As part of ROCKBlue’s ongoing work with utilities in the developing world, it has assembled common challenges faced by utility managers in Africa that their counterparts in Europe and North America do not face – at least not to the same degree. Of course water and sanitation utilities in the developed world face growing challenges in meeting the needs of their ratepayers for reasons that range from the impacts of climate change to shrinking budgets and infrastructure renewal needs. However, their challenges pale in comparison to those facing the developing world such as:
- Access to funds for daily expenses (OpEx) as well as capital improvements (CapEx)
- Operational resources
- Longevity of staff and management (i.e., high turnover)
- Regulatory support vs. interference
- Operational autonomy
- Culture of maintenance and community health protection
- Customer willingness and ability to pay
- General cooperation by customers
- Cooperation by government
- Commercial/industrial/institutional (higher paying) customers
- Customer revenue to cover daily expenses as well as capital improvements
- Supporting infrastructure (roads, electricity, telecommunication, Internet)
- Private sector capacity (consultants and vendors)
- Long-term planning
- Tried and tested operational systems and procedures
- Resilience to climate change
- Healthy environment (e.g., from disease)
- Support from professional organizations and societies
- Human capacity and staff retainage
In part, due to the inequity implied above, is why ROCKBlue was founded – to help “level the playing field” for utilities in the developing world.
In the months ahead, we will be asking utility managers to elaborate on these 19 challenges so that a greater level of understanding of the challenges is achieved. Having that appreciation will help ROCKBlue and all operating in this space to mitigate the challenges.
For Challenge #1, next month, we will be sharing our interview with Mr. Tsikinyane Mangangole, Director of Finance, from WASCO in Lesotho.