The COVID-19 pandemic served as a stark reminder of the challenges that the water and sanitation sector faces in developing countries. For Kenya, the crisis is not yet over, with many local service providers still struggling financially. At the same time, more than 48-million Kenyans in urban and rural areas are served by regulated utilities and smaller service providers that bore the brunt of the COVID-19 economic shock.
To alleviate the local providers’ financial struggles and support them in establishing a sustainable WASH system, on September 30, the National Bank of Kenya in partnership with Aqua for All has launched a Kes.5 billion Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Financing programme. It is aimed at micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs and SMEs), including vendors, technology providers, and various WASH suppliers.
One of the primary tasks of the programme is to improve the access to affordable water and sanitation in rural and peri-urban areas of Kenya and, ultimately, to contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 — Sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. This will be done by bridging the financial and service gap for local service providers.
Speaking at the WASH programme launch ceremony, NBK Managing Director, Paul Russo emphasised that this partnership comes at the right time, because Kenyans and especially the SME sector continue to grapple with difficulties caused by the ongoing pandemic.
“As a bank, we are constantly looking for opportunities to support long-term growth to SMEs in all sectors of the economy. I call upon all SMEs in the WASH sector to take advantage of the opportunities presented under this program to help them address the financial gaps in their operations”, said Paul Russo.
During the pilot phase of the project, the National Bank of Kenya will provide two financial solutions. A short term ‘Jenga Biashara Loan’ will offer up to EUR 40,000 to micro and small enterprises for a period of maximum 5 years. ‘Infrastructure Project Loans’ solution targets household connections, smart metering, and solar projects among other efficiency improvement assets. It constitutes up to EUR 400,000 with a tenure of 5 years.
On her part, Josien Sluijs, Managing Director, Aqua for All noted, “Today marks a huge milestone for us and the SME players in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector. Through this partnership and shared vision with NBK, we will be able to create a conducive environment for Water Service Providers to provide sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services to all people.”
The launching ceremony in Nairobi was attended by the Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya H.E. Maarten A. Brouwer and Dr Andrew K. Tuimur, Chief Administrative Secretary of Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation of Kenya and other distinguished speakers:
- NBK Managing Director and KCB Group Regional Business Director, Paul Russo
- Managing Director Aqua for All, Josien Sluijs
- Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Finance Advisor Kenya Aqua for All, Joshua Kibet
- NBK Retail Banking Director, Carol Rutto
- NBK Director Marketing, Corporate Communication & Citizenship, Bernadette Ngara
- NBK Head Change Management and Integration, Fred Kioko
- Senior Manager Partnership Programmes, Pithon Mutiga