Visualizing Water Accessibility in Sub-Saharan Africa
Connect with us


Visualizing the Water Accessibility Divide in Sub-Saharan Africa



chart showing water accessibility in rural and urban populations across sub saharan africa

Visualizing the Water Accessibility Divide in Sub-Saharan Africa

According to the United Nations, having access to safe drinking water is a universal human right.

Yet, in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 39% of the population has water connected to their homes—and in the region’s rural areas, this figure drops to just 19%.

This graphic by Gilbert Fontana uses data from the United Nations to compare water accessibility in different countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. The data specifically looks at water on-premises, which is defined as water that’s connected to a person’s dwelling.

The Water Accessibility Gap

In Sub-Saharan Africa, water accessibility varies greatly both within and across countries.

For example, Ethiopia has one of the widest gaps within a single country—while 75% of its urban population has access to on-premises water, only 5% of its rural population has water piped to their homes.

While it is one of the most populated countries in Africa, with more than 115 million people as of 2020, Ethiopia is also one of the poorest. It has a national income per capita of only $890, and about 20% of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas of the country, leaving about 4.5 million people without access to on-premises water.

Here’s a breakdown of water access in other countries across Sub-Saharan Africa:

CountryPopulation Type% of population with drinking water on premises (2020)
🇲🇺​ MauritiusUrban99.9%
🇲🇺​ MauritiusRural99.8%
​🇦🇴 AngolaUrban54.7%
​🇦🇴 AngolaRural7.5%
​🇧🇯​ BeninUrban39.9%
​🇧🇯​ BeninRural10.4%
🇧🇼 BotswanaUrban95.1%
🇧🇼 BotswanaRural50.2%
​🇧🇫​ Burkina FasoUrban57.9%
​🇧🇫​ Burkina FasoRural3.1%
🇧🇮 BurundiUrban58.5%
🇧🇮 BurundiRural3.0%
🇨🇲 CameroonUrban54.7%
🇨🇲 CameroonRural7.5%
🇨🇻​ Cape VerdeUrban92.2%
🇨🇻​ Cape VerdeRural80.1%
​​🇨🇫 Central African RepublicUrban11.5%
​​🇨🇫 Central African RepublicRural2.3%
🇹🇩​ ChadUrban30.5%
🇹🇩​ ChadRural2.0%
🇨🇮 Côte d'IvoireUrban73.0%
🇨🇮 Côte d'IvoireRural14.6%
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the CongoUrban40.4%
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the CongoRural1.0%
🇩🇯 DjiboutiUrban58.2%
🇩🇯 DjiboutiRural4.5%
🇸🇿 EswatiniUrban93.1%
🇸🇿 EswatiniRural37.3%
🇪🇹 EthiopiaUrban75.1%
🇪🇹 EthiopiaRural5.2%
🇬🇦 GabonUrban76.3%
🇬🇦 GabonRural18.9%
🇬🇭 GhanaUrban60.3%
🇬🇭 GhanaRural16.1%
🇬🇳 GuineaUrban77.5%
🇬🇳 GuineaRural21.5%
🇬🇼 Guinea-BissauUrban40.9%
🇬🇼 Guinea-BissauRural4.7%
🇰🇪 KenyaUrban57.7%
🇰🇪 KenyaRural23.4%
🇱🇸 LesothoUrban78.1%
🇱🇸 LesothoRural8.9%
🇱🇷 LiberiaUrban23.5%
🇱🇷 LiberiaRural4.8%
🇲🇬 MadagascarUrban38.2%
🇲🇬 MadagascarRural13.7%
🇲🇼 MalawiUrban54.4%
🇲🇼 MalawiRural10.2%
🇲🇱 MaliUrban61.5%
🇲🇱 MaliRural16.5%
🇲🇷 MauritaniaUrban54.4%
🇲🇷 MauritaniaRural28.7%
🇲🇿 MozambiqueUrban65.2%
🇲🇿 MozambiqueRural13.7%
🇳🇦 NamibiaUrban74.9%
🇳🇦 NamibiaRural48.2%
🇳🇪 NigerUrban65.8%
🇳🇪 NigerRural7.7%
🇳🇬 NigeriaUrban39.9%
🇳🇬 NigeriaRural17.7%
🇨🇬 Republic of the CongoUrban69.2%
🇨🇬 Republic of the CongoRural19.1%
🇷🇼 RwandaUrban45.5%
🇷🇼 RwandaRural5.0%
🇸🇹 São Tomé and PríncipeUrban40.1%
🇸🇹 São Tomé and PríncipeRural24.7%
🇸🇳 SenegalUrban87.5%
🇸🇳 SenegalRural59.0%
🇸🇱 Sierra LeoneUrban24.6%
🇸🇱 Sierra LeoneRural9.2%
🇸🇴 SomaliaUrban68.1%
🇸🇴 SomaliaRural9.1%
🇿🇦 South AfricaUrban91.2%
🇿🇦 South AfricaRural51.3%
🇸🇸 South SudanUrban3.7%
🇸🇸 South SudanRural2.6%
🇹🇿 TanzaniaUrban65.9%
🇹🇿 TanzaniaRural19.9%
🇬🇲 The GambiaUrban67.6%
🇬🇲 The GambiaRural7.6%
🇹🇬 TogoUrban36.8%
🇹🇬 TogoRural6.7%
🇺🇬 UgandaUrban42.8%
🇺🇬 UgandaRural8.0%
🇿🇲 ZambiaUrban56.9%
🇿🇲 ZambiaRural8.6%
🇿🇼 ZimbabweUrban67.9%
🇿🇼 ZimbabweRural12.9%

As the table above shows, the rural population in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is facing some of the worst water scarcity issues across the region, with less than 1% of its rural population having access to on-premises water.

This is particularly worrisome because the DRC has the most fresh-water resources of any country in Africa.

Yet, due to poor infrastructure and conflict-related damage to facilities, hundreds of thousands of people in the DRC do not have safe running water in their homes.

What’s the Impact on the Population?

Without water connected to their homes, people have no choice but to walk to the nearest water source, to collect and carry it back to their homes.

Often, the burden of collecting water falls onto women and children, which can impact their access to education and opportunities to study.

In Chad, where 2% of the rural population has running water in their homes, female literacy rates sit at 14%. According to data from UNESCO, more than 700,000 children weren’t in school in 2019, and of those children, almost 500,000 were female.

green check mark icon

This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments


Mapped: A Snapshot of Wealth in Africa

Total private wealth in Africa is now estimated to be US$2.1 trillion. This map looks at where all that wealth is concentrated around the continent.



Mapped: A Snapshot of Wealth in Africa

The continent of Africa contains more than 50 countries, but just five account for more than half of total wealth on the continent: South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, and Kenya.

Despite recent setbacks in Africa’s largest economies, wealth creation has been strong in a number of areas, and total private wealth is now estimated to be US$2.1 trillion. There also an estimated 21 billionaires in Africa today.

Drawing from the latest Africa Wealth Report, here’s a look at where all that wealth is concentrated around the continent.

A Country-Level Look at Wealth in Africa

South Africa is a still a major stronghold of wealth in Africa, with a robust luxury real estate market and ample wealth management services. The country is also ranked second on the continent in per capita wealth. That said, the country has faced challenges in recent years.

An estimated 4,500 high net worth individuals (wealth of US$1 million or more) have left South Africa over the past decade, migrating to places like the UK, Australia, and the United States. In one stark data point, the report points out that “there are 15 South African born billionaires in the world, but only 5 of them still live in South Africa.”

Here is how major African countries compare in terms of per capita wealth.

RankCountryWealth per Capita (US$)
#1🇲🇺 Mauritius$34,000
#2🇿🇦 South Africa$10,970
#3🇳🇦 Namibia$9,320
#4🇧🇼 Botswana$7,880
#5🇲🇦 Morocco$3,380
#6🇪🇬 Egypt$3,000
#7🇬🇭 Ghana$1,890
#8🇰🇪 Kenya$1,700
#9🇦🇴 Angola$1,620
#10🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire$1,610
#11🇳🇬 Nigeria$1,100
#12🇹🇿 Tanzania$940
#13🇷🇼 Rwanda$850
#14🇺🇬 Uganda$820
#15🇿🇲 Zambia$760
#16🇲🇿 Mozambique$650
#17🇪🇹 Ethiopia$540

Mauritius is Africa’s wealthiest nation on a per capita basis. Here are a few reasons why the island nation comes out on top:

  • HNWI growth – Wealthy individuals have flocked to Mauritius in recent years
  • Ease of doing business – Mauritius ranked 13th worldwide in World Bank’s Doing Business Report
  • Low taxes – There is no inheritance tax or capital gains tax in the country
  • Safety – Mauritius was recently rated by New World Wealth as the safest country in Africa
  • Financial sector – A growing local financial services sector and stock market (SEMDEX)

As a result, Mauritius has seen the strongest growth in total private wealth over the past decade, followed by Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Bar chart showing 10-year wealth growth in African countries

On the flip side of the equation, Nigeria—which is Africa’s largest economy—saw a steep drop in total wealth. The country has struggled in recent years with high unemployment, corruption, and an over-reliance on crude oil.

The Big Picture

Over time, African countries are becoming less dependent on extractive industries, and business conditions are continuing to improve nearly across the board. These tailwinds, combined with the continent’s favorable demographics, point to a bright economic future for Africa.

The outlook for private wealth on the continent is largely positive as well. Total private wealth held in Africa is expected to reach US$3 trillion by 2031, an increase of close to 40%.

Continue Reading