Sustainable Development Goal 6: The Performance of Nigeria’s MSMEs

Celebrating Micro-, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Day

Photo by Ian Talmacs on Unsplash


Chinonso Ihuoma

Date Published

June 27, 2024



The United Nations (UN) holds that since MSMEs significantly lower poverty and create job possibilities, they affect economic growth and development. The UN General Assembly adopted the 71/279 Resolution on April 6, 2017, in an effort to reiterate the importance of MSMEs in accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Resolution 70/1, titled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” introduced the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With its 169 target areas, the SDGs focus on humans (people), Earth (planet), prosperity, peace, and partnership. 

Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) remain major players in achieving the SDGs. SDG 6, “Clean Water and Sanitation,” aims to ensure that every individual, irrespective of socio-economic status or physical location, can have access to clean water and decent sanitation at any time. Guaranteeing a constant supply of clean and hygienic drinking water requires the appropriate use of water resources and the availability of effective waste management techniques to prevent water pollution. Maintaining water-related ecosystems and making sure that people practice good water hygiene and sanitation are both essential to ensuring that people have steady access to clean water. 

Access to clean water, a fundamental human right, remains low in Nigeria. As reflected in the National Development Plan 2021-2025, 42% of the rural and 75% of the urban population in Nigeria have access to clean water. As a result, the plan targets providing 100% of urban and 75% of rural dwellers with clean drinking water by 2025. This article posits that the latest NDP goal can be achieved through collaborative efforts and significant activities by the government and MSMEs in the areas of water and sanitation. 

What is Nigeria’s water and sanitation situation?

According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Nigeria has 286,200 million cubic meters (MCM) of freshwater resources, of which 23% come from external sources. The rate of access to clean water has always been of global concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that 1 in 3 people worldwide lacks access to clean drinking water. According to the 1990–2019 global distribution of deaths from unsafe water, 50 deaths per 100,000 people were reported in Sub-Saharan African countries as a result of drinking water from unsafe sources. Sadly, in 2023, WHO reported that about 2.2 billion people (27% of the global population) lacked safe drinking water, while about 3.5 billion people (43% of the global population) needed good sanitation. 

Statistics on access to clean water and sanitation in Nigeria are disturbing. In 2022, with about 155.2 million people without access to clean water facilities, Nigeria only had 29% of its water coming from safely managed sources. Thus, a large population of people living in Nigeria lacked access to drinking water free from microorganisms and chemicals. This has necessitated the need to increase all efforts on water and sanitation in Nigeria for the benefit of the people. 

There are national and international projects on water and sanitation in Nigeria. They include water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), USAID/Nigeria’s Effective Water and Sanitation Hygiene Services (E-WASH), Sustainable Urban and Rural Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (SURWASH), the revitalization of Nigeria's WASH Sector, and Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), among others. There are engagements from civil societies like the National Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN); however, private sector engagement, especially from MSMEs, remains low in Nigeria.

According to the Organized Private Sector in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (OPS-WASH), accelerated progress with SDG 6 depends heavily on private sector engagement. As a result, OPS-WASH has partnered with private companies like Zenith Water Projects LTD, the Nigerian Bottling Company, Harpic,  and Hypo to promote the WASH agenda in Nigeria. Also, other international organizations have partnered with CSOs and the private sector to promote the WASH agenda in Nigeria. Despite these few collaborations, Nigeria still has little private-sector engagement toward achieving SDG 6.

The Way Forward

The SDG goals report for 2023 showed that globally, while 2.2 billion people have no access to hygienic water supply, 3.5 billion people lack access to proper sanitation. This discovery has put more pressure on global efforts to improve clean water supply and sanitation, leading to the introduction of the Strategy for Water and Sanitation (SWS). The UN’s SWS encourages collaboration to improve access to water and sanitation. 

Sanitation and water initiatives shouldn't be the sole responsibility of the government. Since joining the SWA in 2010, the Nigerian government has fostered partnerships with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to achieve significant success in WASH by 2030. Despite government collaborations with international organisations, Nigeria still battles with poor water and sanitation management. Also, low technical capability and insufficient funding remain serious obstacles to the effective management and planning of water resources in Nigeria. 

This reality necessitated the introduction of the National Development Plan 2021-2015. Through this plan, the government identified specific strategies to improve access to clean and affordable water in Nigeria and to ensure the steady preservation of water resources in the country. To achieve this plan, the government intends to utilize the Partnership Expansion for Water Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) program. Below is a table showing the key objectives of the plan.

 Water Resources and Sanitation Target by 2025

Source: Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning

Achieving SDG 6 in Nigeria through the latest NDP entails a significant improvement in access, quality,  and use of water, improved hygiene and sanitation, as well as effective eco-friendly efforts for water conservation and management. Therefore, it is crucial to encourage MSMEs' participation in this course. 

Water is essential for a healthy life, and healthy populations are necessary to propel development on all fronts—a role that MSMEs can help with. Given the high cost of addressing the water and sanitation crisis, government-sponsored funds have to be made available for interested MSME entrepreneurs. This will speed up the process of providing effective sanitation and clean water to the general public. 

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