashid Mbaziira, welcomed all the participants to the opening plenary of the AfricaSan7 Conference. In his remarks, he stated that He demonstrated how honoured it was for him to address all the participants, experts, policymakers, practitioners, and advocates who are committed to improving hygiene and sanitation across Africa. Dr Rashid emphasised the Africa Sanitation Conference as a platform for technical and political dialogue with governments and stakeholders for knowledge-sharing. He further stressed the urgency required to address sanitation conditions in the continent to improve livelihoods.
Unveiling of AfricaSan7 Banner
Host Minister, Hon Carl Hermann Gustav Schlettwein, unveiled the AfricaSan7 Banner – an initiative launched to promote integration of arts and youth inclusion in African Sanitation and Hygiene. AMCOW has introduced the AfricaSan Banner Design Award as one of the AfricaSan Awards. The idea is to challenge young Africans under 35 to illustrate sanitation conditions as known to them within their communities or to demonstrate future sanitation aspirations in the continent. This aligns with promoting the thoughts behind the African Union Agenda 2063-the Africa We Want.
Goodwill messages, Policy, and Technical Discussions
Various speakers, including Eric Momani from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, discussed technical issues and the importance of partnerships, government policies, and funding mechanisms to improve sanitation services. The African Development Bank (AfDB) outlined their support and strategic priorities, which align with their high-level goals, including a new sanitation investment initiative. The World Toilet Organisation (WTO), through its founder, Prof. Jack Sim, highlighted the role of the private sector while speaking on the Sanitation Economy and Private Sector Engagement.
Opening address by Hon Carl Hermann Gustav Schlettwein
The high point of the event was the opening address by Hon Carl Hermann Gustav Schlettwein, the Minister for Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform, Republic of Namibia, AWF Governing Council Chairperson, and AMCOW President (2021-2023). The Minister warmly welcomed the conference participants and urged them to ensure that the meeting delivers a solid water and sanitation agenda by the end of the week. Hon Schlettwein delivered an inspirational insight demonstrating the value of water and access to sanitation services beyond money. The profile of water and sanitation was immediately raised in the mind of each individual listening to his remarks.
Cultural Engagement and Private Sector Involvement
The conference included cultural elements, such as traditional Namibian dance. In a vibrant display of Namibian cultural heritage, traditional dancers took the stage at the conference’s opening plenary. With rhythmic movements and purely native attire, the performers brought to life the rich traditions and cultural essence of Namibia. Participants were captivated by their spirited and charming native dance – you could see them watching with rapt attention and many capturing photographs with their mobile devices.