Solutions to the challenges of water for energy and food security are hindered by shortcomings in water infrastructure, development, and management capacity to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population. This is compounded by the fact the Africa has the fastest urbanization rates in the world. Water development and management are much more complex due to the multiplicity of trans-boundary water resources (rivers, lakes and aquifers). Around 75% of sub-Saharan Africa falls within 53 international river basin catchments that traverse multiple borders. This particular constraint can also be converted into an opportunity if the potential for trans-boundary cooperation is harnessed in the development of the area’s water resources. A multi-sectoral analysis of the Zambezi River, for example, shows that riparian cooperation could lead to a 23% increase in firm energy production without any additional investments. A number of institutional and legal frameworks for transboundary cooperation exist, such as the Zambezi River Authority, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol, Volta River Authority and the Nile Basin Commission. However, additional efforts are required to further develop political will, as well as the financial capacities and institutional frameworks needed for win-win multilateral cooperative actions and optimal solutions for all riparians.
Africa has recently undergone its best decade (2005-2015) for economic growth since the post-independence period. The growth, however, has neither been inclusive or equitable. According to the World Bank, GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa averaged 4.5% in 2014, up from 4.2% in 2013, supported by continuing infrastructure investment, increased agricultural production and buoyant services.
Africa’s population surpassed the 1 billion mark in 2010 and is projected to double by 2050. Demographically, it is expected to be the fastest growing region in the world with the growth varying depending on sub region. Furthermore, the growth is skewed to the young and that component of the population that will need jobs is expected to increase rapidly and comprise 910 million out of the projected two billion total population by 2050. Most of the growth in workforce will be in Sub-Saharan Africa (about 90%). Hence, the demand for jobs will be a major policy issue across the continent, which is already experiencing high unemployment and underemployment; moreover, the latter is driving both migration within the region and emigration towards Europe and other regions.
Job creation for this anticipated growth in population is set to be the major challenge for Africa’s structural economic and social transformation. It is estimated that in 2015, 19 million young people will be joining the sluggish job market in Sub-Saharan Africa and four million in North Africa. The demand for jobs is expected to increase to 24.6 million annually in Sub-Saharan Africa and 4.3 million in North Africa by 2030, representing two thirds of global growth in demand for jobs. Youth unemployment has been the trigger for uprisings, notably in North Africa, and has led to social and security instability.
The key water-dependent or related sectors with the potential for meeting part of the current and projected demand for jobs in Africa are social services, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, retail and hospitality, manufacturing, construction, natural resources exploitation (including mining) and energy production (including hydro, geothermal and expected fracking for oil and natural gas). All these sectors depend to a varying extent on the availability of, access to, and reliability of water resources. Irresponsible water use by some sectors can create short-term employment, but result in negative impacts on the availability of water resources and jeopardize future jobs in other water-dependent sectors. Climate change, water scarcity and variability have direct impact on the major sector outputs and thus ultimately on the overall economy of most African countries.