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The reality of water provision in urban Africa

This paper examines water and sanitation delivery in urban settings in sub-Saharan Africa. The paper draws on examples from several African countries including Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Ivory Coast, and Tanzania. The paper analyses some of the factors that impede the improvement of access to water across Africa.

The paper points out that statistics provided by governments and intergovernmental organisations such as WHO are often incorrect, either over-estimating or under-estimating the delivery of water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa. The paper also highlights that while the region is considered to be water-deprived, the problem of access is primarily cause by the efficiency in supply and use, and not so much by the quantity. It also argues that the mushrooming of informal entrepreneurs in the water and sanitation business has helped fill some of the gap created by public sector water and sanitation systems. Yet, many African governments are opposed their activities and see it as a drain on the system due to their informal nature.

The paper recommends that governments enact simple policies that would free entrepreneurs in the informal sector to continue with their service to the poor, rather than opposing them when the governments clearly are unable to meet the water and sanitation needs of their urban poor. [adapted from authors]