The special session on the EU-WOP Programme celebrated the new Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) funded by the EU, and highlighted the efforts of the different not-for-profit projects to ensure long-lasting improvements and sustainability of front-line service providers
Cover picture: From left to right, EU-WOP Projects implementing partners NWSC Director of Business and Scientific Services Rose Kaggwa, SOMAPEP General Director Bakary Coulibaly, and EIB Senior Water Sector Engineer Emmanuel Chaponniere, during the special session ‘The Power of Peer Partnerships: EU-backed Mentorship for Utility Improvement’ at the 9th World Water Forum. © GWOPA / UN-Habitat
Senegal just made history as the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to host the World Water Forum (WWF). This 9th edition was held from 21 to 26 March 2022 in Dakar as a unique platform where the international community collaborated and shared experiences around progress on global water and sanitation challenges.
The Forum was officially opened by President Macky Sall, President of Senegal and current Chairperson of the African Union. H.E. Macky Sall remembered that more than 2 billion people are forced to drink contaminated water, while more than 4 live without sanitation systems that protect them from disease. The Senegalese President stressed that “the lives of billions of people all over the world are at stake (…) We must act now to ensure peace and development for our future generations”.
EU and UN Jointly Work Towards SDG 6
The speech at the Forum Opening Ceremony by European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, stressed the importance of partnerships to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 6, ensuring access to water and sanitation for all, and all interlinked Goals of the 2030 Agenda: “Water flows through almost all of the SDGs and Paris climate goals. This is why water is so central to the EU’s partnerships around the world (…) Water cooperation is about sustainable development. It is about making progress through partnerships.”
The EU-WOP Programme is supporting this European commitment, said Arnaud de Vanssay, Water Team Lead of the European Commission IntPa, addressing the UN-Habitat’s Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA)-hosted session ‘The Power of Peer Partnerships: EU-backed Mentorship for Utility Improvement,’ a dedicated WWF session on the initiative.
The flagship WOP Programme is funded by the EU and managed by GWOPA, the UN entity dedicated to raising the voices of water and sanitation utilities. The initiative is supporting twenty-two solidarity-based, not-for-profit partnerships between water and sanitation operators (WOPs) around the globe.
From left to right, GWOPA Lead (a.i.) Julie Perkins, European Commission Water Team Lead Arnaud de Vanssay, and GWOPA Associate Expert Franziska Volk, during the welcome remarks of the session ‘The Power of Peer Partnerships: EU-backed Mentorship for Utility Improvement’ at the 9th World Water Forum. © GWOPA / UN-Habitat
De Vanssay stressed the role these partnerships could play in informing policy debates around access to water and sanitation. The representative of the European Commission also highlighted the need to develop further the link between WOPs and finance, with special mention of the potential to attract capital dedicated to green impact and the scaling up of operator digitalization through WOPs.
What do Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) have that Technical Assistance Doesn’t?
After a presentation on the WOPs approach and the EU-WOP Programme by GWOPA’s Julie Perkins, representatives from implementing partners of the EU-WOP Projects discussed and reflected on the ways that WOPs are helping their utilities and their staff. They highlighted the added value of this kind of partnership based on long-lasting relationships focused on mutual trust, which goes beyond technical assistance to build capacity and localize the SDGs.
The Director of Business and Scientific Services at the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), Rose Kaggwa, added that what makes WOPs significant is that they focus on building capacity, helping those utilities that cannot access investment in a long-term and sustainable manner.
Detail of the video recording of the session ‘The Power of Peer Partnerships: EU-backed Mentorship for Utility Improvement’ at the 9th World Water Forum. © GWOPA / UN-Habitat
Audience at the session ‘The Power of Peer Partnerships: EU-backed Mentorship for Utility Improvement’ at the 9th World Water Forum. © GWOPA / UN-Habitat
WOPs Help Water and Sanitation Utilities Localize the SDGs for the Long-run
Société Wallone des Eaux (SWDE) is the lead partner or “mentor” in the EU-WOP Project supporting five beneficiary or “mentee” operators in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Head of International Projects of the Belgian utility, Minazola Miantuadi, explained that the partnership aims to improve the network performance, water quality and operational efficiency of the beneficiary partners that will lead to, among others, their financial autonomy and sustainable and accessible public service in the target areas.
Minazola stressed the project’s ambition to contribute to gender equality. The partners will work on the inclusion of the gender perspective both in service provision and the organizational structure of the beneficiary utilities.
At the center of the picture, SWDE Head of International Projects Minazola Miantuadi during the session ‘The Power of Peer Partnerships: EU-backed Mentorship for Utility Improvement’ at the 9th World Water Forum. To her left, Enabel Water Expert Thibaud Chazal; to her right, ONEE Head of R&D Department Mokhtar Jaait. © GWOPA / UN-Habitat
By supporting the five beneficiary partners, the EU-WOP Project will also contribute to the impact and sustainability of the Programme ProgEau of the Belgian Development Agency Enabel. Thibaud Chazal, Enabel’s Water Expert, explained that ProgEau’s investments are aiming to improve the supply of drinking water in service areas of the WOP’s beneficiary utilities. Enabel will contribute to the EU-WOP Project with its expertise in the region, while it will also benefit from the work and outcomes of the project. Chazal urged more development agencies to get involved in WOPs to ensure the sustainability of their investments.
The WOP between the Dakar-based Office National de l’Assainissement du Sénégal (ONAS) and the Moroccan lead partner Office National de l’Electricité et de l’Eau Potable (ONEE) focuses heavily on sanitation. The Head of ONAS’ Human Resources Department, Alioune Diop, observed that both countries have many similarities and a regional WOP is, in this case, the most effective constellation to improve Senegal’s sanitation services.
The Head of ONEE’s R&D Department, Mokhtar Jaait, subscribed the words of his partner and added that South-South cooperation is most important in the water and sanitation utilities sector. Jaait expressed that the world cannot succeed in achieving SDG 6 without operators sharing and learning using the WOPs approach.
Head of GWCL’s Low-Income Customer Support Unit, Faustina Boachie, addressing the audience during the session ‘The Power of Peer Partnerships: EU-backed Mentorship for Utility Improvement’ at the 9th World Water Forum. © GWOPA / UN-Habitat
The Head of the Low-Income Customer Support Unit at the Ghana Water Company (GWCL), Faustina Boachie, is working on an EU-WOP Project with the beneficiary partner Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC) in Sierra Leone. This partnership is mainly focusing on the development of the GVWC pro-poor activities with the assistance of the supporting Dutch partner VEI. The ultimate goal is to build the capacity of GVWC to provide quality services to the unserved and underserved in the communities in a sustainable way.
Boachie’s experience with WOPs is that they allow operators and their partners to share knowledge and know-how in a mutually beneficial manner. According to Boachie, the problems that GWCL is facing are not unique to Ghana, and this is why they are able to extend their experience and support to GVWC.
WOPs Make Investments in the Water and Sanitation Sector Sustainable
With panel representatives from investment banks and development agencies also present in the discussion, issues around the sustainability of investments were a point of focus. According to Emmanuel Chaponniere, Senior Water Sector Engineer at the European Investment Bank (EIB), the WOPs approach and the EU-WOPs in particular are playing a key role in making the already existing investments in the water and sanitation utilities sector sustainable.
The EU-WOP Project in Tanzania, with Mwanza Water and Sanitation Authority (MWAUWASA) as beneficiary operator, and VEI as lead partner, is utilizing the EIB co-funded water and sanitation infrastructure in Misungwi and Magu. According to Chaponniere, the WOP is leveraging the technical assistance and infrastructure already built on site and making its operation sustainable.
From left to right, World Waternet Regional Manager West Africa Koen Maathuis, NWSC Director of Business and Scientific Services Rose Kaggwa, SOMAPEP General Director Bakary Coulibaly, and EIB Senior Water Sector Engineer Emmanuel Chaponniere, during the last section of the session ‘The Power of Peer Partnerships: EU-backed Mentorship for Utility Improvement’ at the 9th World Water Forum. © GWOPA / UN-Habitat
Société Malienne de Patrimoine de l’Eau Potable (SOMAPEP) is one of the beneficiary partners under the EU-WOP Programme. Its General Director, Bakary Coulibaly, agreed with the EIB representative, and added that WOPs support investor confidence, helping operators access needed water investments.
The Regional Manager of West Africa in World Waternet, Koen Maathius, added that regulation and legislation play a key role in making WOPs and investments effective and sustainable, citing as an example the 1% law in the Netherlands which helps World Waternet mobilize staff and staff time for international WOP initiatives.
NWSC representative, Rose Kaggwa, praised the EU-WOP Programme which she felt had come at the right moment, when WOPs are finally understood and appreciated. According to Kaggwa, the EU-WOP Programme is also very timely as part of the last significant push to attain the SDGs and is linked to ongoing investments.