WDM in East Africa: reports from the World Social Forum and Tanzania

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Tuesday 30 January

It’s another hot day in Dar and I’ve had a series of fascinating meetings with civil society about the work they do here on water.

Yesterday I met Rose Mushi who is the Country Director for Action Aid Tanzania. Action Aid wrote a very good report on the water privatisation several years ago, which detailed the conditions and the use of aid to pay for consultants to help the water privatisation along. Written less than a year into the City Water/ Biwater contract, even at that point, it was clear that things were not going well for the UK company.

I’ve also had more discussions with the Tanzanian Gender Networking Programme. They were present at the WSF last week, and Gemma Akilimali tells me about their work in raising the issues of water as they affect women. She talks about the gender divide between women who have to collect water for the household and men – the small scale private vendors amongst others - who see it as a business and sell it on the street for a profit.

I’ve also met Johan Akilimali (no relation to Gemma) who is from Ubong district. He’s a teacher and he shares a house with a family of 5. They get water once a week in their house so they have to save it via tanks on the roof for the rest of the week. The water is not safe to drink and so they have the added expense of paying for charcoal to boil the water.

Anecdotally, people tell me that Dawasco - the new public provider - is trying hard. The top priorities of the new provider have been revenue collection, leakage control and improved customer relations. They’ve been working in a not-for-profit public-public partnership with the utility from Uganda (the National Water and Sewerage Authority), so that they don’t need to ‘re-invent the wheel’ on some of these things.

As Alex Kaaya the CEO of the DAWASCO told me, “Why should we experiment with plans when the Ugandans might have something which has worked there – maybe we can do that too.” That’s always been part of WDM’s rationale for pushing the idea of PUPs to donors like DFID – so it is good to find more evidence from a public water manager that they would like to work in this way.

Clearly it’s not an easy job to provide water in Dar – for example there is a major lay-off of staff underway – up to one-third of the utility’s staff are accepting redundancy, in a deal which has been agreed with the union.

But there are some wider questions in my mind too. For example, there is very little difference in the tariff paid by domestic users of water and industrial users and the plan is apparently to align them entirely. But a progressive pricing policy would normally differentiate between the two and expect industrial (usually the heavier users of water) to pay more. Apparently this tariff policy is set out in some paperwork somewhere, possibly as part of the agreement around the World Bank project (a project which started when Biwater was in Dar, and which continued after they left). This needs some follow up investigation.

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