The political economy of the urban water pricing regime in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Working and discussion papers
April 2012
Daniel Harris, Michelle Kooy and Gibrill Jalloh

This Working Paper presents the findings of one of two country case studies conducted as part of a broader project entitled ‘Analysing the governance and political economy of water and sanitation service delivery’, commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

It looks at the water sector in Sierra Leone, and the ways in which the country’s institutions present significant challenges to the implementation of the government’s National Water and Sanitation Policy.

Focusing particularly on the country’s capital, Freetown, this analysis explores the water sector’s financial sustainabilityinsufficient revenue generation; the interaction between the state/private and formal/informal water markets; the balance between taxes, development transfers and tariffs; public willingness to pay; and a range of other political economy factors.

It recommends short and medium-term steps to achieving sustainable improvements in the water sector, including:

  • reforms to the water-pricing regime in Sierra Leone, which are fundamental to sustain current levels of access, and improve the access of citizens to clean water supply;
  • the adoption of mechanisms to address ‘free-riders’, including support to public education campaigns establishing the link between payment and provision of services;
  • strengthening the institutions governing water-service delivery;
  • improved mechanisms to treat water as a common-pool resource; and
  • increased physical infrastructure investment.