PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesInfrastructure

A separate page describes reviews of water and sanitation services.

A systematic review [1] investigated the effect of private-sector participation (PSP) on infrastructure, including electricity and telecommunications. Of the outcomes listed, 70% were positive; around two-thirds were positive in relation to access and service quality, and slightly fewer for product quality. However, most of the studies were qualitative, and these produced more positive reports (84%) than the quantitative studies (40%). In relation to infrastructure overall, the review found that:

  • PSP on its own does not seem to have a significant impact on improvements in access and quality
  • Without financial support from the government, access to poor and rural consumers are affected as a result of PSP
  • Clearly identifying the objectives of PSP would help in appropriately handling the potential trade-offs between outcomes.

This suggests that:

  • Implementation of PSP should not be done in isolation but as a part of a broader reform strategy that includes regulatory reform and introduction of competition. PSP is not very effective in achieving the desired outcomes without corresponding changes in the market, institutional and governance structures
  • Higher improvements can be achieved in outcomes if incentives for improvements are inbuilt into PSP contracts
  • There should strong clarity on the objectives of implementing PSP given the potential trade-offs between different outcomes.

A further systematic review [2] examined the evidence on the effectiveness of different urban-planning approaches in providing access to electricity services in low-income or informal settlements in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Services provided by public or private agencies through centralised planning and implementation (top-down) appeared effective in individual studies for connecting populations to electricity, but this was not confirmed by meta-analysis. Qualitative synthesis of contextual factors suggest a need for the customisation of solutions to meet local needs, and better delivery of services by alternative/non-government service providers. Neighbourhoods without security of tenure are rarely served well top-down. Bottom-up approaches are also limited in this context, and also in Africa, where efforts may be hampered by particularly modest levels of economic development.

1. Impact of private-sector involvement on access and quality of service in electricity, telecom, and water supply sectors: a systematic review of the evidence in developing countries (2013)

2. What is the evidence on top-down and bottom-up approaches in improving access to water, sanitation and electricity services in  low-income or informal settlements? (2016)

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