World water day 2016: Supporting water entrepreneurs as a new kind of charity
"Business development as a charity", said managing director Sjef Ernes of Aqua for All at the opening of the national celebration of World Water Day in the Hague, the Netherlands, on 24 March.
Aqua for All is increasingly supporting young African entrepreneurs, next to their traditional donor funded philanthropically water projects.
This year's theme of World Water Day was water and jobs so the focus of the Dutch national celebration was on the business aspects and the creation of jobs.Director Sjef Ernes (right) of Aqua for All making his statement about business development as a charity.
Good understanding of local demand
Ernes is aware that supporting business is not immediately recognized as a charity. "Classical charity emphasizes the lack of clean water and toilets. By supporting the entrepreneurs one emphasizes the opportunities. Smart entrepreneurs know how to reach the bottom of the pyramid. They know what water products and services poor people can afford and wish to purchase".
According to Ernes, local entrepreneurs have a good understanding of the local needs and are able to provide a better water service. "So it is better for donors to invest in the business development of such entrepreneurs."
Businesses take the lead
On the occasion of World Water Day he signaled a major shift. "Usually aid organisations knock on the door of businesses for the financing of their water projects. Now it is the other way around. I see businesses knocking on the door of aid organisations asking for support of their water projects. It is business that drives the water agenda more and more, instead of charity", Ernes noticed.
According to Ernes many businesses start to recognize the potential of an additional 3 billion people that are not yet considered as consumers.
Selling more pumps
As an example Ernes mentioned the talks of his foundation Aqua for All with a French company that sells hand pumps in Africa. "It wants to sell their pumps directly to the users in Africa and it does not want to wait for aid organisations to start water projects", told Ernes.
"But their end users lack the money to buy its pumps, so they want to start a lease scheme. This enables them to sell more hand pumps but what is more, they also want to be the operator of the pumps.
For aid organisations such suppliers can be an interesting partner, Ernes pointed out. "Many water pumps in Africa lack maintenance and are out of order because they are not repaired. This French hand pump supplier wants to install the pumps with a guarantee they are operated for 15 years."
The average repair time for a hand pump in Africa is 260 days. "This French pump supplier claims it can fix their pumps in three day", Ernes added.From the pulpit global water director John Batten of Arcadis told about WASH in the workplace.
Proper toilets at the workplace
Also present at the Dutch national celebration of World Water Day was global water director John Batten of consultancy firm Arcadis. Batten also addressed the theme of water and jobs and drew the attention to the WASH Pledge initiative.
Arcadis is one of 34 companies worldwide that have signed up to this initiative, which was launched by the World business council for sustainable development (WBCSD) in 2015 to tackle the issue of clean water and a clean toilet at the workplace.
As a participant Arcadis provides best practice on WASH in the workplace at all its offices. Batten reminded his audience of the claim by the World Health Organization (WHO) that for every dollar invested in water and sanitation, 4.3 dollar is generated from improved productivity, reduced sick days and a more able bodied workforce.
Batten urged other companies to join the initiative. "Good WASH facilities attract good workers", he stated.
Schoolkids walked for water
Traditionally on World Water Water day, Dutch schoolkids are sponsored to walk 6 kilometers with a backpack that contains 6 liters of water. This represents their peers in developing countries who have to walk this distance to get their daily water.
Walking for Water started as a national campaign in 2003 and is growing every year. Last year 365.000 students in 11 countries raised 1.3 million euro. This year in the Netherlands alone, over 650 primary schools participated.
At the national celebration of World Water Day this year's preliminary result of 1 million euro was announced. This is expected to rise as results of more fundraising walks are yet to be reported.
Read also on this website
● Unesco-IHE institute for water education celebrates World Water Day, 22 March 2016
● World Water Day 2016: Availability and management of water links to quality jobs, 21 March 2016
● World water day 2014: Why does energy outperform water?, 21 March 2014
● World Water Day – The Hague: Global water community endeavors cooperation on food, energy and health issues, 23 March 2013
World Water day: water and jobs
Aqua for All
The Hague, the Netherlands
+31 70 7200 870
Walking for water
The Hague, the Netherlands
+31 70 3519 725