A key part of the ACF program is to develop the capacity of the main water supply providers in helping them provide services to low-income urban communities. One of the ways we’ve found works well is to facilitate exchange visits between African utilities, to learn from each other and build a sense of solidarity whilst growing confidence in being able to serve this hard to reach consumer-segment of the population.
In March 2012, ACF facilitated a visit by Managers of Ghana Urban Water Company and the regulator PURC to Nairobi Water Company in Kenya and Lusaka Water Company in Zambia. The purpose of the visit was for the Ghanaian delegates to learn from their Kenyan and Zambian counterparts in structuring their organization and capacity needs to serve low income communities. The delegates visited low-income areas of Nairobi and Lusaka, looking at different service delivery models that the water utilities have demonstrated in partnership with WSUP, including delegated management models, water kiosks, multi-service latrine blocks, low-cost sewerage, to name a few.
All the participants engaged in lively debate, sharing lessons learnt, including such things as the number one priority of early community engagement before any service improvements take place, reflecting the need for sociological capacity within the company, not just technical capacity. They talked about the need to spread the costs of connection charges into the tariff to overcome the high upfront cost barrier faced by the poor. Also a common theme was the need to improve communications with low-income consumers, particularly about how electricity outages effect the quality of supply.
Staff of Ghana Urban Water Company reported a number of concrete steps they would take home with them. The need for a specific pro-poor department surfaced strongly, and ACF will continue to support this dialogue within the Company.