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Water Crisis; Is Private Sector the Ultimate Solution?

Water Crisis; Is Private Sector the Ultimate Solution?

In the words of Ryunosuke Satoro, “Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean.”

The achievement of SDG 6 i.e., to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all by 2030 is increasingly becoming a burdensome dream for most countries. Water affects all aspects of our lives and touches on most, if not all, of the SDGs, namely:

  • SDG 2: Zero hunger,
  • SDG 3: Good health and well -being,
  • SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy,
  • SDG 14: Life below water, and
  • SDG 15: Life on land.

World Bank statistics show that 1 billion people have no access to clean water while 2.5 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation facilities. This situation has been exacerbated by the negative effects of climate change that has led to the drying up of water reservoirs and flooding in agricultural productive areas causing destruction of human lives, animals, and properties.

Kenya Innovative Finance Facility for Water(KIFFWA)
Image courtesy of the United Nations

The heavy burden of eliminating human suffering is mainly borne by governments. More specifically, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that every person has access to clean water and sanitation. In view of this, it has become apparent over the years that the government cannot deliver on this mandate without the support of the private sector. There is a global push for the private sector to play their part in assisting governments in the provision of bulk water for domestic use and irrigation purposes and to improve sanitation services. Kenya has not been left behind in this call to action as evidenced by the recent statement by President William Ruto that called on the private sector to invest in the water sector so as to reduce the burden on the government. The Kenyan government particularly highlighted the dire situation in the arid and semi-arid areas of the country where 3.5 million people are facing starvation because of famine and drought that has ravaged these areas for the last 3 years. Historically, provision of water has been a reserve of the national government and, by extension, the county government.

This move is welcomed by the Kenya Innovative Finance Facility for Water (KIFFWA), which has invested in a project that seeks to supply water to a local utility company through a bulk water purchase agreement. Through this project, residents in the Western part of the country will enjoy uninterrupted and quality waterflow from their taps as the private developer will supplement the water being supplied by the county government during the period when water is scarce.

The advantage of using this private sector-led model is that the journey to attainment of SDG 6 will be more feasible as more people will have access to clean water and sanitation. On the other hand, the set tariffs by the government acts as an impediment to private sector investment which sees a huge risk in there being no returns on their investments. For the private sector impact to be fully felt, government must involve the players in policy formulation and implementation and remove the red tapes that slows down service delivery in this crucial sector.

Achievement of SDG 6 might appear to be a far-fetched dream as of now, the collaboration between government and the private sector could unlock the jam and ensure that access to clean water and sanitation is available to more people. This act alone will restore dignity to the people especially in rural areas and peri-urban areas who for a long time have suffered shortage of water and lack of proper sanitation facilities.

The writer Duncan Onyango is the Executive Chairman of the Kenya Innovative Finance Facility of Water (KIFFWA)

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