Publication: The Limits and Possibilities of Prepaid Water in Urban Africa: Lessons from the Field

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Heymans, Christiaan
Eales, Kathy
Franceys, Richard
This study explores the potential of prepaid meters for serving urban poor communities. It provides urban utilities, oversight agencies, and other stakeholders in Africa with a basis for decision-making on the suitability, introduction, and management of such meters. The need for the assessment emerged from prepaid meters increasingly being utilized by water and sanitation utilities in developing countries, including World Bank clients. The technologies adopted have expanded over this period, but there has been a lack of consolidated data and analysis that capture the service delivery, operational efficiency, and access to services aspects of such systems across utilities and regions systematically. The review initially aimed to research experiences in six African countries from the perspective of their communities, as well as from water sector bodies, governments, and other investors. The number of case studies was increased to eight with the addition of Windhoek in Namibia and Nakuru in Kenya, as it became apparent that they may offer additional lessons. Windhoek, for example, is one of the prepaid water pioneers in Africa. The study specifically canvased the perspectives of customers, including market research and opinion surveys on people s experience and views of prepaid water in practice. Women and children were well represented in many of these groups. The analysis aimed to be robustly investigative, deliberately not advocating for prepaid systems in principle, or making firm recommendations, but rather offering balanced analysis and assessment, and considerations to inform policymakers and sector leaders, as well as other stakeholders who may face decisions or challenges on such systems. One of the key conceptual bases that the analysis identified was the need to differentiate between prepaid applications of prepaid system for standpipes, individual connections, and institutional and commercial customers each of which have different implications for their users, as well as for cost effectiveness. Utilities must be able to justify the investment in a prepayment system and its opportunity costs specific to the application they choose, and relative to alternative means of improving services.
Heymans, Christiaan; Eales, Kathy; Franceys, Richard. 2014. The Limits and Possibilities of Prepaid Water in Urban Africa : Lessons from the Field. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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