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Why is water still unaffordable for sub-Saharan Africa’s urban poor?

Across sub-Saharan Africa, water services for low-income urban
communities remain variable and often unaffordable. Although water kiosks may be available and households may be connected on shared and metered connections, costs often remain prohibitively high. We report studies in four cities that illustrate how buying sufficient municipal water can cost between 11 per cent and a theoretical 112 per cent of typical household incomes. Although citizens in low-income communities are increasingly recognised as ‘customers’ deserving services, their inability to pay is being down-played because of the sector’s emphasis on cost recovery as a way to modernise water utilities. Achieving SDG target 6.1 — universal and equitable access to safe and affordable water for everyone by 2030 — will require action on urban water costs.

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