Consultative Meeting on Addressing Post 2030 Water Security and Safety Challenges in Higher Education in Africa

by Lako Stephane (

Progress on meeting SDG 6 on Water and Sanitation is key to achieving success across a suite of SDGs related to climate, health, food security, gender equality, sustainable cities, and conservation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

The complexities inherent in sustainability require future decision-makers to have critical thinking skills, experience with systems approaches, and understanding of decision making under uncertainty. Creating actionable knowledge to address the highly interconnected role of water will then require cross-sectoral integration of skill development, and knowledge mobilization by water researchers, water resource managers, and the policy community.

University of Ghana, START International, and the Sustainable Water Future Programme began discussions in early 2019 about developing a collaborative effort to advance capacities for addressing water security challenges in Africa, expand existing, and develop new approaches to capacity development on water security. The consultative meeting organized on 8-9th August 2019, Tomreik Hotel, Accra, Ghana represents the first step in that process.

The participants at this two-day meeting come from African university networks, water researchers within universities, regional centers working on SDGs, Water Youth Network, representatives of Ghanaian NGOs, Ministries, Departments and Agencies working on water, and the Accra offices for international funders and multilateral organizations.

This meeting seeks to:

  1. Identify areas of progress as well as existing and emerging gaps in data, skills, and knowledge related to water, in the context of the SDGs;
  2. Explore current and future priorities need to address water challenges;
  3. Identify promising initiatives and approaches to capacity development in higher education and professional learning/training that could be applicable to water security;
  4. Propose innovative topics to improve the skills of the next generation of water professionals in order to address current and future water challenges in diverse and evolutionary contexts.


The meeting focused on elements of higher education and post-academic qualification and training that advance capacities for addressing water security and water safety in the context of the SDGs, and how Africa and the African narrative can contribute towards setting the post-SDG capacity needs for water security.

From the very interactive discussion, it was raised that a lot of gaps are to be bridged in the sense of understanding past and existing knowledge/skills and those needed for the projected changes. Moreover, gaps due to lack of interest or communication among the learning community have to be filled by engaging in more open-minded dialogue, adaptive thinking, and cooperation across disciplines, sectors or sciences. It is therefore urgently needed for Professionals with hybrid critical skills, who are more attentive, who can better understand and interact with diverse surrounding and evolutive environment, and who consider this environment as a living transformative laboratory. 

Building such professional capacities require a shift in learning approaches towards lifelong learning where the community’s evolutive learning is the key to integrate indigenous, halogen, scientific, technologist, policies, external skills, and knowledge. It requires introducing basic principles in training a new generation of water professionals in Africa including but not limited to evolution orientation, flexibility, inclusivity, ethical, creativity, accountability, demand-driven, responsivity, as well as value for other sciences, skills, and knowledge.

As such, new topics have to be introduced either as part of an existing curriculum or special program to build the capacity of adaptive water professionals: 

  1. Appropriate and sustainable approaches to achieve water security;
  2. Smart water infrastructure management;
  3. Integrated and continuous learning;
  4. Communication that advances water security.

The content of these topics will be further developed and discussed during next to come meetings with the support of START International and potential donors.