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Key findings
  • On average across 39 countries, water supply ranks fourth among the most important problems that Africans want their government to address, trailing unemployment, management of the economy, and health. o Water outranks all other problems in Benin and Mozambique, and ranks second in Guinea, Niger, Congo-Brazzaville, Tanzania, Togo, Ethiopia, and Namibia. o Water supply is of particular concern among rural residents and the poor, who suffer major disadvantages on all indicators of access to clean water and sanitation.
  • Nearly six in 10 Africans (56%) say their household experienced a shortage of clean water during the previous year, including 24% who say this happened “many times” or “always.”
  • Among enumeration areas (EAs) visited by Afrobarometer field teams, 56% had a piped water system. Fewer than one-third of EAs had water systems in Zimbabwe (27%), Malawi (28%), Mozambique (28%), Liberia (28%), and Guinea (29%). o On average, four in 10 respondents say they have water piped into their dwelling (27%) or their compound (13%), while about one-third rely primarily on a public tap or standpipe (17%) or a tubewell or borehole (16%). About one in five rely on well water (14%) or surface water (5%).
  • Fewer than one-third (31%) of surveyed EAs have sewage systems, ranging from 5% in Malawi to 79% in Tunisia.
  • One-third (34%) of respondents have a toilet in the home, while another 39% have facilities outside their dwelling but within their compound. One in five (19%) rely on toilets outside their compound, and 8% say they have no access to toilets or latrines.
  • Only 38% of citizens give their government passing marks on its provision of water and sanitation services.

Safe water and sanitation are essential to the health of all Africans as well as to the social  and economic development of their countries, yet millions lack access to both (African  Union, 2023; World Health Organization, 2023). 

Despite governments’ commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, most countries are not on track to meet their  objective of ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (United Nations, 2015, 2023; African Union, 2015,  2023). According to the 2023 Africa Sustainable Development Report, 411  million Africans still lack access to safe water, and almost three-fourths don’t  benefit from safely managed sanitation services (United Nations  Development Programme, 2023). 

The urgency of ensuring water security is heightened by the effects of  climate change, including prolonged droughts that threaten agriculture as well as household  water supplies (Mumssen, 2022; Malpass & Sall, 2022). 

The latest Afrobarometer surveys in 39 African countries find little progress toward the goal of  universal access to safe water and sanitation. Water supply ranks fourth among the most  important problems that Africans want their government to address. About one in four  citizens report that their household frequently went without enough clean water during the  past year. Only minorities enjoy access to piped water and a sanitation system, with stark  disadvantages among rural and poor populations. A growing majority give their government  poor marks on their provision of water and sanitation services. 

Mohamed Najib Ben Saad

Najib is the data quality officer at Afrobarometer

George William Kayanja

George William Kayanja is a senior researcher for Hatchile Consult.

Stevenson Ssevume Male

Stevenson Ssevume Male is an associate researcher with Hatchile Consult Ltd. in Kampala, Uganda.