Municipal water utilities from Germany, Jordan, South Africa, Tansania, Ukraine and Zambia are working together in innovative pilot partnerships – for more sustainable water-supply and sanitation services.
Water supply and sanitation utilities are key actors for sustainable urban development worldwide. Many municipal utilities responsible for performing these functions in the Global South are not able to reliably and sustainably deliver services of suitable quality to local citizens. Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) believes German municipal enterprises have an important role to play in supporting the capacity development of water utilities in partner countries. They possess the knowledge, skills and experience needed on the ground.
Taking the Water Operators’ Partnerships of the United Nations as their blueprint, German water utilities, represented by the German Water Partnership’s Working Group for Operation and Capacity Development, proposed supporting partnerships between German and international water utilities. The utility platform was developed together with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Engagement Global with its Service Agency Communities in One World. The project is designed firstly to promote partnerships between German municipal enterprises and water utilities in the partner countries, and secondly to establish long-term structures that in future will underpin the provision of support to partnerships between municipal enterprises worldwide.
The pilot project is financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Service Agency Communities in One World are responsible for implementing the utility platform. They advise on and support the initiation and implementation of the partnerships, finance partnership activities via grant agreements, organise network meetings and offer the partners diverse training measures. The utility platform is being implemented and further developed in cooperation with the German Water Partnership and the German Association of Local Utilities.
In each long-term partnership, three or four German municipal water utilities have joined forces with one water utility from Jordan, Ukraine and Zambia. They first asked themselves: What are the greatest challenges facing our partners? And what expertise can each company offer in order to tackle these challenges?
Peer-to-peer learning – that is the goal of the partnerships. Peer-to-peer means that know-how and experience is passed on from engineer to engineer and from expert to expert. But the focus is not only on technical expertise. Business and organisational know-how and skills are also much in demand from the partners in the Global South.
Know-how is also transferred from South to North: the utilities in Jordan, for example, have much experience in dealing with aridity and drought. Due to climate change, more and more German municipal utilities are confronted with these conditions and are very keen to share information.
In January 2021, the partnerships agreed on their project plans and commenced work directly – at first online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In reciprocal work visits and regular working-level exchanges between the experts, the partnerships are expected to tackle the following themes by mid-2023:
The partnerships offer great opportunities for both the international water operators and the German municipal utilities. The two sides want to use the intensive dialogue with their respective partners and the utility-platform network to learn from the experience and expertise of their colleagues and to jointly seek sustainable solutions to the challenges they face.
If the pilot phase of the utility platform is successful, there are good prospects for a follow-on phase. In this case, it may also be possible to expand the thematic scope to include other municipal public services, such as waste management or energy supply. The enterprises participating in the pilot phase are already sure of one thing: they want to cooperate over the long term!