The sixth Ethiopian Water Utility Forum, which focused on urban water supply management problems and solutions, was held for three days, starting November 1, 2012.
The discussion, graced by the attendance of water utility officials from federal and regional towns and private sector suppliers, explored ways to improve the water management system and accessibility to the populace, which is one of the major problems that face Ethiopian towns. Several papers were presented at the forum to address these issues.Yikallo Welu, an instructor at the Dire Dawa University, who presented a paper focusing on outsourcing and budget management in water and sewerage, said that the utilities have to outsource part of their services to private firms in order to automate the sector. According to Yikallo, budgeting and other services in the water sector are performed in traditional ways. “You have to look for options to transform your services to serve the public interest,” he advised the officials.
The Federal Government has undertaken a survey to meet water supply needs throughout the country, in line with its GTP (Growth and Transformation Plan).
“Urban projects will consume up to 30 percent of the total amount,” said Kebede Gerba, State Minister of Water and Energy. There are several projects controlled by federal, regional, and city water authorities to develop water supply. The Ministry office has formed a revolving fund to give loans to cities to expand water supply by the end of the program. According to officials at the Ministry, the Federal Ministry office is also assessing the allocation of funds for drinking water projects that have to be undertaken in regional towns.
According to the State Minister, 30 billion birr is needed to provide the country with water until the end of the GTP. According to the plan, the government has plans to provide 100 percent water supply in all towns and cities in the Country, by 2015.
According to Kebede, the funding for the WaSH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) program reaches 3 billion birr; external loans and grants come from federal channels and are distributed to the regions. “The Regions are also budgeting 10 billion birr every year for drinking water projects; due to that we are getting sufficient funds to meet the target,” he added.
“According to the GTP plan, annually, 7 to 8 million people are expected to have clean water. “When we made an analysis of our performance up to the past year, we discovered that 6.5 million people have already been provided with a sustainable supply of water,” he explained. He indicated that they had problems allocating urban projects to local contractors, because they don’t have the capacity or the sophistication yet for the undertakings. Due to this fact, the government has set up several capacity building programs to train, empower and enhance the sector. Currently, the government has opened more high-level training facilities which will help in solving some of the outstanding obstacles, like observed shortages in skilled manpower.
According to several studies conducted by experts, the rate of growth of the urban population does not match the rate at which the infrastructure and process for increasing the required water supply is developed. The State minister said that the forum also served as a place where water utility authorities and suppliers from the private sector met face to face to discuss new technologies related to the sector.