Marson, Marta
Urban water services in Sub Saharan Africa: access, private sector involvement and technical paradigm. [Tesi di dottorato]
Università degli Studi dell'Insubria, 2015 : Italy

The thesis analyses the water supply sector in the Sub Saharan African region, focusing on the challenges experienced by the water utilities to fulfil their mandates, in a context of rapid urbanization. In September 2000, building upon a decade of major United Nations (UN) conferences and summits, world leaders came together at UN Headquarters in New York to adopt the Resolution A/RES/55/2, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets - with a deadline in 2015 - that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The goal number 7 was “Ensure environmental sustainability” and it included the Target 7.C which is to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”. The water MDG is dramatically off track in Sub Saharan Africa, with only 64% of the population covered in 2012 instead of the expected 77.5% (WHO and UNICEF 2014). These poor performances are driven by urban areas, where the water supply coverage through household connections declined while the access through other improved sources, like public taps, private hand pumps and protected wells, hardly compensated for that. This calls for a reconsideration of the policies implemented in the sector following the prescriptions of the neoliberal agenda for the sector. In the ‘80s and ‘90s policymakers from International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and donors agencies designed a set of recipes to address poor performances of the urban water services in the developing world. This happened in the context of structural adjustment policies, such as trade liberalization, labor market reforms, financial deregulation and privatization of State Owned Enterprises (SOE). In the water sector, these orientations were translated into decentralization, private sector participation, commercialization and corporatization of water utilities, with the shift of governments from providers to regulators. The thesis studies some of the devices and solutions typically adopted by the reformed utilities and justified by the expectation of positive outcomes for the access to water by the poor The work shows however that some of these devices gained a certain degree of autonomy from access goals and became a priority as such, to be pursued by water utilities regardless their impacts and interaction with key social dimensions. This phenomenon was in some cases favoured by a biased attitude of water sector practitioners, benchmarking regulation and donors. The work highlights that in some cases the reform solutions do not contribute to the achievement of the declared objectives, while their implementation can divert scarce resources and attention from key sector priorities. Cost recovery, Private Sector Participation and household level metering issues are analysed. The work is organized in three parts. The first part proposes a review of the main notions and issues addressed by water economics (chapter 1), with particular attention to developing countries. The second part is divided into three chapters, closely linked together for their arguments but conceived as autonomous papers and characterized by different methodological approaches: the first is quantitative, the second and the third are more qualitative in nature and they include original findings from interviews on the Lilongwe Water Board, a water utility from Malawi. The second chapter focuses on the problems of cost recovery and access to drinking water in Sub Saharan Africa. A model explaining the dynamics in water coverage which accounts for financial performances of utilities is proposed. The data set covers 25 countries in the Sub Saharan region from 1995 to 2012. The results suggest that the access to water depends upon financial results, but this relationship is not linear: with increasing returns for relatively low levels of cost recovery and decreasing returns beyond a certain threshold. The results are consistent with the literature about the risks associated with corporatization and neoliberal reforms in the water sector, and they provide some supporting quantitative evidence and recommendations for sector policies in the region. The third chapter refers to the Light Private Sector Involvement initiatives in the Sub Saharan Africa water supply sector, considering in particular efficiency improvements, aid effectiveness and related policy implications. The study analyses the determinants that can incentivize or discourage the partners of light forms of Private Sector Involvement (PSI) initiatives to achieve the expected results in the water supply sector in the Sub Saharan Africa region. This is done through a review of case studies involving management and service contracts, which are the lightest and lower risk forms of public-private partnership. While five cases are taken from the available literature, the sixth includes contributions from original research on Lilongwe Water Board (Malawi). The chapter considers the incentives to perform for both the private and the public partner, as determined by the contracts and by the wider context. The incentives necessary for both parties to engage in the partnership are also considered, jointly with the costs of creating these preconditions. The study concludes that the allocation of risks and decision making power are among the drivers of poor performances by light PSI initiatives. Moreover, as most partnerships are financed by development projects, the study discusses the policy implications of promoting these PSI initiatives. The fourth chapter analyses the priorities and tools for Water Demand Management in urban Africa, focusing on household level water metering. The study presents an analysis of the issues associated with water metering at household level by utilities in low income areas or informal settlements of Sub Saharan African cities. Metering is considered a key tool for water demand management and recommended as a good practice in the water supply sector but, while its benefits are clearly spelled out by donors and development agencies, its costs and shortcomings are seldom considered. The chapter analyses such challenges, based on the available literature and on an original case study on Lilongwe Water Board (Malawi). It is argued that the technical paradigm of metered household level connection can be in some cases a constraint to the connection of low income households, due to the high cost and complexity of the practices associated to this paradigm, while the benefits in terms of demand management are not straightforward. Some alternatives to universal household level metering are also identified. Finally, in the last part of the work the findings from the studies presented are summarized and some conclusions and recommendations are drawn about the importance of better focusing on the priority of water access, encompassing a wider set of operational solutions.

diritti: open

Tesi di dottorato. | Lingua: Inglese. | Paese: | BID: TD18039852