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Have public private partnerships (PPPs) improved performance of urban water utilities in sub-saharan Africa? The case of Uganda

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conference contribution
posted on 04.07.2012, 10:08 by Sam KayagaSam Kayaga
Provision of water and sanitation services in many sub-Saharan African countries in the post-independence period was a preserve of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). However, as time went by, many SOEs failed to meet the expectations of their customers, governments and international funding agencies: neither could they adequately expand the infrastructure to serve the increasing urban population, nor could they efficiently operate/maintain existing infrastructure to provide good service levels to the existing customer base. Hence, international donor agencies, on which many developing countries relied for financing infrastructure development since the debt crisis of the 1980s, initially demanded for the restructuring of SOEs, and thereafter called for involvement of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the delivery of services. It was expected that the PPPs would not only attract the much needed infrastructure investments to the developing countries, but would also provide a new emphasis on a proactive, performance- and commercial-oriented management. As a result, since the late 1980s, international water operators have signed management, lease or concession contracts with water utilities in many developing countries. For instance, according to the World Bank’s database on private participation in infrastructure projects, by 2005, 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa had invited international water operators to provide water and sanitation services to urban areas. Nonetheless, the number of people with inadequate service levels for both water and sanitation in developing countries has been increasing. WHO/UNICEF estimates that the number of urban residents in the developing regions without access to safe water increased from 107 million in 1990 to 170 million in 2004, while for sanitation, the number increased from 475 million to 611 million in the same period. The situation is critical in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where it was estimated in 2004 that only 56% and 34% of the population had access an improved water source and basic sanitation, respectively. This paper traces the genesis of PPPs in SSA and provides general trends/scope of PPPs in the sub-continent, and how PPPs have contributed to improvements in service delivery. The paper also draws evidence from a detailed case study on Uganda, where water services in Kampala, the capital city were provided on two occasions through management contracts with different international private operators: between 1988 and 2001 by JB Gauff, a German firm; and between 2002 and 2004, by Ondeo International of France. The paper makes a comparative analysis of the performance trends of the water utility in Kampala during the period when services were being delivered under the PPP arrangements, with the post-2004 period when services are currently being delivered under the New Public Management model.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

Research Unit

  • Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC)


KAYAGA, S., 2009. Have public private partnerships (PPPs) improved performance of urban water utilities in sub-saharan Africa? The case of Uganda. IN: Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the US Allied Social Sciences Association, Transportation and Public Utilities Research Group, San Francisco, USA, 3-6 January 2009.


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This paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Transportation and Public Utilities Group (TPUG) San Francisco, USA 3-6 January 2009.



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