New Year’s Greetings: It’s not that the well is too deep, but rather the rope is too short
The urgent need to face the facts
For more than 40 years we have been working alongside our Governmental, Institutional and Private partners in sub-Saharan Africa to bring water to rural and isolated populations. Billions of euros have been invested in the sector, thousands of wells have been dug, and as many hand pumps installed, which are meant to provide drinking water to hundreds of millions of people.
Considerable efforts have been expended, both on the ground and in the offices, to achieve the set objective. Yet the upshot of this today leaves a sour taste in the mouth: it is not working as we would like it to! Why is this?
It is all too easy to accuse the Governments or Institutions of deficiencies or even incompetence, to lambaste the beneficiaries for allegedly not understanding what they have to gain, or to accuse the private sector of wanting to make money at the expense of quality. It is all too simple to disclaim responsibility for the failures by finding someone else, a scapegoat, to take the blame. Unfortunately, this serves absolutely no purpose other than finding excuses for those who are meant to find the solutions.
We are all responsible for the situation: players and spectators alike. First of all, the water issue has not been properly assimilated. How is it possible that we can still, today, be discussing whether or not drinking water deserves to be a dedicated goal among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? How is it possible that we can spend months, or even years, to put in place contracts, via interminable procedures, for projects that are qualified as urgent? How is it possible to sell one’s soul to the point of supplying and signing off defective material and neglecting work to satisfy “lowest-bidder” criteria, often culminating in the construction of a system that you know quite well will only work for a short time, or will even never work at all?
Everything that has been put in place to avoid that today constitutes a bureaucratic labyrinth, a stack of procedures that stymie the stakeholders without protecting the desperate rural populations.
Alongside this, how is it possible – as a beneficiary – to be able to expect a better service without being ready to pay a fair price?
We need to react! We need to look at how things really are! We need to simplify things! We all need to make progress to avoid coming across in 2030 as laughing stocks, when faced with a deplorable record concerning the degree of fulfilment of the SDGs, in particular the SDG dedicated to water and sanitation, which would leave millions of people in need and cause everyone to lose face. We are ready, and others are too, I’m sure, to address this challenge. These are urgent times!
I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year!
Chairman, ODIAL SOLUTIONS