GWOPA co-organized a workshop to discuss WOPs, capacity development and links to utility investment
How can peer-to-peer partnerships build the capacity of water and sanitation utilities? Can Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) help improve a utilities’ cost-recovery and creditworthiness? These and more questions were addressed by the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), IHE Delft Institute for Water Education and VEI Dutch Water Operators during the 20th African Water Association (AfWA) International Congress and Exhibition on February 25th in Kampala, Uganda.
One of GWOPA’s objectives is to create awareness of the WOPs practice, which needs to become better known and trusted by the relevant technical, financial and political actors, as a cost-effective mechanism for improving utilities’ capacity and performance and, ultimately, for achieving SDG 6. To do so, GWOPA participated in one of Africa’s most significant forums dedicated to water and sanitation.
Spurred on by the notion that approximately US$114 billion each year is required to meet SDG 6 by 2030, the discussions explored the potential role WOPs play in working towards bridging the global infrastructure financing gaps we face. The workshop presented an overview of the current WOPs practice globally and in Africa, capacity development and the potential links with investments, by interviewing regional experts from the water and sanitation sector.
The session panelists provided insight into the strengths and weaknesses of WOPs and drew from first-hand experience to fuel a dynamic dialogue with the audience.
From left to right: Panelists Alfonso Chikuni, Serena Kwakye-Mintah and Tumain Msacky
“Some people see small Water Operators’ Partnerships (WOPs) as a drop in the ocean, too small. To me, WOPs are the drop that ripples the water” – Serena Kwakye-Mintah, ICT Manager responsible for water production, distribution and sales to the urban population, at Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL).
“Investments are important but perhaps they are not, at times, necessary. You need to bring change to the organization to sustain capacity before you even start thinking about investments, and WOPs can do that.” – Alfonso Chikuni, Chief Director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, and former CEO of Lilongwe Water Board.
“In our WOP we were able to work with more flexibility than in a classical technical consultancy. For us, we started talking about what we needed rather than what the contract or the ToRs say” – Tumain Msacky, local project coordinator of WaterWorX WOP at MWAUWASA Tanzania.
A key take-away from the session recognized the need for continued solidarity-based capacity development initiatives across the continent. It was noted that there remains an opportunity to build the pool of African mentoring utilities to better equip South-South WOP configurations. The dialogue did not shy away from the challenges faced in the WOPs practice, such as the barriers posed by a lack of buy-in at various levels within utilities’ and a need to support practitioners with the necessary tools to structure their partnerships.
GWOPA presenting BEWOP Operational Tools for WOPs
Accordingly, the workshop concluded with GWOPA’s presentation of tools and guidance developed in the BEWOP initiative, which aims to support practitioners to implement effective WOPs. The presentation highlighted the soon-to-be-launched Partnership Management Platform (PMP), a monitoring and reporting tool that helps to capture WOP learnings adequately.