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Key findings
  • On average across 34 African countries, about half (49%) of citizens went without enough clean water for home use during the year preceding the survey, including 38% who suffered this form of lived poverty1 “several times,” “many times,” or “always”.
  • While SDG6 targets call for “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all” by 2030, only a slim majority (54%) of Africans live in areas served by a piped-water system. 2 This ranges from just 8% of Liberians to more than nine out of 10 Tunisians (91%), São Toméans (91%), and Mauritians (100%)
  • More than half (52%) of Africans have to go outside their compound for clean water. This is true for more than eight out of 10 citizens in Uganda (87%), Niger (84%), Malawi (82%), and Tanzania (81%) (Figure 8). A water source inside the home or compound is enjoyed by just three out of 10 rural residents (31%) and citizens experiencing high lived poverty (28%)
  • Almost three-fourths (72%) of respondents report having a toilet or latrine inside their home or compound, while 22% have to go outside the compound and 7% say they have no access to a toilet or latrine
  • Given these manifold concerns, it’s no surprise that a majority (54%) of Africans say their government is doing “fairly badly” or “very badly” at providing water and sanitation services (Figure 18), although this reflects a modest improvement since 2011/2013 (from 56% to 53% across 31 countries surveyed in all of the past three rounds) (Figure 19). Gabonese (84%) and Guineans (82%) are most critical. Only nine countries register majority approval of government performance on water/sanitation, led by eSwatini (65%) and Botswana (63%)

More than half of Africans say their governments are failing them when it comes to one of their top priorities – the provision of clean water and sanitation services, a new Afrobarometer analysis shows. Half of survey respondents say they went without enough clean water for home use during the previous year – a particular concern considering the importance of proper hygiene for preventing the spread of coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

These findings from national surveys in 34 African countries, released in advance of World Water Day (March 22), show that there has been little progress in recent years toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 6, “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

While experiences vary widely across countries, on average more than half of Africans have to leave their compounds to access water, and only one-fourth have access to sewage infrastructure. Rural residents continue to suffer major disadvantages in access to water and sanitation.

One in five Africans who tried to obtain utility services from government during the previous year report they had to pay a bribe. In 20 out of 34 countries, majorities say their government is doing a poor job of providing water and sanitation services.

Brian Howard

Brian is the head of publications at Afrobarometer

Kangwook Han

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