From “All for some” to “Some for all”? A historical geography of pro-poor water provision in Kampala


This article discusses the historical mechanisms and geographical factors that have formed the current structure of urban water provision in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The formation of the urban geography of Kampala dates back to the early colonial period. The high- and middle-income earners have settled on the hills while the poorest part of the population lives in the low-lying areas, dispersed as pockets of unplanned and informal settlements. Public services are underdeveloped in these informal pockets. The government has pledged to improve services for the poor and this article analyses whether the efforts made are likely to lead to a lasting change, seen in a longer time perspective. The public water supply in Kampala has ever since its opening in 1930 focused on the middle- and high-income groups while poor people have been marginalised. Water provision to low-income groups has continued to rely on standpipes since the colonial period. There has also been organisational continuity, with a single centralised organisation in charge of urban water supply in all larger towns. Institutional changes, such as the new connection policy from 2004, have perpetuated the emphasis on middle- and high-income groups. This article argues that the traditional focus on private connections is creating a barrier for expansion of services in informal areas. Pre-paid water distribution, which was tried already in the 1920s, has in recent years seen a revival. This technology offers an important avenue for rectifying inequalities of public services that has been reproduced since the colonial period.

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Publication Type Journal article
Publisher Journal of Eastern African Studies
Year 2013
Author(s) Jenny Appelblad Fredby & David Nilsson
DOI DOI: 10.1080/17531055.2012.708543
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