Aguaconsult completes a multi-city review of private sector engagement in FSM services in Africa
Many cities in Africa are expanding at such a rate which the local authorities struggle to provide basic services, including urban sanitation services. Networked sanitation (sewerage) services generally serves only a small proportion of African cities’ population, with the vast majority relying on on-site sanitation, particularly in low-income areas. Fecal sludge management (FSM) is a major, and often understated challenge in many of the cities in Africa, characterised by limited political interest and commitment, limited public finance allocation, inadequate infrastructure such as sludge transfer and treatment tanks, and relatively low-quality, unregulated private sector emptying services.
In September last year, Aguaconsult was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to undertake a review of experiences in engaging the private sector in FSM services. The review focussed on cities where BMGF and DFID had funded such initiatives, which included Accra, Blantyre, Dakar, Durban, Freetown and Kampala. The review team comprised of Will Tillett and Goufrane Mansour of Aguaconsult, and Joana Forte of I-San.
Whilst the initiatives in each city were unique in terms of the element of the sanitation value chain they focussed on (e.g. containment, collection, transport, treatment, re-use) and business models tested, there were common findings across the cities. These included, for example; the need for clear incentives for the private sector to service low-income segments of society, and to consider commercial as well as technological factors to enable this; the need for increased political commitment towards pro-poor service delivery; the challenges of formalising a relatively ‘underground’ private sector emptying industry, and approaches to gradually introduce regulatory mechanisms; and the need for sustained support to local authorities, to help them in their transition from their historical role as service providers, to enablers and overseers of services in their cities.