Robert Buckley presented his study how world's largest cities financed their first sewer systems. Historical experience does not provide a prequel to the issues facing sub-Saharan African cities. However, a review of the historical experience does raise some topics of interest. In particular, the paper resolves an historical debate about how the investments were financed. That is, were the investments paid for by the direct beneficiaries, as some claim, or was external finance involved? The paper also discusses the effects the investments had on health and the institutional transformation of city government. And, finally, by considering the parallels and differences between the two periods, it suggests a need for greater urgency in addressing urban sanitation issues in many sub-Saharan cities.

Bob Buckley is an Affiliated Scholar at the Urban Institute.  Between 2008 and 2016 he was the Julian Studley Fellow at the New School and Managing Director at the Rockefeller Foundation. Prior to that he was an Advisor and Principal Economist at the World Bank, and Deputy Assistant Secretary and Chief Economist at the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development. He has also taught at NYU Abu Dhabi, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has written widely on urbanization and development in both the popular press — The Financial Times, New York Times, Nature, and academic journals — Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Economic Development and Cultural Change, and The European Journal of Law and Economics. He has also helped support Bank and Foundation projects in a variety of places.