African Water Utilities Together Explore New Ways to Face Challenges

Utility companies in Africa are working to improve their performance in order to reach more people with water and sanitation services. A proven method for improving performance is through partnering with other water utilities from across the region, utilities with expertise in one area (e.g. billing) can partner with others who are weak in that area but may have expertise in others (e.g. monitoring and evaluation). Both utilities can then improve their performance, providing better services to the community as a whole.
Although these utility-to-utility partnerships can be very effective, they can be difficult to establish and maintain. Water Operator Partnerships (WOPs) are organizational bodies that provide effective and sustainable governance for these partnerships. They provide an umbrella under which public and private, domestic, and international organizations can come together to improve the utilities’ performance, thereby improving service provision to the community.
Seventy water and sanitation utilities from 30 African nations attended the first WOP meeting in Johannesburg in April 2007, indicating the high level of interest from the utilities. After this meeting, the WOP in Africa initiated a continent-wide benchmarking exercise with 140 utilities participating. The benchmarking exercise identified leading utilities, and those that needed greater assistance, under a wide number of parameters.  The benchmarking discovered which utilities serve the greatest number of people, which serve the highest proportion of the population, and which have the lowest level of non-revenue water (water lost to broken pipes and illegal connections).
Three sub-regional workshops were held in Kampala, Uganda; Dakar, Senegal; and Maseru, Lesotho to validate the findings of the benchmarking activity and to begin developing strategic learning partnerships. The workshops were attended by utilities, government bodies, and international organizations. At the workshop, the utilities used the benchmarking results to discuss key performance indicators across countries and regions. It also enabled utilities to frame discussions on their strengths and weaknesses, identify best practices, and identify the most beneficial utility-to-utility partnerships for development of the sector. 
The benchmarking results provided factual information to guide corporate decisions, which enhances strategy development and implementation. Discussing the results with other utilities helped participants focus on ways to improve services (process benchmarking), instead of merely diagnosing the source of the problem. To see a summary of the draft benchmarking study, please see the presentations made during the workshops, below.
Please click on the link to see the agenda for the workshops and to view the presentations made.
 WSP has worked with UN Habitat to support the WOP-Africa program which is a joint initiative of the African Water Association (AfWA), and the Eastern & Southern Africa Region of the International Water Association (ESAR-IWA).  
WSP, along with other partners, helps to facilitate many of the activities that take place under the partnership and assists the partnership as a member of the program committee.
The WOP Secretariat will use the results of the workshops to define the work program. To read more on the WOP in Africa, including its themes and structure, please see the brochure.
Contact Name: 
Vivian Castro
Contact Email: