USAID’s African Cities for the Future Program Improving WASH for Urban Africa

WSUP Kenya coordinator Kariuko Mugo visits Navaisha frequently and presents on all aspects of WASH.
GAINING NEW GROUND: WSUP Kenya coordinator Kariuko Mugo visits Navaisha frequently and presents on all aspects of WASH.
WSUP Kenya

Urban and peri-urban communities in Africa have grown rapidly in recent years posing serious water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenges for low income residents.

In Kenya, WASH stresses are severe and correspond to a rapidly expanding urban population, which the United Nations estimates as 40,863,000 for 2010 and expects to grow to over 57,000,000 by 2025. Yet, Kenyan Kariuki Mugo has reason to be optimistic about what he views as significant progress for WASH in Kenya through USAID's African Cities for the Future Program (ACF), a WASH grant specifically targeting the special needs of Africa's expanding urban areas.

Mugo is a Program Manager for Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), a not-for-profit multi-sector partnership based in London, which implements the grant program in five African nations: Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, and Mozambique.

The program works to raise regard for the urban poor as viable customers. "WASH for the poor is my passion," said Mugo, who trained as a civil engineer, and worked on rural WASH until 2005 but now focuses on pro-poor urban WSUP projects. Some of the WASH successes Mugo points to in Kenya include providing new water service for the poor, addressing technical deficiencies such as water leakage, and bringing low income consumer representation into new distribution relationships.

"We intend to demonstrate to institutions and policy makers that these WASH successes can be taken to another level." The partnership teams with service providers and communities in Kenya and other ACF countries to create new business and institutional arrangements. One way of achieving this is by having representatives for the urban poor serve on stakeholder steering committees for WASH projects.

Outside the Kenyan capital, too, in Naivasha, WSUP is demonstrating concrete progress in all WASH areas. The African Cities for the Future Naivasha project, which Mugo directs, focuses on three peri-urban settlements around the famous Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley. The Naivasha settlements sprang up because of new agri-business, much of which grew out of Kenya's flower exporting industry. Unable to fulfill the employment hopes for Kenyans drawn to this area, these settlements were even less equipped to provide for the WASH needs of Naivasha's approximately 300,000 new residents.

Mugo describes three central challenges the partnership faced for water service in Naivasha: the undeveloped state of the local water company; the weak and informal institutional relationships between the regional regulator, small service providers, and consumers; and the fact that Naivasha is, in fact, "a water scarce town with too much fluoride in the water," which is especially unhealthy over time.

Local water peddlers, who drew from the lake or drilled wells, serviced most of Naivasha's new residents but charged exorbitant prices for unsafe water. The African Cities for the Future program brought these informal servicers into a restructured water provision system, with formalized relationships with Rift Valley Water Services Board, the official water supply asset owner and regional service provision regulator. By formalizing these relationships, Mugo and his team demonstrated that low income Naivasha residents are genuine customers with real market potential.

The results are encouraging. "We have managed to mainstream informal water supply businesses into a regulated structure," said Mugo. "Now, people drink potable water much more cheaply." In fact, in Naivasha, more than 11,000 people now have more regular and higher-quality water service and pay 80% less for it.

USAID's ACF technical representative, Tony Kolb added, "In Naivasha they are taking a very interesting approach with local entrepreneurs having the partnership step in, organize them, and link all to a water utility service. This approach has great potential in other similar small African communities."

Mugo also has not shied away from the sanitation challenge for Naivasha. So far, WSUP-ACF has helped establish approximately 50 latrine centers and raised hygiene awareness and demand for sanitation goods and services. Additionally, Mugo is working with small local entrepreneurs to develop a sanitation market and begin addressing the sanitation needs of poor Naivasha households. "With adequate funding," Mugo explained, "we can now pull different components into a sanitation market and drive sustainable, market-based sanitation forward."

The real impact of the partnership's work is also being felt in the other ACF countries. For example, in Maputo, Mozambique, WSUP has facilitated new piped water access for almost 30,000 people and reduced the price residents pay by over 50%. In Kumasi, Ghana, WSUP-ACF is teaming up with WSUP member-company Unilever to develop local entrepreneurs that will sustainably service latrines in urban neighborhoods.

WSUP's Andy Narracott, the ACF program coordinator, said that ACF efforts in Nairobi are already very encouraging. "As a result of the grant program, plans are being made by the water company to extend low-cost sewered sanitation approaches to all informal settlements across the city," he said.

For Narracott, the upshot of African Cities for the Future is a new WASH approach for Africa's urban poor. "At the beginning of the process, water companies or local governments saw extending services to the poor as high risk. With USAID's ACF grant we are bridging that gap by demonstrating that the poor can be viable customers."

"The African Cities for the Future legacy," Mugo added, "will be to raise the standard of work and how we do our WASH business." R. BlausteinUrban and peri-urban communities in Africa have grown rapidly in recent years posing serious water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenges for low income residents.

In Kenya, WASH stresses are severe and correspond to a rapidly expanding urban population, which the United Nations estimates as 40,863,000 for 2010 and expects to grow to over 57,000,000 by 2025. Yet, Kenyan Kariuki Mugo has reason to be optimistic about what he views as significant progress for WASH in Kenya through USAID's African Cities for the Future Program (ACF), a WASH grant specifically targeting the special needs of Africa's expanding urban areas.

Mugo is a Program Manager for Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), a not-for-profit multi-sector partnership based in London, which implements the grant program in five African nations: Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, and Mozambique. The program works to raise regard for the urban poor as viable customers. "WASH for the poor is my passion," said Mugo, who trained as a civil engineer, and worked on rural WASH until 2005 but now focuses on pro-poor urban WSUP projects. Some of the WASH successes Mugo points to in Kenya include providing new water service for the poor, addressing technical deficiencies such as water leakage, and bringing low income consumer representation into new distribution relationships.

"We intend to demonstrate to institutions and policy makers that these WASH successes can be taken to another level." The partnership teams with service providers and communities in Kenya and other ACF countries to create new business and institutional arrangements. One way of achieving this is by having representatives for the urban poor serve on stakeholder steering committees for WASH projects.

Outside the Kenyan capital, too, in Naivasha, WSUP is demonstrating concrete progress in all WASH areas. The African Cities for the Future Naivasha project, which Mugo directs, focuses on three peri-urban settlements around the famous Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley. The Naivasha settlements sprang up because of new agri-business, much of which grew out of Kenya's flower exporting industry. Unable to fulfill the employment hopes for Kenyans drawn to this area, these settlements were even less equipped to provide for the WASH needs of Naivasha's approximately 300,000 new residents.

Mugo describes three central challenges the partnership faced for water service in Naivasha: the undeveloped state of the local water company; the weak and informal institutional relationships between the regional regulator, small service providers, and consumers; and the fact that Naivasha is, in fact, "a water scarce town with too much fluoride in the water," which is especially unhealthy over time. Local water peddlers, who drew from the lake or drilled wells, serviced most of Naivasha's new residents but charged exorbitant prices for unsafe water. The African Cities for the Future program brought these informal servicers into a restructured water provision system, with formalized relationships with Rift Valley Water Services Board, the official water supply asset owner and regional service provision regulator. By formalizing these relationships, Mugo and his team demonstrated that low income Naivasha residents are genuine customers with real market potential.

The results are encouraging. "We have managed to mainstream informal water supply businesses into a regulated structure," said Mugo. "Now, people drink potable water much more cheaply." In fact, in Naivasha, more than 11,000 people now have more regular and higher-quality water service and pay 80% less for it.

USAID's ACF technical representative, Tony Kolb added, "In Naivasha they are taking a very interesting approach with local entrepreneurs having the partnership step in, organize them, and link all to a water utility service. This approach has great potential in other similar small African communities."

Mugo also has not shied away from the sanitation challenge for Naivasha. So far, WSUP-ACF has helped establish approximately 50 latrine centers and raised hygiene awareness and demand for sanitation goods and services. Additionally, Mugo is working with small local entrepreneurs to develop a sanitation market and begin addressing the sanitation needs of poor Naivasha households. "With adequate funding," Mugo explained, "we can now pull different components into a sanitation market and drive sustainable, market-based sanitation forward."

The real impact of the partnership's work is also being felt in the other ACF countries. For example, in Maputo, Mozambique, WSUP has facilitated new piped water access for almost 30,000 people and reduced the price residents pay by over 50%. In Kumasi, Ghana, WSUP-ACF is teaming up with WSUP member-company Unilever to develop local entrepreneurs that will sustainably service latrines in urban neighborhoods.

WSUP's Andy Narracott, the ACF program coordinator, said that ACF efforts in Nairobi are already very encouraging. "As a result of the grant program, plans are being made by the water company to extend low-cost sewered sanitation approaches to all informal settlements across the city," he said.

For Narracott, the upshot of African Cities for the Future is a new WASH approach for Africa's urban poor. "At the beginning of the process, water companies or local governments saw extending services to the poor as high risk. With USAID's ACF grant we are bridging that gap by demonstrating that the poor can be viable customers."

"The African Cities for the Future legacy," Mugo added, "will be to raise the standard of work and how we do our WASH business."

R. Blaustein

For more information, visit:

http://africancitiesforthefuture.wordpress.com/

Last updated: September 27, 2013

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