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Eight things we know about water and electricity utilities in Africa

Luis Andres's picture

Infrastructure is one of the most important forces driving economic growth and poverty reduction.Yet Africa’s infrastructure networks lag increasingly behind those of other developing countries in providing telecom, electricity, and water supply and sanitation services. Two-thirds of the population in the region lacks access to electricity and five out of six people don't have access to piped water. The people and industries that do have services pay twice as much as those outside Africa, further reducing regional competitiveness and growth. As cities continue to flood with migrants looking for better economic opportunities, power and water utilities are being challenged to improve the services offered to existing and new users. Given scarce resources and competing development priorities, it is essential to establish ways of using resources (and knowledge!) more effectively. 

Delivering water and sanitation services in Niger: challenges and results

Taibou Adamou Maiga's picture

Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries (44.5% of poverty incidence in 2014). The country faces a number of challenges in meeting the national (PROSEHA, the National Program for sustainable development) and global targets to increase access to sanitation and potable water, particularly in rural areas where the access to water is 44.2% and 7% for sanitation (2015 Ministry of Water and Sanitation data).

Overcoming these challenges while satisfying increasing demands for better or expanded service, the government began investigating options that bring in the know-how of the private sector. This has led to a growing domestic private sector provision of services in Niger.

How can water utilities provide reliable water to poor people in African cities?

Chris Heymans's picture
Urban Africa: Rapidly growing and densifying.
Photo Credit: Kathy Eales / World Bank

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 targets “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”. However, in Africa’s fast-growing cities, just accessing water is a daily struggle for many poor families. While Africa’s urban population is expected to triple by 2050, the proportion of people with improved water supply has barely grown since 1990, and the share of those with water piped to their premises has declined from 43 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 2015. Poor families bear the brunt of these inadequacies through poor health, the long time required to collect water, and higher costs when purchasing from on-sellers’.

However, some cities stand out as exceptions. What can we learn from cities and utilities that successfully provide reliable and safe water to almost all of their inhabitants? A study I led recently, Providing Water to Poor People in African Cities Effectively: Lessons from Utility Reforms, analyzed how the water utilities in Kampala, Nyeri, Dakar, Ouagadougou and Durban achieved stand-out performance, and how this made a difference for the poor people in these cities.

6 étapes clés pour renforcer la voix des consommateurs dans secteur de l'eau et de l'assainissement à travers des plateformes TIC

Fadel Ndaw's picture
Also available in: English

Le Programme Eau et Assainissement (WSP) de la Banque mondiale (a) vient de terminer une importante étude sur la façon de valoriser le potentiel des technologies de  l'information et de la communication (TIC) pour 'améliorer les services d'eau et d'assainissement en Afrique. Il est admis que la promotion de la participation du public et la création d'un système de transparence et de reddition des comptes sont des préalables pour permettre aux pauvres d’avoir accès à des services améliorés d'eau et d'assainissement [1]. Les expériences et les leçons tirées de différentes applications TIC à partir des résultats de l'étude suggèrent que les 6 étapes clés suivantes sont  façon de soutenir la conception et la mise en œuvre des outils TIC pour renforcer la voix des consommateurs dans le secteur de l'eau et de l'assainissement qui suit:


6 ways to strengthen consumer voice in water and sanitation sector through ICT platforms

Fadel Ndaw's picture
Also available in: Français
Source: Akvo FLOW

A new study was recently carried out by the Water Global Practice’s Water and Sanitation Program on how to unlock the potential of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to improve Water and Sanitation Services in Africa. The study suggests that promoting public participation and creating a system of transparency and accountability is critical to improve water and sanitation services to the poor [1] – as identified in earlier studies on the characteristics of well-performing public water utilities. The experiences and lessons learned from the study indicate the following six key ways on how to support the design and implementation of ICT tools to strengthen consumer voice and citizen engagement in the water and sanitation sector.

Working on water across borders: Spillover benefits for the SDGs

Jonathan Kamkwalala's picture
At the heels of the Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations in New York this past weekend, an operations team from the World Bank’s Water Global Practice (GP) is meeting with international development partners and African implementing partner organizations in Zambia this week as part of the fourth annual advisory committee meeting of the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) program, with deep commitment and support from the Governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The timing is coincidental, but symbolically significant: water management will be key to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set the wider global development agenda for the next 15 years. In much of the world, managing water resources means working across borders in transboundary river basins, adding complexity to realizing SDG #6, to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

5 avantages potentiels de l'intégration des TIC dans vos projets d'eau et d'assainissement

Fadel Ndaw's picture
Also available in: English

Le Programme Eau et Assainissement (WSP) de la Banque mondiale vient de terminer une importante étude sur la façon de valoriser le potentiel des technologies de l'information et de la communication (TIC) pour 'améliorer les services d'eau et d'assainissement en Afrique. Selon un rapport du GSMA, en 2014, 52% de tous les déploiements d’outils de transfert d'argent via le téléphone mobile à l’échelle mondiale se trouvaient en Afrique subsaharienne et 82% des Africains avaient accès à une couverture GSM. En comparaison, seulement 63% avaient accès à l'eau potable et 32% à l'électricité. Cette adoption rapide de technologies-mobile en Afrique offre une occasion unique pour la région de faire face au manque criard de données et d'informations sur les infrastructures d'eau et d'assainissement existants et leur gestion actuelle - une barrière pour l'extension des services aux pauvres.

5 potential benefits of integrating ICTs in your water and sanitation projects

Fadel Ndaw's picture
Also available in: Français

A new study was recently carried out by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank on how to unlock the potential of Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) to improve Water and Sanitation Services in Africa[1]. According to a Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) report[2], in 2014 52% of all global mobile money deployments were in Sub Saharan Africa and 82% of Africans had access to GSM coverage. Comparatively, only 63% had access to improved water and 32% had access to electricity. This early adoption of mobile-to-web technologies in Africa provides a unique opportunity for the region to bridge the gap between the lack of data and information on existing water and sanitation assets and their current management — a barrier for the extension of the services to the poor.

Innovating through the 'valley of death'

Kristoffer Welsien's picture
Water flow sensor tested in rural Tanzania.
​Photo credit: WellDone

In December 2013, I was excited to receive funding through an Innovation Challenge Award to pilot water flow sensors in rural Tanzania, where the sustainability of rural water supply is a major development challenge. Approximately 38% of rural water points are not functioning properly. The sensor we wanted to develop would remotely monitor flow, making it easier to deliver operational information to the Ministry of Water’s water point mapping system.

The pilot brought one of the first 3D printers to Tanzania and we connected the American start-up WellDone International to the local non-governmental organization (NGO) Msabi. The project team implemented the gadget effectively, and my colleagues at the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) and I navigated the procurement and implementation challenges. The pilot ended successfully in June of 2014 and we were proud of our achievement in bringing an innovative ICT solution to the Tanzanian rural water sector. 

World Toilet Day: The link between gender equality and sanitation

Junaid Kamal Ahmad's picture

​​Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Group Senior Director for Water, and Caren Grown, World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender, wrote a blog for Thomson Reuters Foundation ahead of World Toilet Day. Read the blog below, which originally appeared in Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Advancing equality for women in developing countries is not only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense.

Gender equality enhances productivity, improves well-being, and renders governing bodies more representative. And yet around the world, discriminatory laws, preferences, and social norms ensure that girls and women learn less, earn less, own less, enjoy far fewer opportunities to achieve their potential, and suffer disproportionately in times of scarcity or shock.