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Key findings
  • On average across 34 countries, more than half (56%) of Africans live in areas with pipedwater systems. A similar proportion (54%) live in zones with boreholes or tubewells. About one in seven (15%) have neither piped water nor boreholes/tubewells in the vicinity.
  • A majority (56%) of Africans say they went without enough clean water at least once in the year preceding the survey, including 23% who experienced water shortages “many times” or “always.”
  • On average across 34 countries, only three in 10 citizens (30%) live in areas with sewage systems.
  • One-third (34%) of Africans have a toilet in their home, while most use a toilet or latrine elsewhere in their compound (37%) or outside their compound (15%) or lack access to toilet facilities altogether (14%).
  • Rural residents and poor citizens face substantial disadvantages on all indicators of access to water and sanitation services.
  • A majority (58%) of Africans rate their government as performing “fairly badly” or “very badly” at providing water and sanitation services.

Access to safe water and sanitation is a human right, a prerequisite for good public health and development – and a persistent challenge for most African governments (UN Water, 2021; Holtz, & Golubsk, 2021; Mason, Nalamalapu, & Corfee-Morlot, 2019). As the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us, if we needed a reminder, hygiene saves lives (United Nations, 2021).

With eight years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal No. 6 (SDG6) of ensuring the “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030, billions of

people around the world still lack access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation services, and basic handwashing facilities (WHO, 2019).

Are African countries making progress toward the targets of SDG6?

Findings from Afrobarometer surveys in 34 countries suggest that most are not. While experiences vary widely across countries, on average almost half of Africans don’t have access to piped-water systems, and only a minority live in areas served by sewage systems. A growing number of

people are experiencing shortages of clean water. These problems are particularly severe for rural residents and the economically disadvantaged.

In 24 out of 34 countries, majorities say their governments are doing a poor job of providing water and sanitation services.

Daniel Armah-Attoh

Daniel is the project manager for North and Anglophone West Africa