Reliable infrastructure is vital for a country to develop its economy and reduce poverty. Households and businesses need access to water as well as sanitation and waste management systems. These basic services should be affordable. SECO supports partner countries with investments, advice, training and expertise.
SECO finances projects to rehabilitate or build new plants for clean water, sanitation and waste management. It ensures that they meet the applicable construction and environmental standards and are built to last. Experts advise utilities on how best to plan, build and operate the infrastructure. And they support the utilities and authorities carrying out the work. This may entail, for example, replacing old water pumps, changing the water pipes, or building waste dumps. SECO also supports partner countries in formulating the laws and policies needed to deliver better services. For instance, it helps partner countries draw up a pricing policy or distribute the various mandates and responsibilities between the state, towns and public utilities. Its focus is on municipal utility companies.
Modern utility companies for reliable services
Simply building the infrastructure is not enough to ensure that households and businesses have water and other basic services. Utility plants also need the appropriate operation and maintenance if they are to continue delivering the intended service over many years.
In reality, the situation in partner countries is often far from this ideal. Municipal utilities tend not to be well organised or efficiently managed. They do not regard themselves as service providers, there to meet their customers’ needs. Their staff spend more time dealing with urgent situations such as repairing broken pipes, leaving little scope for any long-term projects.
SECO helps municipal utilities address such issues. Consultants advise the companies on how to manage their financial, operational and strategic processes more effectively and efficiently. For example, they learn how to develop staff skills with training, update customer databases, or modernise their bookkeeping.
Access to infrastructure financing
SECO makes it easier for partner countries to access the capital needed for infrastructure. It does this via national, regional or local public institutions, such as government ministries responsible for infrastructure, town authorities or utility companies. The institutions receive training and advice on how to improve their creditworthiness and secure public or private funding for their projects. SECO works closely alongside international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the regional development banks. These contribute expertise and funding in cases that are less attractive to private investors.