Tanzania’s ongoing water sector mess

Twaweza has a new policy brief out*, on a subject that’s close to my heart: water supply in Tanzania. Money flows, water trickles is the title, and it’s hard to argue with that. A lot of money has been spent, with worryingly very little to show for it.

Over the 10 year period of 1995-2005, Tanzania received USD $57 per beneficiary in aid flows earmarked for rural water supply, but coverage fell by 1%. Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda all received considerably less aid per beneficiary, but managed to improve their coverage significantly.

Tanzania gets more money (per beneficiary) for water, but less water flows as a result

Tanzania gets more money (per beneficiary) for water, but less water flows as a result

More recently, government spending on water, through the Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP), has gone up, but access has continued to decline. Overall, in the past two decades the percentage of Tanzanian households using an improved source of drinking water has dropped slightly, from 55% to 53%. Elsewhere in Africa, the trend has been the opposite – from 49% using an improved source of drinking water in 1990 to 63% in 2011.

Spending goes up, access declines

Spending goes up, access declines

The Big Results Now target of 75% access by 2015 will require a dramatic improvement over current trends. As I’ve said before, this seems highly implausible.

That would be an impressive achievement

That would be an impressive achievement

I’ve been analysing and writing about the water sector in Tanzania for eight years now. I’ve been frustrated at the slow pace of progress in the sector, and at the apparent lack of political will to put things right. But these figures shocked me.

To finish, as has been the pattern recently, here are a couple of cartoons, published in the Tanzanian press around the recent Maji Week and World Water Day:

From Nipashe, 21/3/14

From Nipashe, 21/3/14

From The (Tz) Guardian, 25/3/14

From The (Tz) Guardian, 25/3/14

 

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* Disclosure: I work for Twaweza, and contributed some feedback on an early draft of this brief.

UPDATE (4/4/2014):

A correction has been made to the first chart above (labelled 2b), to clarify that the aid figures refer to aid earmarked for rural water supply per beneficiary (rather than per capita), and to the text that accompanies this chart.

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