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Yes they can: SMEs filling the infrastructure gap in fragile countries

Yolanda Tayler's picture


Photo: Trocaire | Flickr Creative Commons

In war-torn post-1991 Somalia, running water was a scarce commodity, to the misfortune of millions of people. Members of local communities rose to the occasion, “pooling” consortia of companies to fill the gap in water provisions. Eight public-private partnerships (PPPs) were formed through these consortia, benefiting 70,000 people in the Puntland and Somaliland regions of the country.  

As demonstrated in the Somalia case, infrastructure needs are substantial in fragility, conflict and violence-affected (FCV) contexts—especially for recovery and reconstruction in war-torn areas. Yet often there is insufficient public sector funding to address such needs, compounded by lack of interest on the part of large private sector firms, who may not even be on the scene. In such FCV contexts, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), making up a substantial share of the private sector, may be critical to filling the infrastructure services gap.

Making public-private partnerships work for post-conflict countries

Jeff Delmon's picture
“The test of success is not what you do when you are on top,” as U.S. Army General George S. Patton Jr. famously said. “Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom.” 

In the context of countries that need rebuilding, public-private partnerships (PPPs) can lend extra oomph to the bounce, boosting post-conflict countries in cases where:
  • Government doesn’t have the money, skills, or people to deliver good services; or 
  • Even if it had the money, it couldn’t spend it well or fast enough, and/or 
  • Even if it could invest the money, any follow-up would be insufficient (see first bullet).