About 20% of the urban population in sub-Saharan Africa relies on resellers of utility water for their water supply, yet the practice has received little attention either in the academic literature or in sector policy. This study uses primary data collected from more than 200 resellers in Maputo, Mozambique, through in-person surveys, participant observation and focus group discussions. Despite the widely held assumption that all small-scale water providers are profit-maximizing entrepreneurs, this study suggests that this model does not characterize resale behavior in Maputo. Instead, three non-mutually exclusive motivations provide more persuasive explanations for why households resell utility water: (1) earning cash to meet daily subsistence needs; (2) obtaining a form of informal social insurance to deal with future needs; and (3) solidifying embeddedness in social relationships by satisfying the social norms of their communities. These findings suggest that programs and policies typically designed for small-scale providers may be inappropriate for water resellers.

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