The impact of pro-poor reforms on consumers and the water utility in Maputo, Mozambique

Valentina Zuin
Yale-NUS College, Singapore; valentina.zuin@yale-nus.edu.sg

Maika Nicholson
Sherwood Design Engineers, San Francisco, CA, United States; maikanicholson@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: Over one billion people gained access to piped water between 2000 and 2015. Piped water access in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), however, is the lowest of all SDG regions and is declining: in 2017, only 56% of the urban population in SSA had access to piped water in their homes, down from 65% in 2000. Increasing water access via private connections is difficult for many of utility providers in SSA, and unconnected households may also choose not to connect to the water utility network because of low-quality utility service, high water charges and high connection fees. This paper focuses on understanding the impact of the pro-poor water reforms implemented between 2010 and 2019 in the Greater Maputo Area (GMA), Mozambique; specifically, it attempts to understand how households were able to obtain piped water access through a water connection campaign, a reduction of the connection fee, and the option of paying in instalments. We use data collected in 2010 and 2012 – before and after these policy changes were introduced – from 1300 households in 6 poor neighbourhoods in peri-urban Maputo. This paper also investigates the broader sectoral impacts of these policies over time from the water utility’s perspective, using data from sector reports and interviews with key informants that were conducted by one of the authors in 2019. We found that between 2009 and 2017, the number of domestic private connections more than doubled in the GMA. Both the utility connection campaign and the reduction in connection fees facilitated water access for low-income households – although the poorest households were still unable to access piped water in the studied neighbourhoods – and for a few households, access was made possible by the option of paying the connection fee in instalments. Such rapid increases in the number of connections had two important implications for the water sector: first, as the number of private connections increased, the quality of service decreased significantly; second, the increase in domestic connections among largely low-income and relatively low-consuming customers resulted in major financial challenges for the system. These results are in line with those of other authors who argue that social and financial goals cannot be achieved in tandem; they also support findings in the existing literature on the limited ability of tariffs to deliver subsidies to the poor.

KEYWORDS: Water reforms, urban service provision, pro-poor water services, connection fee, payment in instalments, financial sustainability, coverage increase, Maputo, Mozambique