South Africa faces a capital investment funding gap of approximately USD $20 billion to meet the country’s national objective of universal access to water and sanitation by 2030. Private sector participation in service delivery could contribute to closing the funding gap and meeting sector needs. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are often viewed as avenues to contribute to more efficient delivery of infrastructure and improved services. However, in South Africa, only two long-term water concessions have been implemented that combine major capital investment with operations and maintenance and retail water service management. One of these, the Mbombela Water Services Concession, has been in operation since 1999 and is one of the longest serving water concessions in the global south. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the original structuring of the concession and, 20 years later, provided technical assistance to improve its performance.
This brief, produced by USAID’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Finance (WASH-FIN) program, examines the history of the Mbombela Concession, including why the PPP model was adopted, how it was implemented, challenges encountered, how it evolved over time, and how USAID assistance helped improve water and sanitation services in Mbombela.