The water sourcing and supply sector in Djibouti is in crisis.
Only a minority of ‘households’ in Djibouti have reticulated water. Water born diseases are common in peri-urban and rural areas.
Of those that have metered reticulated connections in Djibouti City, water supply is intermittent – often less than two hours a day and five hours per day at best. Prices are relatively high. Standpipe booths common across Africa are absent. This results in ‘panic demand’ and tank-filling when supply is turned on, and an expensive tanker-delivered sector, which depresses growth.
In both peri-urban and rural areas private wells are scarce, since the costs of lined wells are prohibitive for many.
One result of this poorly managed sector is the extent of physical theft from illegal connections, meter tampering, and widespread non-payment. The poor state of the pipe network means that in addition, there are leaks of more than half of production. Chaotic management means that filtration is poorly undertaken, if at all.
The sector is dominated by a state company which is a Regie Autonome, with opaque finances and severe problems of corruption.
Three sets of reforms for the shorter and medium term are proposed. First, the state water company needs major reform. Subject to a review of sourcing, consideration will be given to a subdivision of the company into sourcing & filtering, and distribution, potentially with two areas. Greater efforts will be needed to introduce charges for illegal connections.
Second, rural and urban sourcing and supply investments will be needed, both for human consumption and for limited new developments in agriculture. However, geological and aquifer sources have already been located in parts of the country, which can be exploited at reasonable cost due to near-surface flows. Several firms have already expressed interest in investing in the sector.
Getting things done
Whilst the sector is profitable and in the long term no state borrowing is envisaged, the sector is in a poor state, and new investments remain as yet unplanned. Initial costs may be substantial and concessionary international financial support will be sought, against a clear investment plan. New investment will require demonopolisation, and a new, easier licensing regime. There are likely to be demands for private networks, and direct sales from new sources to major industrial users, with transmissions charges where necessary.