Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) as Collective Action for Improved Urban Environment Governance in Ethiopia

Muhammedamin Hussen


Rapid rates of urbanization and unplanned expansion of cities have resulted in dramatic environmental deterioration, severely affecting the growing numbers of urban poor and acute shortage of basic urban service delivery. These problems have been exacerbated by squatter settlement and migration among other things. Empirical literatures provides compelling evidence that various attempts has been made by the government to solve urban environmental governance problems and to provide better services in urban areas including clean water supply, sanitation, drainage facilities, green parks and deforestation. However, the situation is likely to remain unchanged in the future despite the government efforts to improve the infrastructure and service delivery as well as urban environment governance. Although significant effort have been made to improve and cope up with the increasing demand from the public on various services from urban areas, due to complexity of the services as a result of rapid and unplanned urbanization; massive squatter settlement, and increasing number of urban dwellers, has become very challenging for the government alone to deliver the services for its dwellers. Moreover, in most urban areas in developing countries like Ethiopia, the problem is more complicated due to typical characteristics of public sector: inefficiency and lack of effectiveness and due to inadequate and unsustainable nature of service; and overall poor performance.

It is thus important to fill the gap by partnerships with private sectors seems plausible options to efficiently and effectively improve urban service delivery for its dwellers. Empirical literature  showed that to date, government efforts directed at solving serious urban environmental problems in developing countries have not mobilized the private sector, non-governmental organizations and community initiatives at the planning and management levels. Because of this, the project on urban governance did not bring significant change in protecting natural environment and improving urban services to dwellers. Though the  Public-Private partnerships(PPPs) in  urban environment governance has been practiced in other parts of the world, the empirical review on Ethiopia urban environment showed that  there is huge gap in mobilizing collective action in form of PPPs to overcome the natural resource degradation and enhance urban environment governance in the country. Hence, coordinating and mobilizing the private sector to address the increasing demand for urban environment governance by urban dwellers is important for sustainable development activities of the countries. This is because, institutional structure like PPPs can fill the gap that cannot be filled by the public sector and improve urban environment governance services to its dwellers.

This article reviewed PPPs initiatives in other countries which involve mutual cooperation of the private and public institutions to deliver reliable, affordable, profitable, eco-efficient urban infrastructure services, and indicated possibility for adapting to developing countries like Ethiopia. The article reveals that the arrangement is preferable because it is a pool of two sectors: the dynamism, access to finance, knowledge of technologies, managerial efficiency, and entrepreneurism of the private sector with the social responsibility, environmental awareness, local knowledge, and job creation concerns of the public. It is business solutions to urban environment governance. Thus, findings show that Ethiopia also can adapt the model to improve the urban environment services. Therefore, a significant lesson can be drawn for Ethiopian urban environment taking into account the experiences, successes and challenges faced by other countries in the process of adopting the PPPs model as collective action to enhance urban environment governance issues in the country.

Keywords: Urban Environment Governance, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), Collective Action

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