Dirty water_ John Laing

Stronger regulators crucial to improving sanitation services for the poorest, report finds

A new report published by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and the Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation (ESAWAS) Regulators Association identifies how stronger regulators can play an important role in improving sanitation for under-served urban residents. The report, entitled Referee! Responsibilities, regulations and regulating for urban sanitation, has four key […]


This Discussion Paper synthesises experience from Eastern and Southern Africa and Bangladesh to explore the evolving role of regulators in driving urban sanitation service improvements.

The paper argues that effective regulators and regulations are urgently needed to improve urban sanitation services to the poorest, and highlights some ways in which this can be achieved.

The paper features six case studies of diverse regulatory initiatives, ranging from sanitation surcharges and specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to national-level institutional and regulatory frameworks. In each case, the paper aims to document how progress has been made, but also to critically assess future challenges to implementation. Key messages of the paper are:

  • Regulatory effectiveness is a core driver of improved sanitation services. Every football match needs a referee.
  • Regulations are not enough. Clear responsibilities and active regulating are essential.
  • Problems cannot be solved in one bold step. Active regulating involves incremental change, extensive consultation and testing.
  • A Regulating Ladder could support countries in their journey towards active regulating.

This is a joint publication between The Eastern and Southern Africa Water and Sanitation Regulators Association (ESAWAS) and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).

Sharing insights at the Urban WASH Inclusion Masterclass

Solving the big challenges of inclusive services through peer-to-peer learning

There is no greater way for city authorities and regulators to learn about developing inclusive water and sanitation services than from their peers – other institutions around the world who are confronting similar issues. That was the thinking behind the Urban WASH Inclusion Masterclass 2019, organised by WSUP and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative […]


WSUP has been working to catalyse the Ghanaian market for improved sanitation through introducing and selling affordable and desirable products. While it sounds simple, efforts to sell various sanitation products in Ga West (in Greater Accra) and Kumasi were thwarted by overarching issues that prevented potential customers from purchasing and installing sanitation products in their homes.

Using quotes from residents of Ga West and Kumasi as discussion points, this report explores the financial, social, legal and physical hurdles to improving household sanitation in Ghana. We demonstrate the impact that such a ‘disabling’ environment can have on market-based programmes and make suggestions for practical activities that WSUP and other actors could pursue to ease the path to the market for safe sanitation products in the future:

  1. Incentivise product and business development to reduce costs
  2. Reduce dependence on public toilets as primary sanitation facilities
  3. Enforce existing by-laws in a sensitive manner
  4. Target and inform landlords about investing in sanitation
  5. Increase local government funding for sanitation activities
  6. Tailor financial mechanisms to be more inclusive
  7. Apply subsidies carefully to avoid distorting the market

This Topic Brief presents WSUP’s experience supporting sanitation businesses oriented towards low-income customers in five cities. Each case study highlights changes to the business model or enabling environment with the potential to trigger business growth.

In WSUP’s experience, the success of sanitation businesses depends on factors internal to the business as well as those external, and out of the control of, the business. We have seen that where businesses and development actors are able to identify and push these trigger points, rapid progress can be made in business growth.

Pit-emptiers and politicians come together to discuss Africa’s sanitation challenges

By Sam Drabble, Head of Research and Learning Last week sanitation enthusiasts from across Africa and beyond convened in Cape Town for the joint FSM5/AfricaSan conference. This marked the first time the FSM conference – established as a biannual global event to share best practice in faecal sludge management – merged with AfricaSan, a political […]


Supporting the development of the National Sanitation Authority in Ghana so it can co-ordinate the push to achieve pro-poor sanitation across the country

This Policy Brief provides recommendations based on research conducted to feed into the development of the Government of Ghana’s proposed National Sanitation Authority.

While the exact shape of the NSA is still being debated by the Cabinet of the GoG, this is an  opportunity to better align and streamline the sanitation activities currently performed by several governmental and non-governmental bodies.

We recommend that the GoG move forward in establishing the NSA, resourced appropriately at national, regional and district levels so that it can achieve pro-poor sanitation across the country.

This research was led by IMC Worldwide; an earlier review of international comparative models can be found here.

This Topic Brief sets out the process of institutional change undergone by Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company (NCWSC) to extend services to the informal settlements of Nairobi.

Beginning with the creation of an Informal Settlements Department (ISD) in 2009, the utility has implemented a set of structural reforms, strategies and service delivery approaches which have engendered significant progress towards citywide service provision, and which can be instructive for utilities facing similar challenges across Sub-Saharan Africa.