It was late March when Aqua for All reached out to water and sanitation service providers following the COVID-19 outbreak. We wanted to understand their struggles concerning the provision of essential services to combat the spread of COVID-19. Soon after, we asked like-minded organisations to join our initiative to provide emergency funds to safeguard access to safe water and sanitation. Many organisations responded to our call and in June, we started allocating funds to the first service providers.
Providing vulnerable, low-income households with affordable access to safe water and proper sanitation has always been Aqua for All’s priority. The COVID-19 crisis urged us to take immediate action to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) working in the water and sanitation sector. Three months into this initiative, significant progress has been made.
Accelerated screening process thanks to our endorsers
We have partnered with organisations active in the water and sanitation and impact investment sector that act as our endorsers. These organisations referred water and sanitation service providers with a solid track record to us. Our endorsers’ support was crucial to navigate through the screening process smoothly.
Our support does not end once grants have been provided; we continue to collaborate with them, discuss feasible ideas and track their progress along the funding period.
Our three-month progress
We are pleased to announce that 12 SMEs have received funding so far. Many are based in our focus countries: Kenya, Bangladesh and India. In addition, we have supported water and sanitation SMEs from Ghana, Haiti and Peru, which are the focus countries of our endorsers. The SMEs have secured or expanded their operations. For example, HappyTap, the world’s first affordable, portable sink, designed for low-income settings was able to continue promoting handwashing in the Dhaka region, Bangladesh. They had to shift their focus to e-commerce and initiated digital campaigns to promote product and handwashing awareness and to drive sales conversions. To learn more about HappyTap, the effects of COVID-19 on their operations and how our support has helped them so far, check out this article.
Access to finance for Kenyan water and sanitation SMEs
Credit is much needed by water and sanitation SMEs in Kenya. Several months after the COVID-19 outbreak and three months into this initiative, the demand for water and sanitation services continues increasing and SMEs are struggling to provide the same services with limited access to financial resources.
Since the launch of the COVID-19 WASH Loan Facility six weeks ago, our partner Sidian Bank has provided loans to 22 water and sanitation SMEs for a total amount of KES 15 million (around €115,250). Most entrepreneurs are into the water supply chain, borehole drilling, hardware and medical products and services. The demand for these loans is very high. Sidian Bank expects to allocate an additional €1.33 million in loans in the coming weeks. The first results are very promising. Thanks to this capital boost, water and sanitation services are safeguarded and sustainably expanded to vulnerable populations.
Promoting water and sanitation entrepreneurship through and beyond this crisis
We are grateful to our partners who continue to support this initiative. Our ability to provide just-in-time response to safeguard access to essential services directly contributes to the fight against COVID-19.
‘We were overwhelmed by the positive response of the endorsers and our co-financiers, The Waterloo Foundation and Sidian Bank. This initiative shows that multi-sectoral partnerships for mobilising funds for water and sanitation enterprises can be feasible and successful in a short amount of time. We are proud of what has been achieved so far,’ Josien Sluijs, Managing Director Aqua for All.
But there is still a long way to go. It will be hard to recover from the repercussions of this crisis. More funds are required to overcome the challenges and to build resilience. Aqua for All will continue playing a catalysing role for mobilised grants and investments in water and sanitation enterprises worldwide.
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