Urban growth and access to essential services in developing countries

11/02/2016 > 12/02/2016 - Tangiers, Morroco

(Re)sources think tank organized on 11th-12th February in Tangier its 11th symposium themed on the access to essential services in the context of fast-paced urbanization in developing countries. (Re)sources brought together many high-level members of its network, experts coming from diverse backgrounds as well as a panel of Moroccan participants (local elected officials, association presidents, business entrepreneurs, etc.). Debates led to a set of recommendations to build more sustainable and resilient cities, recommendations specifically aimed at the water and energy community and public decision-makers. (Re)sources publishes these recommendations around four main axes to improve access to basic utilities in developing cities: strengthening urban governance, spatial planning, financing access to services and managing climate risks.



Main takeaways


Round table 1: Urban governance dynamics

Urban governance is an even more crucial process that unchecked growth of cities of the global South challenges and increases the level of complexity of urban spatial organization models, and thereby complicates access to basic utilities. If the States ratify decisions taken within international governance organizations, local and national level responsability and leadership on access to services is the key link to the actual implementation of these decisions. A number of cities of the South don’t have the capacity to ensure the implementation of international guidelines.

Urban growth no only raises issues of access to water, sanitation and energy services, but also issues of solid waste management, urban mobility and management of urban space with high levels of population concentration in limited spaces. Not only is it needed to promote the deepening, strengthening and development of multi-stakeholder collaboration on these services, we need to think beyond basic utility delivery and to look at the largest scale of cities’ development. A good multi-level and multi-stakeholder interaction is a prerequisite to any breakthrough in terms of access to urban utilities.


Round table 2: basic utility delivery on fragmented and sprawling urban spaces

The volume dimension is an unforeseen factor in countries with the highest rates of urban growth. An important trend of decorrelation is being observed in the current development of global South cities between the city sprawl, its morphology and its networks. Urban growth often takes over public services development, leading to a deteriorated access to basic utilities. This is even more worrying as most cities of the South do not have the capacity to fight this degradation. Essentially, a city’s organization should not be solely relying on urban planners and engineers; it also needs to be grounded in the local context and to build on the knowledge brought by the diversity of actors that compose the urban landscape.

Faced with this issue, cities need to adapt and to let technical, organizational and institutional solutions emerge. These solutions must take into account the local context and the inherently unstable nature of urban settings. Many public or private operators experience the existence of no-go zones where public authorities oppose any attempt to develop access to services. Moreover, relocation policies for slum residents require strong, efficient intermediation and specific support.


Round table 3: financing access to basic utilities

Increased population influxes create pressure both on the cost of basic services and on cities’ capacity to maintain existing infrastructure or finance new infrastructure. In a context of budgetary weakness, cities in developing countries are forced to diversify and strengthen their sources of funding to reconcile urban development and financial stability of the services.

Existing financial difficulties are not a result of a lack of funding but rather of the methods of implementation. Beyond public resources, these cities also need to mobilize private funding and local savings. Yet although local funding resources exist, they most of the time are not invested in basic services infrastructure because of political choices that tend to produce models that simply are not profitable for investors. Besides, poor residents are willing to pay a fair price for a service whose quality satisfies their expectations. Infrastructure services, and in particular water and electricity, need to be sold and therefore tariffs schemes must be set up. Chosen tariff scheme and methods of payment must be affordable and bearable by the customer, to the condition that it does not challenge infrastructure maintenance. More generally, there exist multiple initiatives and emerging models don’t lead so much to action and funding as to the emergence of development actors.


Round table 4: taking into account climate risks

Urban growth trends increase populations’ vulnerability to climate risk in cities of the global South, many of which are located on the coast or in proximity. Poor populations are also more exposed to extreme phenomena since they have lesser capacity to adapt. Just as for energy, water demand should progress due to global warming and demographic growth. Hence, the notion of “natural disaster” should be taken into account when reflecting on the implementation of essential services in urban settings, and genuine business continuity plans and recovery plans in case of emergency must be defined.

Protecting and strengthening basic infrastructure, developing early warning systems, and increase the share of renewable energy are essential conditions to the capacity of cities of the South to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies. Institutional actors need to get involved in the preparedness effort, to promote North-South knowledge and expertise transfer and to put human intelligence, technology and know-how at the core of urban resilience. Collective solutions must be found to operationalize support to the most vulnerable populations. Furthermore, civil society actors are no longer perceived as obstacles to the greatest challenges facing our planet but rather as assets; we must involve and mobilize these actors in disaster preparedness and reliance planning as their role is truly essential.




Climate change
Climate change
  • Urban growth and access to essential services
  • Urban growth and access to essential services
  • Patrice Fonlladosa, (Re)sources Chairman
  • Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister
  • Urban growth and access to essential services
  • Urban growth and access to essential services
  • Gérard Payen, Advisor to the UN Secretary General for water issues
  • Gilbert Houngbo,Togo former prime Minister
  • Mohamed Idaomar, Tetouan Mayor
  • Bertrand Gallet,  General Director ofe Cités Unies Frances
  • Urban growth and access to essential services
  • Guillaume Josse, director of Groupe Huit
  • Claude de Miras, research fellow
  • Houria Tazi Sadeq, lawyer
  • Urban growth and access to essential services
  • Olivier Kayser, director of Hystra
  • Alain Ries, Sustainable Development Director - AFD
  • Etienne Giros,  delegate President of CIAN
  • Urban growth and access to essential services
  • Franck Galland, director of (ES)2
  • Xavier Crépin, ADP-Villes en Développement
  • Pierre Victoria, Sustainable Development Director - Veolia
  • Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, CGLUA

(re)sources' recommendations

In terms of urban governance and access to basic services, (Re)sources recommends:

1- Encourage central governments to identify and display the share of their GDP dedicated to access to essential services, highlighting the various sources and allocations, and to account for their performance in front of their peers;

2- Decentralize authority and resources relating to basic urban services to local authorities without excluding national planning and state services;

3- Promote multi-stakeholder partnerships and address all services in a coordinated manner (water, wastewater, electricity, waste, transportation, roads…);

4- Develop the training of public actors and raise awareness among citizens, since these aspects are a lever for better governance;

5- Include the digital tools when managing access to basic urban services, since it facilitates the contact with citizens/users and access to information.

In terms of urban planning and access to basic services, (Re)sources recommends:

6- Integrate informal settlements as well as formal settlements into the city management and development plans for water and wastewater services in urban and peri-urban areas;

7- Set up transitional systems for access to basic services in the informal settlements, with short-term organizational and technical arrangements, when remaining in the premises is not advisable due to land difficulties, urban planning constraints or safety requirements;

8- Acknowledge neighborhood committees and intermediation associations as institutional players of urban organization in association with national and local public authorities;

9- Authorize public service operators to organize, with the local people, an adequate temporary supply to the informal areas, regardless of the public authorities’ wish to displace the population;

10- Make the search for funding the maintenance and renewal of facilities a priority and train public actors in the implementation of urban planning.


In terms of funding and access to basic services, (Re)sources recommends:

11- Mobilize private investors by providing them with guarantees (return on investment, forward exchange rates, payment guarantee…);

12- Promote the implementation of a tariff for each service, with different prices according to the regions, the actual production cost and the end users’ ability to pay;

13- Support the creation of a coordinated coalition of private and public stakeholders, using development aid not only as a funds provider but also as an enabler;

14-  Work with national public authorities for the emergence of a sectoral framework and a transparent and stable regulation;

15- Seek the implementation of alternative funding (micro-credits, crowdfunding…) and alternative services (mini-utilities, off-grid…);

16- Earmark part of the funding for the maintenance and renewal of the facilities.

In terms of climate risk and access to basic services, (Re)sources recommends:

17- When assessing the necessary investments, integrate uncertainty considerations and research proportionality between the investments level and the foreseeable risks. Promote a dual approach, both prospective and retrospective when developing the scenarios;

18- Promote a differentiated approach of the resilient city, preferring selecting the dynamics of local southern countries rather than exporting northern countries models. Sustainable management of resources, especially water, is to be integrated into risk management;

19- Foster a culture of service that encompasses a new situation: on the one hand, short channels and synergy between services (water, electricity, telecom, urban transportation…) ; on the other hand rationalization and preventionof wastage;

20- Use social networks for the management of essential services, prevention of natural risks and response to crisis. In order to efficiently take into account the change in behavior of urban inhabitants, put the citizen at the very core of public decision making;

21- Target adaptation projects for international funding, especially the Green Fund. As a priority, focus on supporting the poorest areas.

Event's videos

Recommandations de nos experts

Charles Josselin, Gilbert Houngbo, Mohamed Idaomar et Bertrand Gallet
Gérard Payen, Guillaume Josse, Houria Tazi Sadeq et Claude de Miras
David Menascé, Etienne Giros, Alain Ries et Olivier Kayser

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Urban growth and access to essential services in developing countries