01/03/19Global Issues 

AquaFed Viewpoint - Private operators can play a much bigger role in international development on water

Private operators can play a much bigger role in international development on water

22 February 2019

Governments from around the world continue to support efforts to increase access to water and sanitation services in developing countries. As well as financial support, ministries from developed countries also offer technical assistance and convene expertise. However, private operators’ skills are not being utilised. Their huge potential to boost WASH services and help meet SDG6 targets are not being harnessed. AquaFed has written to the German government and other ministries, calling for private operators to be brought in to add further value to existing international development efforts.

Key Messages

  • The crucial role the private sector must play in achieving SDG6 targets was recognised at the UN High Level Political Forum in 2018.
  • Private operators can support public authorities in making utilities more efficient, which in turn will enable the utility to attract wider sources of finance that it needs.
  • Tax-payers money is used for international development work, and greater utilisation of private operator expertise can mean that these funds are used more effectively and efficiently.

Recently, the German government declared it will increase funds for water management in developing countries in Africa. These partnerships will assist countries in developing their water and sanitation systems and services.

However, as we know, inefficient utilities and water and sanitation services, an inability to recover costs and weak governance, continue to hold back many countries’ water and sanitation efforts across the world. These factors were highlighted again recently by many experts including Professor Rolfe Eberhard, through the excellent GIZ/OECD work on blended finance.

Also, at the UN High Level Political Forum last summer, leaders accepted the world is not on track to deliver Sustainable Development Goal 6. During the forum, the crucial role and the need for greater involvement of the private sector was recognised.  UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, said: “The 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved by Governments alone.  To address the needs of the most vulnerable in communities around the world, we need a bolder approach to partnership, a dynamically engaged business community, and new forms of sustainability financing. Businesses contribute to the 2030 Agenda in important ways:  as engines of employment; through technological innovation; as sources of finance; and with market-based solutions that bring opportunities for women, young people and vulnerable groups.”

Taking all these factors together, private water operators’ expertise and our capability to take functional risks and financial responsibility, means that we should also be an essential part of government efforts to improve water management in developing countries. Our members work every day under the control of public authorities across the world. We also have many-years-experience working alongside public operators for example under the Global Water Operators Partnership of the UN (GWOPA), and through other international fora such as the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership.

We want to help make sure that public funds are best utilised to deliver real and crucially, sustainable and lasting change in developing countries. This involves development work that is delivery focused, with outcome-based contracts, and stronger incentives for long-term focused engineering and service-provision. Private operators stand ready to provide even further support on these crucial matters.



(photo: Courtesy of LYSA Group, AquaFed's member with operations in Haiti, SESAM)