Charity Atter’s maid, Eva Tetteh, lowers a bucket deep into a well and waits about two minutes for the water to collect inside. Atter, a 37-year-old widow who lives in one of the fast-growing suburbs of Accra, Ghana’s capital, has been relying on well water for three years. “The water situation we’re facing here is a very difficult problem,” she says as she tends customers at her vegetable store in front of her house.
Water—or the lack of it—is one of the biggest issues facing urban Africa, which will see a 66 percent population increase to 1.2 billion people by 2050, according to the United Nations. Although water shortages have long plagued parts of the continent, they’ve become the potential killer of Africa’s economic takeoff. Ghana’s $35 billion economy, whose estimated growth of 8 percent in 2013 would outpace the sub-Saharan African average for a sixth straight year, cannot continue at that rate without a modern water network.