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Toilets on discount - Sharing GIZ’s experience with accelerating access to sanitation through household toilet subsidies

Mbalo, D., Rossmann, R. (2019)

Published in: 2019
Pages: 40

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany

Mbalo, D., Rossmann, R.

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Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH


The debate on subsidies has recently resurfaced in the context of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goal to achieve universal access to safely managed sanitation and the very significant funding gap to achieve this. The water and sanitation sector has always been highly subsidized, yet those subsidies mostly flow into support for existing customers rather than extension of services to the underserved. The World Bank’s recent report “Doing more with less" concluded that smart, targeted and well-implemented subsidies can be powerful tools to ensure all people benefit from water and sanitation services and calls for a better use of scarce subsidies. This paper complements this call for action by sharing GIZ’s experience with implementing pro-poor subsidies in sanitation specifically for the construction of household toilets. The guiding question is how to design smart subsidies that are scalable so that it is possible to significantly increase access to sanitation in the context of scarce financial resources. After dispelling three prevalent myths about subsidies for household sanitation, the paper makes the case for good subsidy design, proposes a set of design variables and examines the inevitable trade-offs when making design choices. The paper draws heavily on GIZ’s own experience in providing technical assistance for the design and implementation of household sanitation subsidies in Kenya and Burkina Faso.

The paper concludes that sanitation subsidies can contribute towards realizing the 2030 Agenda principle of Leaving No One Behind, but only if they are designed appropriately. Appropriate design requires the evaluation of trade-offs, taking into account the overarching policy goal and the intended beneficiaries. Besides designing new sanitation subsidy schemes, reforming existing sanitation subsidies to be more pro-poor could yield significant benefits. In this context, the success of sanitation subsidies needs to be evaluated first and foremost against the criteria of leaving no one behind. At GIZ, we believe that household sanitation subsidies can be an effective tool to reach this policy goal. By sharing GIZ’s experience, we hope to contribute to the debate on how to design and implement sustainable and scalable household sanitation subsidies that leave no one behind.

Bibliographic information

Mbalo, D., Rossmann, R. (2019). Toilets on discount - Sharing GIZ’s experience with accelerating access to sanitation through household toilet subsidies. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany

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GIZ (2019) Toilets on Discount! Sharing GIZ’s experience with accelerating access to sanitation through household toilet subsidies

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