Water for a few a history of urban water and sanitation in East Africa

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: This licentiate thesis describes and analyses the modern history of the socio-technical systems for urban water supply and sanitation in East Africa with focus on Uganda and Kenya. The key objective of the thesis is to evaluate to what extent the historic processes frame and influence the water and sanitation services sectors in these countries today. The theoretical approach combines the Large Technical Systems approach from the discipline of History of Technology with New Institutional Economics. Throughout, urban water and sanitation service systems are regarded as socio-technical systems, where institutions, organisation and technology all interact. The thesis consists of three separate articles and a synthesis in the form of a framework narrative. The first article provides a discussion of the theoretical framework with special focus on the application of Public Goods theory to urban water and sanitation. The second article describes the establishment of the large-scale systems for water supply and sanitation in Kampala, Uganda in the period 1920-1950. The third article focuses on the politics of urban water supply in Kenya with emphasis on the period 1900-1990.The main findings in this thesis are that the socio-technical systems for urban water and sanitation evolve over long periods of time and are associated with inertia that makes these systems change slowly. The systems were established in the colonial period to mainly respond to the needs and preferences of a wealthy minority and a technological paradigm evolved based on capital-intensive and large-scale technology. Attempts to expand services to all citizens in the post-colonial period under this paradigm were not sustainable due to changes in the social, political and economic environment while incentives for technological change were largely absent. History thus frames decisions in the public sphere even today, through technological and institutional inertia. Knowing the history of these socio-technical systems is therefore important, in order to understand key sector constraints, and for developing more sustainable service provision.