DFID’s assessment is that there are circumstances when the private sector can play a role in meeting the needs of poor people. This is because, in spite of extensive technical assistance, public water utilities in developing countries have found it difficult to improve their performance and outreach. This has come about for a variety of reasons that we need to understand and learn from. DFID continuously assesses and learns from examples of public and private sector participation in delivering water.
There are good and bad examples of both public and private service provision. The best approach often involves partnerships between the public sector, the private sector and communities. An important factor for success is effective regulation, with enforceable contracts that set out clearly what is expected. One example is a four-year public-private partnership in South Africa focusing on poor rural communities, which has brought water to more than nine million people in five provinces.