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Reforming water supply in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire : mild reform in a turbulent environment


  • Menard, Claude
  • Clarke, George


Compared with other urban water systems in West Africa, the water supply system in Abidjan performs very well. Documenting the recent history of that system, the authors try to answer three questions: What motivated reform in a system that was already performing well? How and why did the reform affect sector performance, and what additional changes might improve performance further? And what explains the relatively strong performance of Abidjan's water system? Is the success attributable primarily to an efficient contractual arrangement or more generally to Cote d'Ivoire's institutional environment? In a region plagued by political instability, Ivorian political institutions were remarkably stable for close to 40 years. In part, the success of the Ivorian model is the result of these institutions'stability and credibility. The single-party system in place at the time of reform might suggest that there were few restraints in place to prevent the government from behaving opportunistically. But several features of the institutional environment protected against such opportunism. Because of this, and because reform was based on a system already performing well, the contractual arrangement with a private operator proved exceptionally capable of adjusting even in the face of dramatic changes in the external environment. Institutional environments are not as favorable in other countries in the region, so similar contractual arrangements might be less successful elsewhere. Reform in Cote d'Ivoire was motivated primarily by a macroeconomic crisis, which reduced the resources available for public investment. Without either a sector crisis or a realignment of political forces, the will for reform was weak. Consequently, opportunities for improvement were missed and some problems remain. Among other ways in which the system could be improved: Splitting the water system into autonomous subsystems in different cities, and allowing bidding for investment contracts, would increase the chances of competition for investment, which does not currently exist.

Suggested Citation

  • Menard, Claude & Clarke, George, 2000. "Reforming water supply in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire : mild reform in a turbulent environment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2377, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2377

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    Cited by:

    1. Clarke, George & Menard, Claude & Zuluaga, Ana Maria, 2000. "The welfare effects of private sector participation in Guinea's urban water supply," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2361, The World Bank.
    2. Menard, Claude & Clarke, George, 2000. "A transitory regime : water supply in Conakry, Guinea," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2362, The World Bank.
    3. DIAKITE Daouda & SEMENOV Aggey & THOMAS Alban, 2006. "Social Pricing and Water Provision in Côte d'Ivoire," LERNA Working Papers 06.14.207, LERNA, University of Toulouse.
    4. Kerf, Michel, 2000. "Do state holding companies facilitate private participation in the water sector? evidence from Cote d'Ivoire, the Gambia, Guinea, and Senegal," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2513, The World Bank.
    5. Claude Ménard & R. Maria Saleth, 2012. "The Effectiveness of Alternative Water Governance Arrangements," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00624250, HAL.
    6. Georg Meran & Christian von Hirschhausen, 2014. "Increasing Block Tariffs in the Water Sector: An Interpretation in Terms of Social Preferences," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1434, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    7. Jensen, Olivia & Blanc-Brude, Frederic, 2006. "The handshake : why do governments and firms sign private sector participation deals ? Evidence from the water and sanitation sector in developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3937, The World Bank.
    8. Ghina Yamout & Dima Jamali, 2007. "A critical assessment of a proposed public private partnership (PPP) for the management of water services in Lebanon," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 21(3), pages 611-634, March.
    9. Kirkpatrick, Colin & Parker, David, 2004. "Regulation and the Privatisation of Water Services in Developing Countries: Assessing the Impact of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)," Centre on Regulation and Competition (CRC) Working papers 30600, University of Manchester, Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM).


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