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Kenya leads peers in water supply and sanitation inequalities

By Moses Omusolo | December 6th 2021
By Moses Omusolo | December 6th 2021

Water supply valve, Kibos Maximum Security Prison. June 24, 2019. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Kenya has one of the most regressive water supply and sanitation systems in Africa.

According to a new study by World Bank, Kenya has since the year 2000s been notorious for water subsidies that mostly benefit the wealthy.

The study dubbed, ‘Doing More with Less: Smarter Subsidies for Water Supply and Sanitation,’ analysed ten other countries - Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, El Salvador, Jamaica, Panama, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

“Most water subsidies are... expensive as governments spend around Sh32 trillion ($320 billion) per year (up to 2.40 per cent of regional GDP), poorly (targeted - where an average of 56 per cent of subsidies are captured by the wealthiest, and 20 per cent of the population, while six per cent are captured by the poorest 20 per cent.”

Other flaws found with the country’s water systems include the country being non-transparent - facilitating “rent-seeking” by governments and service providers as well as distortions that threaten service sustainability, and encourage overexploitation of resources.

“Yet if well designed, subsidies can be powerful and progressive tools ensuring all people benefit from water supply and sanitation services.”

The study, however, shows quantity-based, targeted subsidies in Cape Verde, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, and the cities of Bangalore (India), Kathmandu (Nepal), and Nairobi are regressive, with a smaller share of benefits accruing to the poor than the general population.

The study proposes policies including the provision of conditional subsidies for the construction of private or shared sanitation facilities, the revision and enforcement of rental housing bylaws to improve tenants’ access to water supply and sanitation.

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