Investing in water kiosks, improving access to safe water worldwide

“The world is rapidly urbanizing”, Sjef Ernes explains. “But it is clear that existing large urban water utilities alone will not reach current unserved areas such as informal slums, suburbs that are growing rapidly.  Nor will utilities be able to take up all needed large investments for small cities and towns. This means we have to look for complementary solutions to provide safe water in these areas.”

Why are water kiosks an interesting solution?
“The potential is huge. Internationally, billions of people lack home delivered water via piped house connections. We now see a big gap between service providers and people not served. The water grid infrastructure is not reaching beyond the outer sides of the grids. Additionally, some households are not being served at all, or the existing service delivery stops before reaching ‘the last mile’ (to the household). Arranging this from vending points would create a huge impact.”

“Water kiosks offer great opportunities for improvements. Kiosks may source from boreholes, outer sides of grids, gravity schemes, tapping points, and other sources. Kiosks are often equipped with treatment technology. This is ideal where polluted water sources are the only source. With a variety of home service delivery options they can cover the last mile distribution, reaching locations where there is currently no service.”

What exactly are water kiosks?
“To Aqua for All a water kiosk is a local water service point from a water source that needs treatment, in the end providing safe water – and possibly also clear (but not safe!) water and other products. Mostly, the water is provided in containers (jerry cans) of 5-10-20 liter. The source may be water from the utility, surface water, polluted or unsafe groundwater and/or brackish ground water.
We advocate multiple kiosks under one umbrella construction for leasing or franchising. Branding, marketing, quality control, administration, maintenance and purchase can be done jointly. In India we already see franchises with 200 to 500 kiosks. Kiosk models are attractive as decentralized systems and can link to existing grids.”

What does Aqua for All provide?
“Aqua for all supports many early stage kiosk entrepreneurs. They all need to go through the crucial ‘pioneering gap’ also known as the ‘funding gap’. Aqua for All believes in innovation and therefore gives early stage grants to boost the entrepreneurs business so he/she can survive the first stage of its business set up. In this way we want to attract co-financers: we make high-risk investments in the early stage to lower the risk of follow-up investors (de-risking first loss capital).”

“Together with WASTE and Africa Funded we set up the incubator for Water, Sanitation and Solid Waste, focusing on drinking water and sanitation for entrepreneurs which are acting in the pioneer gap. This joint venture complements the strengths and services what Aqua for All, Africa Funded and WASTE have to offer. Aqua for All is experienced in drinking water, WASTE in sanitation, and Africa Funded in business development, guidance and coaching of entrepreneurs together with local networks of funders. Apart from kiosks, the incubator also focuses on service delivery solutions, mini grids, sanitation solutions, waste water treatment and other solutions.”

What are concrete examples of kiosk projects?
“Let me name three cases that I’m very enthusiastic about. First, Spring Health, which we are also funding. They understand how important it is to manage the quality of the water and they focus on ICT for monitoring and evaluation and brand loyalty of consumers.
PureFresh, which we are supporting as well, gets their kiosk machines as close as possible to the end-users. They manage to do so by getting water in three steps from a water production site  to vending points to bottle machines.

Last, AfricAqua provides two separate water products: safe water and clear water – and brings this to people’s houses. They show people are willing to pay for three jerry cans of clean water and one jerry can of safe water a time. Selling the two products (safe water that can be used for drinking and clean water that can be used for washing clothes, for example) also makes it more easy to convince people safe water is important – a very clever marketing concept.”

What are next steps?
“We aim to be a game changer, and at the moment we are also working on a research to demonstrate kiosk models are very viable and a good complementary solution to provide safe water for the Base of the Pyramid. We want to convince scale players who hesitate to invest that it makes sense to put capital investments in this promising new service concepts. At the same time we want to encourage entrepreneurs to learn from each other and become a learning community.”

(Persbericht Aqua for All, april 2016)