Getting Started to Serve Low-Income Communities: Ghana Water and Dutch VEI Visit Sierra Leone’s Freetown Water Provider under EU-WOP

Having already an established personal relationship with all parties, the Managing Director (MD) of Ghana’s National Urban Water provider (GWCL) led a delegation to the Freetown’s City Water provider (GVWC) in July 2022. With the support of GVWC’s Board of Directors and senior management, the visit successfully strengthened the foundations towards a successful implementation of the Water Operators’ Partnership project which is funded by the European Union and UN-Habitat.

After a three-year twinning arrangement, which ended in 2020, GWCL and GVWC have once again joined forces to build the capacity of water and sanitation service providers. The dynamic and high-spirited  Board Chair of GVWC, Hon. Mrs. Bintu Myers, addressed the partakers of the EU-funded EU-WOP Programme , an initiative managed by UN-Habitat’s Global WOPs Alliance (GWOPA) to support service providers worldwide through solidarity-based partnerships (Water Operators’ Partnerships, or WOPs). WOPs strengthen utilities’ capacity and performance on management, financial and technical levels to implement operational and organizational changes that lead to better and more sustainable services.

Hon. Mrs. Bintu Myers pledged the Board’s strategic support to deliver on the programme’s objective by making the unserved visible, serving them in a sustainable way and strengthening the organization accordingly.

GWCL’s MD, Ing. Dr. Clifford A. Braimah, stimulated the Board Chair’s message by highlighting the importance of top management buy-in for the establishment of a dedicated department advocating for the unserved communities and households. He shared examples of goodwill and funding GWCL has received from the development partners, consumers and other sector stakeholders as a result of having elevated the GWCL Low-Income Customer Support unit into a full-blown department (LICSD).

The Chief Manager LICSD, Mrs. Faustina Boachie, acknowledged MD’s support was crucial. Additionally, she shared that a decade ago GWCL was the beneficiary of a knowledge-sharing partnership programme sponsored by Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) focused on building the capacity of what is now the LICSD. Having benefited and appreciated the lessons learned and approaches applied from her Kenyan counterparts, Faustina shared she takes great fulfillment in supporting the GVWC’s Community Service Unit in their transition process.

Faustina continued sharing her views on the evolution she made from occupying a single-person pro-poor service desk to managing a full-blown department with a track record in fundraising, community engagement, and improving water service delivery in LIUCs (including community engagement, revenue collection initiatives and setting up Water User Associations). She praised GVWC’s Director of Commercial Services, Mrs. Eunice Tejan, for her motivational role in supporting the Community Service Unit manager, Ing. Pierre Palmer, to develop his unit. She concluded the value of this teamwork should not be underestimated.

The commitment of the GVWC’s Board, Managing Director Mr. Maada Kpenge and senior management set the right tone for the EU-WOP Programme.  The partakers of the EU-funded initiative used the remainder of the week to perform a wide range of activities, including site visits to vulnerable communities facing water service challenges.

Initial activities, within the scope of the EU-WOP Programme, were captured in the first year work plan following the GWOPA’s Partnership Monitoring Platform tool format to ensure progress made would be properly captured and monitored.

During the end of the visit, there was time to initiate a few of these activities, such as knowledge transfer on community engagement approaches by LICSD Officer, Nancy Godson, and the utilization of drones by VEIProject Manager, Krijn Driessen. The workshop on the use of drones by LICSD Officer, Obed Omane Frempong garnered considerable attention. A DJI Mavic Air 2 drone was handed over for GVWC to enhance GVWC’s drone skills before the next encounter between the partners, which is scheduled to take place within this month, September 2022 in Ghana.

With the slogan “I WOP, WE WOP, EU WOP” the partners look fulfilled back on the first EU-WOP Programme visit and are committed to building capacity to better make the unserved visible and build the capacity to engage and transform the unserved to be served in a sustainable way.

The partners of this EU-WOP Project will hold a session at the IWA Conference in Copenhagen on September 14th between 13.30-15.00 CET, in which Mrs. Faustina Boachie and Mrs. Eunice Tejan will further elaborate on the advantages and importance of South–South partnerships.