Engaging with the private sector for urban onsite sanitation services lessons from six Sub-Saharan African cities

Author: Will Tillett
Date: January 2, 2018
Client: BMGF 
Donor: DFID
Regions: Western Africa, Southern Africa, Eastern Africa, 
Countries:  Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Malawi, 

The rapid pace of urbanization experienced across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) poses a challenge to local authorities, who often struggle to match the rate of expansion with adequate basic services. With regards to sanitation services, onsite technologies prevails – less than 10% of SSA’ population has access to a sewerage network. Despite this reliance on pit toilets and septic tanks, the engagement of local authorities in ensuring adequate services, such as emptying, transport and treatment of fecal sludge is limited. Cities are plagued by the absence of adequate infrastructure (from collection to treatment) and low political prioritization for onsite sanitation services, reflected in limited public resources allocation. Services are predominantly provided by the private sector, but often in the absence of regulations, with negative consequences on environment and services inclusion.

It is in this context that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), together with the UK Department for International Development launched the Partnership Cities Project, which aimed to support city authorities in developing onsite sanitation services. The Project supported a total of six grantees in SSA cities, including Accra, Blantyre, Dakar, Durban, Freetown and Kampala, in designing and implementing service delivery models for urban sanitation. All projects aimed to strengthen private sector participation in the delivery of services, including though Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs).

Lessons from this review indicate that projects succeeded in improving onsite sanitation services at city-level through the development of much needed infrastructure. In Accra, Dakar and Durban, the Project contributed to funding Fecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTPs), while public toilers were rehabilitated and constructed in Blantyre. In Accra and Dakar, where private operators were already in managing the FSTPs under PPP agreements, there was evidence of improved service levels with regards to treatment services provided to urban populations. Overall projects contributed to increase awareness of city authorities of urban sanitation needs and their capacity to develop appropriate solutions. In Kampala, the project supported Kampala City Council Authority in “bridging the gap” with private operators, through the development of licensing and FSM operations standards. Innovative approaches were also deployed in several cities, including the setting-up of a guarantee fund for facilitating access to finance for fecal sludge emptiers and call centers that increase competitiveness between truck operators.

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