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AD16: Inadequate access, poor government performance make water a top priority in Africa

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Key findings
  • Water and sanitation ranks fourth among important problems that citizens say their governments must address. One in five respondents (22%) rate water and sanitation among their top three priorities.
  • A majority (55%) of African citizens rate their government’s handling of water supply and sanitation as “fairly bad” or “very bad.” Negative ratings are highest in Egypt (78%), Cameroon (75%), and Nigeria (71%) and lowest in Algeria (23%), Malawi (28%), and Botswana (31%).
  • A majority of Africans (54%) can only access water outside of their home and compound; 21% have a water source inside their compound but outside their home; and just one in four (24%) have a water source inside their home.
  • On average, almost one in 10 respondents (8%) say they have no access to a latrine or toilet, even outside their compound. This was most common among citizens of Benin (47%), Namibia (38%), Madagascar (28%), Togo (26%), and Niger (22%). Seven of 10 surveyed communities (72%) have no sewerage systems. Communities without sewerage were most common in Malawi (97%), Tanzania (96%), Niger (94%), and Mozambique and Burkina Faso (92% each).

In observance of World Water Day (March 22), under the theme of “Water and Sustainable Development,” Afrobarometer data amplifies the voices of ordinary Africans who call on their governments to address inadequate water supply and sanitation as a top priority. Despite some infrastructure improvements, citizen perceptions and community-level observation in 34 African countries indicate that half of the population go without enough clean water for home use, while 44% of surveyed communities lack access to a piped water supply and 72% lack access to sewerage – and access rates are even worse in rural areas. Across much of Africa, citizens rate their governments’ performance on water and sanitation issues as “fairly” or “very” poor.

Thomas Bentley

Thomas Bentley previously served as a research assistant for Afrobarometer.

Kangwook Han

Kangwook Han is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Jeonbuk National University, South Korea.

Richard Houessou

Richard is the project manager for Francophone Africa