Poverty politics and governance of potable water services: the core–periphery syntax in Metropolitan Accra, Ghana

In developing countries, increasing urbanization amidst chronic financial constraints sharply limits the authorities’ ability to provide universal urban infrastructural services. This tendency creates complex networks of governance that remains largely understudied and not clearly understood. This article examines this nascent literature, focusing on Metropolitan Accra’s experience through the sustainable development goal lens: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. Based on the analysis of 26 in-depth interviews with key informants about the current processes, technologies and multiplicities of governance approaches, we demonstrate how the private sector does not only play a significant role in shaping the water dialogue but also has introduced its own modes of governance, which sometimes usurps preferences for public services. Ultimately, differences in procedural legalities and functionalities have spurred (un)healthy competition between the multiple governance modes, spearheaded by the private firms. Concluding, we caution that the multiplicity of management practices devoid of efficient and effective regulatory framework creates indecisive outcomes. Further, we suggest that the development of water-related capacity, both at the individual and institutional levels, will be fundamental in the realization of sustainable development goal 6 by 2030.