Network upgrade and expansion

Dakar, Senegal



A private firm, Senegalaise des Eaux (SdE), signed a ten-year affermage contract for operations and maintenance with a State body (SONES, the owner of the infrastructure). SONES and SdE worked in partnership with an international NGO with local roots, ENDA. Other actors included the municipalities, neighbourhood associations (Associations de Quartier), national Government and donors (who funded ENDA’s work).


Project description


In this project, the three main partners worked together to provide poor communities with standpipes. In effect there were two schemes - in one the infrastructure was fully financed by SONES, the other by ENDA. At the time, this latter scheme, known as ‘Eau Populaire’, was six years old. The SONES scheme had installed roughly 250 standposts, the ENDA scheme roughly 130.




In 1995/96 a large-scale reform of the Senegalese water sector led to SdE signing a version of an affermage contract with SONES. At the time of the project, SdE was responsible for the running of the existing network, whilst capital investment for the expansion of the system remained the responsibility of SONES. Much of the partnership work built upon ENDA’s earlier experience of working with SONEES (the public utility prior to reform).

Economic progress in Senegal had been generally steady, though somewhat stalling. Recent elections had seen a new President installed. Ongoing reform gradually saw State responsibilities being transferred to municipalities, though this had little impact on the project. Dakar itself had undergone rapid expansion in recent decades (its population quadrupling within 40 years), and despite network expansion, zones with little or no service could be found within the metropolitan area.


Project beneficiaries


The ‘Eau Populaire’ program was implemented in urban / peri-urban areas. The program installed metered standposts to serve poor households who previously used polluted well water. The program was demand-responsive, rather than relying on supply-side targeting of the poor.


Objectives and structures of partnership


The partnership between the three groups was a loose and informal one, at least at the macro-level (though SONES and SdE were contractually bound). At the project level, a ‘cahier des charges’ had to be drawn up and presented to SONES for approval - this provided a more specific guide to objectives, roles and responsibilities.


Roles and responsibilities


SONES was responsible for the development of new infrastructure. It also regulated the technical and engineering performance of SdE. It approved interventions by ENDA and other actors, especially where this involved the construction of new infrastructure. SdE, was responsible for the operation of the water system. It co-supervised the execution of works with SONES and was responsible for linking up new networks and for the pipes supplying the standposts. Once water was flowing, SdE was responsible for billing and tariff collection. ENDA helped identify and relay demands, proposed and developed standpipe schemes, mobilised the financial contribution of the users and helped them form committees. Standpost operator training, and education and awareness activities were strong components of their work.


Community liaison


Community involvement at the project level was quite strong - they were heavily involved in planning, construction and maintenance, leading to strong ownership and near 100% cost recovery. In Dakar, although the public utility (SONES) owned the infrastructure, communities often came to ENDA to seek assistance in getting water services. Within communities ENDA used participative workshops for planning and also sought a contribution from the community (community labour typically made up a quarter to a third of the total cost). SONES did not expect a community contribution when they financed schemes, and paid external contractors to do the work. All standposts were metered - the households paid the standpost operator, whilst the operator paid the utility for bulk water. The community itself chose the operator (or a group of rotating operators) who could work for the community for a salary or occasionally for themselves for a share.


Communications and feedback


Communication between the partners was informal and relied on individual contacts more than on structured institutional links.


Evolution and institutionalisation


Until just prior to the project, education and awareness work by the project partners had been mostly undertaken by ENDA. However, the communications division within SONES had been recently revamped and given a bigger budget. The new strategy aimed to work with local groups to assist SONES with their E&A work. The long-term aim of the SONES programme was to bring some Institutional and Social Development skills in-house, and to build up capacity within communities to act as a partner to SONES. Otherwise, there had been few alterations in roles and responsibilities over the life of the partnership. The informal nature of the partnership meant that it was not deeply institutionalised.




At the end of the project, an estimated 200,000 people had access to potable water, thanks to ‘Eau Populaire’ - providing the usual benefits of better health, less time spent collecting water etc. The project led to a significant drop in waterborne illnesses in children and the creation of several hundred jobs (standpost operators receiving between 30,000 and 80,000 CFA per month), as well as funding other local projects via standpost receipts. 




Strenghts included: complementarity of the partners, generating synergy; good personal relationships; clear roles, responsibilities and working practices on the ground; good local knowledge; and ENDA being well-known and respected by the community (with proven technical competence and independent financing).


Wider lessons


  • The importance of community buy-in (via community input into decision-making and/or operations)
  • The NGO can clearly bring new skills and resources to the table
  • The benefit of clear roles and responsibilities (given the contrast between the project & macro levels of partnership)
  • The challenges of defining the NGO role, especially regarding financing & ‘contracting’ specifically
  • The importance of well-structured ‘contract’ incentives (avoids imbalances in risk and responsibility and conflict of mandates)
  • The tension/contrast of relationships between individuals and relationships between institutions