Interest in market-based approaches to solving development challenges continues to grow. The water and sanitation sector is no exception, although discussion has been coloured by experience with public–private partnerships (PPPs). Yet the number of PPP contracts in the developing world is very limited, especially by comparison to the multitude of small, often informal, enterprises active in water or sanitation. With fewer than half of Africans connected to water or sewerage networks, arguably it is these smaller providers, many entrepreneurial in nature, that are most relevant to the development community. Whilst the existence of these providers has been known for some time, a workable modus operandi for engaging with them is still being developed. There are significant political and economic challenges to integrating them within public sector programmes. This article explores the different markets in water and sanitation provision and the roles that entrepreneurship plays. It argues that, with global interest in social entrepreneurship rising, the water and sanitation sector is well placed to capitalize on a hidden strength.
Should we view sanitation as just another business? The crucial role of sanitation entrepreneurship and the need for outside engagement
Poor sanitation has recently been identified by the World Health Organization as the root cause of the majority of child deaths worldwide. Sadly though, progress on sanitation delivery currently lags well behind other Millennium Development Goals.In developed countries, sanitation is typically the role of the water utility. In developing countries however, the sanitation market is dominated by small private providers, usually very local in nature and often benefiting from little outside support.As such, private sanitation providers, from retailers to masons, from public toilet operators to latrine-emptying businesses, are of vital importance to medium- and lower-income communities. Unlike in the water sector, where there is much debate over private versus public provision, the key issue is how to combine a largely private system with an appropriate regulatory and supportive role from the public sector.This article discusses the situation from the perspective of sanitation professionals, suggesting concrete ways to strengthen the urban sanitation market and thus accelerate progress towards a key pillar of human development.
Harnessing entrepreneurship in the water sector: expanding water services through independent network operators
Most water utilities in Africa struggle to serve even half of urban households falling under their mandate. Peri-urban districts and small towns fare especially badly; a widening gap is developing between the services offered by utilities and demand (fuelled by rapid population growth and urbanization). Typically this gap is filled by small-scale operators, many independent of the utility. Yet the risks these operators run are great - despite making significant investments, most are informal, and many are technically illegal. This paper focuses on one type of operator - those that invest their own funds in independent networks. Independent operators who work in perurban areas, often under the shadow of a public utility, are distinguished from those working in small towns, where the utility is not in evidence. Findings show that these operators are able to be innovative in the technical and financial arrangements of supplying to poor people, thus keeping down their charges. To improve their operation, interventions are suggested that can be brought about without major policy changes, and some changes that involve policy change.
Three aspects of urban sanitation are often ignored: the possibility of communal facilities, the lack of incentives for tenants to upgrade and the need for services to empty latrines. Partnerships between customers, service providers and others might help with these challenges.