Water Services Management

Pro-poor Services

As of 2014, more than a half of the world’s population (54%) lived in cities, a percentage which is expected to rise to 66% by the year 2050 (UN-DESA, 2014). However, in Africa, an estimated 50% to 60% of the urban population live in informal settlements (Cross & Morel, 2005; UN-Habitat, 2013). In such low-income settlements, access to rudimentary services such as water and sanitation is a major challenge.

The major problem for water utility managers lies in the assumption that low-income settlements are “problem areas, associated mainly with extensive illegal connections, low payments and a high rate of disconnection” (Heymans et al 2014:3). As most water utilities are also expected to operate as commercially viable and autonomous service providers many water utilities face a ‘mixed mandate’ (Furlong 2015) of ensuring both social and commercial objectives. Service provision to low-income areas thus requires service modalities that are able to address the challenges of providing services in low-income areas, whilst also ensuring (financial) sustainability of the water utility. Under this theme the group analyzes what service modalities are currently implemented and assess the impact of these approaches on servicing the poor by analyzing the levels of service associated with these service modalities.

Focus of the theme

  1. Approaches to pro-poor service provisioning: Pro-poor service provisioning require service modalities that are able to address the challenges of providing services in low-income areas. Such modalities encompass technological, financial, organizational and societal dimensions. This focal point analyzes what service modalities are currently implemented and assess the impact of these approaches on servicing the poor by analyzing the levels of service associated with these service modalities.
  2. The Political-Economy of Pro-poor Service Provisioning: Water utilities do not operate in a vacuum. They provide service within a specific socio-political and economic context in which numerous groups and stakeholders exist who have an interest of some kind in the water services sector. These stakeholders include the powerful producer stakeholders (politicians, trade unions and engineers), but also consumer stakeholders and the actual service providers themselves. Political economy analysis of pro-poor service provisioning strategies focuses on the Interests and incentives facing different stakeholders and how these influence decisions regarding service modalities for servicing the poor. In this process an important role is played by formal institutions, informal social, political and cultural norms that inform these decisions. 

Coordinator: Klaas Schwartz