CAIRO: The African Development Bank (AfDB) offered a grant to the tune of €1.912 million to the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE).
The funds will go to the monitoring and evaluation of a water management project in the North African region.
The grant, which was signed by CEDARE on Jan. 5 at AfDB’s Cairo office, will be equally divided between six countries: Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia, said Khaled Abu Zeid, the center’s regional water resources program manager.
The project will lead to the creation of national units for water monitoring and evaluation within the respective ministries in charge of water management for each country, and will run for 18 months.
Khushhal Khushiram, the multilateral bank’s resident representative for Egypt, said in a statement that the objective of the grant is to “improve water resources management and the provision of water services in North Africa, by harmonizing and strengthening the monitoring and evaluation capacity in the participating countries and furthering regional cooperation in the water sector.”
He added: “This project is fully aligned with the government’s strategic investment objectives and also highlights the bank’s emphasis on infrastructure development, in the priority area of water and sanitation.”
The funds will be derived from the African Water Facility, managed by the bank and which became operational in 2006, and is present in 50 countries where a total of 66 projects are being undertaken with the broader goal of “enhancing” the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in the water sector.
The AfDB’s authorized capital was increased by 200 percent in 2010 to meet growing development demands in the region. With $100 million currently at its disposal, it is present in 26 offices in Africa.
While the AfDB has provided support in the field of water management in the past, the sector remains relatively new terrain for the bank, Khushiram explained.
The bank has traditionally focused on the energy sector, providing support for power plant projects on an annual basis. More recently, AfDB has increasingly reoriented its strategy to include projects in the agriculture and irrigation domains in response to the needs of the country with which it cooperates.
As the population grows in Egypt, which is projected to attain 94.7 million by 2025 according to the United Nations, food security is an increasingly critical issue.
Against this backdrop, Egyptian authorities, with the support of funding from the likes of AfDB and others, is laying the groundwork to meet the inevitably rising demand.
In the past five years, “AfDB has accelerated” its focus on these two areas, Khushiram said; recently hiring a senior agriculture engineer.
“This is a clear commitment to getting involved [in this sector],” Khushiram said.
In 2009, AfDB awarded 23 percent of a sizeable €53.3 million loan for the financing of a water treatment plant in Gabal El-Asfar, which augmented the plants operational capacity, representing an additional 500,000 cubic meters of water per day.
The plant now provides water for an additional 2.5 million residents in East Cairo, with a further estimated 785,800 living in towns and villages downstream, as well as along the drainage system into Lake Manzala, who “benefit from an improved environment and a reduction of diseases associated with the disposal of untreated wastewater,” the bank said in a statement.
In the past three years, AfBD also provided a €2 million loan for the restoration of hydraulic structures along the Nile, €0.9 million for a study of the Nubiana and Ismalia canals and a €0.6 loan for a study of Zefta Barrage.
Khushiram confirmed, as well, that his bank is currently in discussion for “concrete projects” in the field of agriculture and irrigation, but declined to provide any further details, citing the confidentiality of the discussions.
Asked why AfDB opted for a grant rather than a loan, Khushiram noted that this is a typical strategy for all development banks since grants are often dovetailed with loans — and this is a way to ensure that proper support structures are present to guarantee the success of the loan’s goals.
Thus, the €1.9 million loan falls within the logic of this precise strategy: make sure that the right environment has been fostered so that when future loans are dispersed, the rate of success is much higher; and accordingly, the loans are repaid on time and in full.