Friday, March 31, 2006


Water in Africa: a SPRAT approach for sustainable development

African development is such a broad and diverse topic that I had to think and rethink on what to write. As the world celebrated the 14th world water day on March 22, I felt inspired and decided to write on this topic for my post of the week in this team blog.

I adopt the SPRAT technique, which we learnt from Lesley’s session at the world of work (WOW) training []. SPRAT stands for:
Situation, which is the story or trend on ground;
Problem or the issue that must be solved;
Resolution that is the answer or proposal to the problem;
Action, which is the implementation of the proposal, and lastly;
Thanks as for the closure.

To start with, what is the situation regarding water? Water is the thing that makes our daily life. Over 80 or 90 % of our bodies are made of water. The coffee, tea, juice, or coca cola we drink is made of water. We treat water, we eat water, we live water, we dive in water, we pay for water, play water, and pray with water. Water is our culture, water is our future. Yet, world water resources are shrinking when our daily needs for it are tremendously increasing.

The second stage of the SPRAT model is the problem, which teaches us that water is a non-renewable resource. Moreover, there is no substitute for water. Besides that, water is unevenly distributed in the world despite the fact that two third of the universe is made of water (unfortunately much of it is retained by polar ices). So many other issues are water-related:

Ø Almost one fifth of the world still does not have access to an adequate supply of drinking water;
Ø Ninety percent of natural disasters are water-related;
Ø Poor water quality is a key cause of poor livelihood and health, causing many deaths, remember Kostad and Umtamta in South Africa;
Ø According to the World Vision (, every day, nearly 6,000 children die from water-related illnesses;
Ø Some tourists in 5 and 6 stars hotels in Jozzi or in Cairo demand up to 900 litres of water daily when some people in South African cities and townships can’t access more than 20 litres per day;
Ø Some sources of water like Lake Chad, are threatened of running dry;
Ø Some regions like Europe manage to use more than two third of their hydraulic potential when Africa makes use of only 7% of its potential. Hence the statement, Africa has considerable water.
Ø Some natural disasters like Tsunami, Catherina, etc are water related;
Ø Competition over scarcely distributed water, always brings Niger and Guinea to clash;
Ø Privatization promoted in some countries like South Africa has skewed access to water, determining who gets how much water,
Ø The list is not going to end.

To get back to the SPRAT model, how then is this issue being handled?

Let’s start with the global level,

In 1992, the United Nations ( came with a resolution that the 22 March of each year would become the World Water Day (WWD) as of 1993. For that celebration, a different UN agency is selected each year. For 2006, the theme is ‘water and culture’ under the auspices of the Unesco (

The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) ( plans to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

Other solutions to water related issues are implemented at regional or country levels:

v Recycling sewage water, which decreases pollution;
v Riccardo Petrella (, a prominent European academic suggests that we stop exploiting water as petroleum (petrolization of water, he argues);
v Museveni, intervening on CNN on the 2006 WWD refutes the statement that Africa has considerable water, he goes for reasonable water.

Action, as the fourth step in the SPRAT model, made some governments act pragmatically. Libya is one of them. In 1985, President Kaddafi launched the ‘Great Man made River’ (, a program aimed at extracting water from Saharan fossils and drain it to the Libyan shore, the most agricultural favourable region in the country. The program is expected to start delivering from 2010. Unfortunately, Kaddafi was criticised as building a white elephant, I do not share such view.

In brief, water-related issues are to be treated with same respect and attention as other burning development issues such as attracting FDI, trade, governance, etc.

Lastly, who should I thank? Remember the last step in the SPRAT model. Special thanks to Lesley for adding the SPRAT approach to my knowledge. Definitely, it will always be part of my analyses even if Lesley used that in a presentation on writing skills. I also thank you, my reader for spreading the news that with more than 6 billion people today and still increasing population, the earth is a risky place to be carrying of economic growth and prosperity only with less concern for environmental changes and water crisis. To avoid Africa becoming a source of world conflicts because of its reasonable (not considerable) water resources, we must start planning its equitable access and rationale management. By so doing, we are going to make a difference in the future with water as the African comparative development advantage.

What a fantastic write-up Cyrille. I really enjoyed reading that. It is scary to think that there are people out there struggling to have access to good clean water. I love water and cannot imagine not being able to have my couple of glasses to drink each day. Thanks for highlighing this sensitive and very important issue. I hope more plans to help with this problem will come up. And I hope even more that people realise how precious this resource is and how we should not waste it.
Thank you Celeste,
I do share the same hope for this issue, reason why i thought of writing on water.
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