Development Dialogue: PPPs for Small-Scale Water Providers : Challenge Profile

Small Scale Public-Private Partnerships: improving access to water and sanitation services for the poor

Across the developing world, millions of people rely on the private sector for their daily water and sanitation needs. In the majority of cases, the providers of these essential services are not large multinational corporations, but local entrepreneurs operating on a small scale – businesses that see selling water and sanitation services to the poor as market opportunities like any other.

“Base-of-the-pyramid” markets such as this grow out of exclusion. They are home to the unserved, comprised of people that public services have failed to provide for. Market potential is tremendous, as the numbers show: 1 billion people still practice open defecation, 2.5 billion people use shared or unimproved sanitation facilities, and 768 million people rely on unimproved sources for drinking water.

The paradox is that this large market is dominated by small, local enterprises. Once viewed as opportunists profiting from peoples’ most basic needs, these private sector enterprises are now recognized as offering valuable services to the poor – services that would otherwise have been out of reach. Now, small-scale private entrepreneurs are increasingly being seen as part of the solution to increasing access to water and sanitation for the poor.

This conversation will look at the role of public-private partnerships in increasing access to affordable, reliable clean water and safe sanitation through small-scale providers. By sharing examples of what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s needed to scale up these innovative models of last-mile delivery of water and sanitation, we’re providing creative solutions with the potential to change peoples’ lives.