SOAS University of London

Centre for Water and Development

SOAS Water Group Research: Water Service Delivery

2010 to date: Urban Water Provision in Sub-Saharan Africa:

The Role of the Domestic Private Sector in Accelerating MDG Progress (for UNDP)

Much attention has been focused on the international private sector and large scale privatisation as a means to improve water provision. Meanwhile, the domestic private sector has been playing an active role in service delivery – sometimes as a default response to the failings of the utility and sometimes as a result of a direct policy initiative. This research project aims to deepen understanding of the outcomes from engagement of the domestic private sector in the delivery of water and to consider appropriate policy implications for donors and governments. Key research questions include:

  • How far and in what way is the domestic private sector involved in the delivery of water in SSA – both as providers and as subcontractors?
  • How are low-income households served by the private sector?
  • What are the incentives, opportunities and threats for different private enterprises participating in water service delivery (as provider and / or subcontractor)?  
  • What is the relationship between the private sector and the state (for example, in terms of legislation, contractual relationships, regulation, competition between state and private sector areas of operation)?
  • What are the policy implications for the findings? What would be appropriate interventions of donors and governments to support equitable service delivery?

SOAS Contact: Kate Bayliss,

2009-2010: Municipal Services Project:

Mapping of ‘Successful’ Public and Community Water Provision in Africa (with Africa Water Network)

SOAS is contributing to the Municipal Services Project which aims to explore cases of successful alternatives to privatisation and commercialisation of water/sanitation, electricity and health across Asia, Africa and Latin America. SOAS is working on the initial mapping stage of water in Africa. The aim is to bring together cases of successful public and / or community provision of water in the region to consider lessons and alternative policy options to privatisation of service delivery.

SOAS Contact: Kate Bayliss,

2009-2010: Strengthening inclusion of the low-income households in investments in urban water and sanitation

(with Overseas Development Institute, for WaterAid)

This study examines three urban water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa supported by the International Development Association (IDA). The aim is to assess the extent to which low-income households are successfully targeted in project planning, design and implementation. The aim of the research is to inform dialogue between governments, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the World Bank. The report informed Wateraid’s Memorandum to UK IDC on World Bank.

SOAS Contact: Kate Bayliss,