If you think Water4 has been talking a lot about Ghana lately, you’re on to us. Our local enterprise partner – AD Ghana – is feverishly completing a pilot project in a rural part of the country, Wassa East District. And we expect the results to have a transformational impact on a dozen other countries in Africa.
Ghana is our incubator for innovation. In 2020, after 5 years of hard work and intentional investment, in partnership with the Dutch government and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, AD Ghana and Water4 will complete a proof-of-concept for district-wide water coverage. A brand developed by Water4, NUMA is a hard-earned solution to an elusive global problem: how to make rural water services accessible by all and financially sustainable for generations.
Our solution is to complete universal access to safe water in one district, using one service provider. This includes connecting rural and small-town communities throughout Wassa East (houses, clinics and schools). The district, known for cocoa farming, has a small population over a large area, making it one of the most challenging places to provide safe water services through a financially sustainable model.
Ghana is our litmus test for reaching the poor through market-based solutions. Research published in 2019 by the World Bank concludes that the bottom 20 percent of income earners in low and middle-income countries receive just 6 percent of all government subsidies that flow to the water sector. Illogically, the poorest households have to rely on their own resources to pay for the water they desperately need. Water4 wants to turn this paradigm on its head, reserving public money to target the poorest while enabling those with higher incomes the option to pay for convenient, safe water service. The single service provider – AD Ghana – can then reach everyone, everywhere, with safe water.
If we get the ingredients right in Ghana, we will have a replicable model to bring services to 500,000 more people across Africa in just 5 years, and 1 million more people by 2030.
So, why are we starting with Ghana? Water4’s decision to invest comes down to four simple reasons:
- Government values private enterprise. This stable democracy has a vision to become a developed country by 2029, and a newly industrialized country by 2039. Investments in energy, mining and agriculture have opened doors for private enterprise to collaborate with government to yield dynamic economic growth.
- Water is a national priority. Not only as a means to enhance human health and well-being, but as an input to every economic sector. With land abounding in minerals, fertile soil, and hundreds of hectares of tropical rainforest up against hundreds of miles of Atlantic shoreline, Ghanaians are making the most of their natural endowment. The government understands how water can either constrain or enable more growth in various sectors, and is open to innovation that yields more safe water for more people.
- Four million people still lack access to an improved water source. More than 70% of the population of Wassa East falls into the bottom 40% of the country in terms of income. Some people are living on $5 per day, others on $2 per day. Some can afford to pay for safe water piped to their home, some cannot. It’s Water4’s mission to meet all of these needs, using water to bolster equity across the district, and to do so in a way that is financially sustainable, such that AD Ghana can provide services for all, and do so in perpetuity.
- Ghana can lead others to the well. Water4’s vision is a world free from the water crisis. That’s easier said than done, especially where conflict and violence abound. One way to fight the fragility in West Africa is to invest in the stability of Ghana. While its neighboring countries are recovering from decades-long civil war, recovering from Ebola or fighting terrorism, Ghana remains a city on a hill, a beacon of hope in a trying time. The world needs hope and we aim to be a part of it.
If the district-wide model can be successful in bringing safe water to 92,000 people in a single district in Ghana, it can work, with tweaks and modifications, in many other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Our hope is that you will meet us where we are, with what you have, to bring this pilot to a continental scale.