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Progress towards sustainable urban water management in Ghana

Matthew Egan (Department of Accounting, University of Sydney Business School, Sydney, Australia)
Gloria Agyemang (Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 30 May 2019

Issue publication date: 6 June 2019




In recent decades, governments in developing countries have experienced relentless pressure from key supranational finance providers (particularly the World Bank) to focus on the achievement of financial efficiency. This pressure persists despite evidence that basic institutions necessary for sustainable infrastructure and competitive commercial arrangements are often not present. This paper aims to examine the steering of urban water management in Ghana as it progressed through a first failed public-private partnership in this sector (from 2005 to 2011), and beyond to 2017. Throughout this 12-year period, the authors consider progress and barriers to the achievement of steering for sustainable development.


Publicly available documentation is examined through the lens of steering for sustainable development (Voß et al., 2007) to consider the challenges of urban water management between 2005 and 2017.


Progress towards a more sustainable approach to urban water management was achieved through greater democratic governance, public accountability and public engagement. This acted as a counter foil to power and affected improvements of knowledge and clarity of related goals. Effective sustainable management continued to be challenged, however, by on-going World Bank pressure to focus on financial efficiency.

Practical implications

The provision of a sustainable water supply continues to be a significant challenge for many developing countries, including Ghana. This study provides insights into how progress beyond crippling financial dependency might begin to be achieved.

Social implications

Safe and sustainable water supply is critical for both the health and economic progress of citizens in developing countries such as Ghana. This study provides insight into the value of drawing from a broad range of stakeholders in seeking viable pathways towards those goals.


While water management challenges for developing countries have been significantly researched, particularly in the context of private financing arrangements, little empirical insight is provided into how governments can move forward with sustainable progress beyond the failure of such arrangements. Water management in Ghana beyond 2011 provides that unique context.



Egan, M. and Agyemang, G. (2019), "Progress towards sustainable urban water management in Ghana", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 235-259.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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