Making water accessible and affordable in Africa
In sub-Saharan Africa, about 40% of the population lacks safe drinking water.
RSKeWATERservices, a joint venture between RSK and eWATERservices, the company behind the eWaterpay system, aims to help with this problem utilising deep mobile penetration across Africa. In two districts in Tanzania, Dodoma and Singida, the joint venture will install 650 solar-powered eWaterPay ‘pay-as-you-go’ meters. These will deliver to 164,000 people across the region. The low-cost, pay-as-you-go system uses mobile technology that is already serving 110,000 families across the Gambia, Ghana and Tanzania and has dispensed over 260 million litres of affordable, accessible, clean water to rural communities.
The system comprises a solar-powered tap that is connected to a digital wallet and is situated within a village community. The revenue collected is used to cover the costs of accessing clean water and to operate and maintain the systems over time. The device successfully addresses the twin challenges of infrastructure maintenance and availability by offering round-the-clock access for users, unlike in the past, when people may only have had access to a borehole at specific times.
According to a recent World Bank study on the performance of water-supply services in Africa, half of the region’s utilities do not have sufficient revenue to cover their operation and maintenance costs. Countries need to build up their operational capacities and use both public and private utilities to meet the demand.
The Tanzanian government has launched the Accelerating Solar Water Pumping through Innovative Financing (ASWPTIF) project to address this issue. The project is being led by the Government of Tanzania through its TIB Development Bank supported by funding from the World Bank. As part of this project, RSKeWATERservices successfully won the tender to install water meters across Dodoma and Singida.
“Water shortage is a big challenge in Africa,” observes Nick Leason, Director of Projects and Public Affairs, eWATERservices. “Many rural communities across Africa are plagued by systems installed with good intent by global charities and NGOs, but with little thought to the sustainability of these systems, which means that, when a pipe bursts or a pump fails, there are no funds, engineers or spare parts to repair it.
“In Tanzania, this issue is particularly bad. Of an estimated 86,000 rural water systems in the country, over 40% are unserviceable, leading to the members of thousands of rural communities, who live a hand-to-mouth existence, having to travel large distances every day to collect water. This means that children are unable to attend school. The water also has to be boiled, which leads to further deforestation to provide fuel, and it remains a source of disease for many.”
In fact, 45% of supply systems tend to break down within two years because there is no water economy, no professional maintenance and no money to pay for maintenance. It is important to find a solution that can help to maintain the infrastructure. eWATERservices helps to address these challenges and ensures accessible, affordable, clean water for rural communities. That, in turn, reduces the daily time needed for collection, which means that children can attend school. It also reduces the risk of disease to these most vulnerable communities.
Mobile phone use in Africa has grown rapidly and 93% of Africans have access to a mobile phone, therefore eWaterPay makes it easy for them to have access to safe drinking water. Moreover, the cost is affordable to even the poorest communities; 1000 litres cost just $1, or 5¢ for a 20-litre bucketful. In Africa, the mobile technology that has revolutionised the banking sector could do the same for tackling water shortages.
Installation work will begin later in 2020. It is hoped that, when the initial systems have been installed, eWaterpay can be rolled out more widely across the country. The project is an excellent example of RSK actively looking for opportunities to contribute to the well-being of the communities local to our offices (we have offices in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania). We are committed to finding new and innovative ways to use fewer natural resources, producing less waste and contributing to the transition to a low-carbon economy, while making positive contributions to local ecosystems and surrounding communities. We aim to ensure that our presence around the world has positive consequences for local people and their environment.