Improving Rwanda’s rural water supply through public-private partnerships

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Existing community managed systems in Rwanda suffered from a lack of accountability as well as low technical and administrative skills. This contributed to poor cost recovery and hampered the rehabilitation of water supply infrastructures, leading to many dysfunctional water points. SNV Netherlands Development Organisation facilitated the establishment of public-private partnerships between two public water utilities, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Aquavirunga, a private company that manages three water schemes. A crucial element of SNV's support was contributing to the capacity development of the local actors involved to enable them participate effectively in the partnerships.

Background: In a bid to tackle deficiencies in the operations and maintenance of rural water supply schemes previously managed by the community, the Rwandan Government moved to adopt a more business-like approach by introducing a new policy in 2004. The new policy sought to involve private sector actors in the management of rural water service provision and to enhance the government's decentralisation strategy in which the ownership of local facilities revert to the Districts.

However implementation of the policy was initially constrained by a number of problems, including a lack of community ownership and accountability and insufficient technical and administrative skills. This resulted in little or no cost recovery to provide for future rehabilitation of the rural water supply infrastructure.

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