30-31 October 2023, Cairo. The fourth edition of the EU-UfM-African Development Bank Conference on Water Finance and Investments took place on 30 and 31 October as part of the Cairo Water Week. Water security is of utmost importance to the Euro-Mediterranean region and Africa: access to clean water, sustainable management, and the ability to combat droughts, floods, and water pollution are essential to their overall wellbeing and socioeconomic prosperity. These challenges were highlighted from a financial perspective at this event within the broader context of the interdependencies binding water to energy, food, and environmental sustainability — the WEFE nexus.
This year the Union for the Mediterranean and the European Union joined forces with the African Development Bank for the first time ever to organise the Conference on Water Finance and Investments in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation and with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
Close to 40 speakers, including government representatives from Albania, Egypt, France, Jordan, Malta, Morocco, Sweden and Türkiye, took part in the conference, as did the Minister of Water and Irrigation of Egypt, the Secretary General of the Jordanian Ministry of Water, the Director General of Water of Türkiye, the CEO of the Energy and Water Agency of Malta, and the Head of the EU in Egypt. International financial institutions also contributed to the discussion, particularly on how investment projects apply the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus approach, delving into lessons learned by financial institutions such as the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and European development banks.
This year’s edition had a multi-stakeholder roundtable discussion to engage participants, who were divided into groups, in hands-on talks exploring the WEFE framework dimensions from investment planning and green finance perspectives. This session allowed participants to exchange knowledge and share insights on the WEFE nexus approach in investment projects, thus advancing the collective understanding of their role in shaping a sustainable future. Policymakers also emphasized the importance of research and innovation as well as water diplomacy as catalysers for sustainability.
The Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, Nasser Kamel, gave an opening speech emphasizing the role of the organisation as a tool to achieve water security in the Mediterranean region. Kamel recalled that the theme of the conference was at the heart of the recent UN 2023 Water Conference in New York, water in relation to the other sectors and the economy, and highlighted the inclusion of the African Development Bank as an organising partner of this conference.
UfM Deputy Secretary General Almotaz Abadi stated that the financial sustainability of the water system requires political will to work interconnectedly, enhancing cross-sector engagement, and argued that the WEFE Nexus is the necessary approach to promote such a change. According to him, water must be given the correct monetary value so that it is perceived as an attractive business model that lures investments – without depriving people from an intrinsic human right. The UfM, he explained, is determined to put forth a WEFE Nexus Strategic Framework for the Mediterranean and work towards a new Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial Declaration on Water as called upon by the member states.
Conference-goers concluded that the adoption of a WEFE nexus approach has a clear positive impact from a finance and investment perspective. It enhances the financial sustainability of the water sector by savings costs and attracting finance while strengthening the quality, relevance, impact, and sustainability of investments and helping reform subsidies to reduce unintended harmful effects across sectors.