Being young in Busia is tough. In one of the poorest regions of Kenya, bordering Uganda, open defecation is a problem – toilets are too expensive – which affects public health, especially of children. When they grow older, in search of livelihoods, they are confronted with another hurdle: young people[1] are last in line when it comes to jobs. In many parts of Africa their most fundamental hurdle is the generational stigma – ‘it is not their turn yet’. And young people know. They might save the earnings from their employment, and decide to leave, migrating to ‘greener pastures’.

In 2016 the Sustainable Development Goals were launched, to tackle all these problems, from toilets and sanitation to jobs for youth. Every self respecting development organisation or business is reformulating its strategy based on the Sustainable Development Goals. Look at how many jobs we have created for youth!

But how sustainable is their employment, if certain strategic actors in their context, such as government, are not on board?  Unless donors, organisations and businesses bundle their forces and partner in order to get these strategic actors interested into progress on the SDGs. Such as local government. Many public private partnerships (PPP) know how to do that, but it is not always easy. They invest time and effort into aligning public and private goals, respecting rules and regulations and liaising with the proper points of contact within government.

However sometimes governments won’t deliver on their commitments. Their staff might be ‘politicised’, and not held to the actual implementation of (often promising) government policies. In case of weak governance, one can opt for principal reasons not to engage with such government. But this won’t bring the SDGs any closer. You can’t wish away a complex context and its strategic actors. You can certainly try to influence them though, and interest them into contributing to inclusive development. Including young people for example: government is aware of their growing importance.

Which takes us back to Busia, where affordable toilets have become a business opportunity for youth, thanks to the partnership called Financial Inclusion Improves Sanitation and Health  in Kenya (FINISH INK) led by the WASTE Foundation. This PPP helped create 50 sanitation enterprises. And there will be more business opportunities for Busian youth, as the demand for sanitation is increasing and thanks to the project, people are more willing to pay (if only little) for it. This is how sanitation needs can result in job creation for youth. With government on board.

This partnership knew how Busia’s leaders and government could benefit: by strengthening their political mandate and help fulfill the expectations of communities – eventually those entitled to vote. Locally based partner AMREF introduced the partnership to the Busia Governor and to the local Member of Parliament. They decided not only to cooperate with partnership but also to co-invest in water and sanitation business opportunities for youth and women groups[2].Through its good ‘intelligence’ regarding local decision makers, the partnership was able to seize momentum, create political will for the PPP and obtain a local license to operate.

To design a successful partnership, governments need to see what’s in it for them; from a government’s point of view.

The example in this blog is about how a partnership can help strengthen a government’s political mandate. Not by getting involved in politics, not by automatically providing extra resources – this might eventually stifle PPPs budgets – but by helping to fulfill expectations of communities, with regard to for example: affordable toilets but also more jobs for youth.

This is only one of the motivations and benefits for government that partnerships can include into their design to get government on board, and ensure their interest and commitment. Helping partnerships find out what approach works best for them is what the work of the PPPLab is about. Offering practical tools on topics like how to engage governments. Our new animation presents several typical benefits for government that a partnership can provide, based on extensive research.

Young people in Busia now have a combined benefit from better sanitation (SDG 6) and more employment opportunities (SDG 8). Yet the basis of these achievements lies in SDG 17 on public private partnerships, which, if including strategic actors, is perhaps not the fastest but the most sustainable way of achieving the SDGs by 2030.

[1] and women

[2] It started by a principle agreement between the partners, WASTE, Amref Health Africa, Ministry of Health, Actiam, Sidian Bank (formerly K-REP) and Family Bank to focus on two counties that are geographically far apart (Busia in the West and Kilifi in the East) to minimise any adverse effects of climate.

By Marije Balt

This blog was published earlier on the website of the PPPLab