Increasing Access to Clean Water in the Central African Republic
Improving water quality and access is an important objective for the Central African Republic—one of the poorest nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. To deliver service to the nearly 75 percent of urban populations who rely on shallow wells and poor-quality water for their daily needs, the government requested assistance from the World Bank. Using funding provided by the South-South Experience Exchange Facility, the Bank connected the Central African water utility, SODECA, and high-ranking government officials to Burkina Faso, whose national water utility, ONEA, has overcome numerous challenges to transform into one of the best-performing water sector institutions in the Africa region. Specifically, SODECA wanted to learn from ONEA’s experience designing and implementing social connections policies in a similar institutional and socio-economical environment to that of the Central African Republic.
"From here on, we want to build a high-performing water company, as our sister company ONEA did," said Rufin Benam-Beltoungou, Executive Director at SODECA.
The exchange improved SODECA’s capacity to develop a social connection policy and effectively plan its implementation, including its finance, management, and communication components. SODECA’s top management is adapting its customer management system to support a larger customer database resulting from the expanded social connections program. Following the exchange, SODECA also created a communications unit and planned to open several bill payment offices throughout the city of Bangui to improve customer service and bill collection.
"Now we realize that our management methods are dated. For example, our customer management is completely outdated,” said Irene Kagama, Commercial Director at SODECA.
Beneficiaries / Participants
The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly three-quarters of the urban population use shallow wells with poor water quality. Improving water supply is a key objective in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and water supply is a key sector identified in the joint African Development Bank/World Bank Country Partnership Strategy. Since 2007, the World Bank has provided financial and technical support to the national water utility SODECA through the Emergency Urban Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Maintenance Project.1 The limited capacity of SODECA—which had not benefited from international exchanges for over a decade—proved to be an obstacle to rapid expansion of the water supply grid. Thus the general director of SODECA and the head of Hydraulics in the Ministry of Mining, Energy, and Water requested the Bank’s help in finding a partner to develop and implement policies to improve water delivery in the capital Bangui.
In the late 1990s Burkina Faso’s national water utility, ONEA, suffered similar challenges—poor operational management, a chronic financial deficit, and lack of internal capacity—resulting in limited access and poor service. With support from the World Bank, ONEA transformed into one of Africa’s best performing utilities. ONEA has designed and implemented social connections policies and its institutional set-up is similar to SODECA’s – a national autonomous institution with ministry oversight. ONEA staff members are experienced knowledge providers, having shared lessons with water utilities staff in the Republic of the Congo and Chad, making ONEA a strong knowledge-sharing partner for SODECA.
Using funding from the South-South Experience Exchange Facility, the World Bank connected the two utilities. A resulting study tour of high-level officials from SODECA and the General Directorate of Hydraulics (DGH) aimed to provide a hands-on capacity building experience in improving water services and related social programs.
With financing from the Emergency Urban Infrastructure Rehabilitation and Maintenance Project of the World Bank, SODECA contracted ONEA to provide continued technical assistance following the knowledge exchange.