Mobilizing Private Investment for Better Sanitation in East Africa

Plastic water tanks are a common site in rural Africa, where small-scale water storage solutions are in high demand amongst communities coping with erratic water supply conditions. Brands such as the Kentank in Kenya and Simtank in Tanzania, can often be found in even the most remote locations, and the firms behind these products are well versed in the challenging business of rural distribution.

So, what if this manufacturing and distribution capacity could be leveraged for other products, such as improved household sanitation solutions?


Kentainers, the producer of the Kentank, and Silafrica, the firm behind the Simtank, are two of a group of regional manufacturing firms that are currently engaged under the Selling Sanitation initiative, a joint project of IFC and the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program.


With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative aims to catalyze the market for improved sanitation and accelerate access to more affordable sanitation solutions for low-income households in East Africa, with a pilot program in Kenya. 


This initiative will lower market barriers, attract private investment and spur innovation by helping firms better understand consumer needs at the low end of the economic pyramid. It will provide support to manufacturing firms to design new products, helps manufacturers develop rural distribution mechanisms, and actively promote sanitation to consumers currently without access. The initiative will work closely with regional government counterparts, including the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, to create the right enabling conditions for the sanitation market. 


Approximately 28 million Kenyans, over two-thirds of the population, lack access to improved sanitation. Nearly 20,000 Kenyans, including more than 17,000 children under the age of five, die every year from diarrheal diseases directly attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Many Kenyan households use poor quality, but costly latrines with low hygienic standards. Few affordable product and service options exist for low-income households looking to upgrade or build new sanitation facilities. 


The initiative is part of IFC’s Sanitation and Safe Water for All program, which has recently published a step-by-step guide for entrepreneurs on how to develop a water treatment and vending business in Kenya.  The program builds on the experience from Lighting Africa, a joint IFC and World Bank program, which has so far provided safe, affordable and modern off-grid lighting to more than four million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative also leverages the extensive sanitation expertise of the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program. 

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