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An assessment of the role of the private sector in urban infrastructure service provision

Urban infrastructure services, which include facilities and services such as roads, mass transportation, water systems, garbage collection and disposal, drainage and flood protection, electric installations, and telecommunications, are essential in making human settlements (including urban areas) places of sustainable living by enhancing their environmental quality and aiding human activities. > However, in developing countries, urban infrastructure facilities and services have been recording poor performance both in terms of quantity and quality standards. In Kenya, the situation has not been any different as evidenced by the inefficiency and inadequacy of Solid Waste Management services in the city of Nairobi. By reviewing a wide range of issues connected with infrastructure services, and by posing the problem in the context of the developing world, this study aims at establishing possible explanations for the above situation. * A review of literature indicates that the bulk of urban infrastructure service problems both in the developing world and in Kenya, are a consequence of a variety of factors including high urban population growth rates and administrative and management malfunctions in the urban management systems. But more specifically, this poor performance has been blamed on the institutional framework under which urban infrastructure services delivered. Critics argue that the public sector, traditionally responsible for service delivery in developing countries, is insensitive to internal and external factors which impinge on the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery systems The si inly therefore seeks to establish from existing examples in t he developing world, available inslitul ional arrangements and particularly examines role that private sector participation plays in solving urban service del iverv problems. .Specific attention is paid to the coni ribut ion of the private,in the provision of solid waste management services in the A city of Nairobi. The involvement of the private sector in solid waste management in Nairobi is a relatively new phenomenon. However, the findings of t lie study indicate that prompted by frustrations with the infrequent and inefficient services provided by the Nairobi City Council, city residents are increasingly turning to private solid waste entrepreneurs as a means of getting their garbage collection needs met. The study has established that as demonstrated in numerous other experiences in the developing world, private solid waste entrepreneurship in Nairobi seems to b 3 useful in addressing solid waste management problems in the city. However, the current private sector involvement does not address the needs of all areas within Ihi' city especially low income areas and open spaces. Taking into consideration the above facts, and considering important contextual issues, the study recommends the privatization of garbage collection services in the city of Nairobi not as a panacea, bit as an important step towards the solution of the problem.