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The Role of Local Innovation for Sustainable Water and Sanitation


Despite decades of reforms and numerous pilot projects, huge service inequalities persist in access to water supply and sanitation (WSS) in African cities. The WSS systems in Africa seem not to follow the historical development pattern of similar systems in the North, and existing change theories are ill-suited to African contexts. This project aims at developing and promoting knowledge about how local innovation can contribute to a transformation of these systems for a more equal access.

Our research involves case studies in Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya. We focus on WSS in low-income areas including technical as well as organisational innovations and combine secondary sources with primary data collected in the field. The case studies will help us to adapt existing theoretical models to the African city context, based on well-established theories on change and innovation such as Large Technical Systems, Multi Level Perspective and Strategic Niche Management. We analyse the interface between local level innovation and the existing socio-technical regimes, as well as contextual landscape factors such as societal values, economy, human rights etc. Essentially, we believe that much more needs to be understood about the processes or alignment between these three different levels, in order to enable a transformative shift towards sustainable water and sanitation services in African cities.

The project is carried out between 2016 and 2019 by KTH researchers David Nilsson (Div. for History of Science, Technology and Environment) and Pär Blomkvist (Div. for Industrial Dynamics), combining expertise on Africa, water and sanitation, history, technology change and innovation. Local field studies are done through a novel collaborative partnership with Technical University of Kenya, the Department of Geoscience and the Environment . We also collaborate with Makerere University in Uganda and Stockholm International Water Institute.


The following scientific outputs (open access) are available from the project: