Acumen Fund: Financing Scalable Water & Sanitation Solutions for the Poor
David Kuria wants to transform the way Kenyans think about toilets. His company, Ecotact, is building bright, beautiful structures in dense urban centers and slums, where Kenyans can pay a small fee to use a hygienic toilet. A seemingly simple intervention but with potential for enormous impact in urban areas where defecating into a plastic bag is a common practice (e.g., the infamous "flying toilets" in the Kibera slum).
Ecotact uses innovative marketing campaigns involving national celebrities, such as Miss Kenya, to promote the toilet as an aspirational good instead of a taboo. And the company is starting to take off. The 17 sites currently operational are seeing an average of over 1,300 users per facility per day, exceeding the company's expectations by 300%. The IkoToilet brand has gained national and international recognition, and the company plans to triple in size over the next year.
Ecotact is a great example of the kind of company that Acumen Fund finances - enterprises that employ a market-based approach to addressing problems of poverty in a financially sustainable and scalable way. We worked with David Kuria to craft the initial business plan for Ecotact and provided a loan to finance the first toilet facilities in Nairobi. It has been exciting to see the company grow so rapidly.
As a social investor, Acumen Fund seeks to prove that our debt and equity investments, combined with business acumen and management support, can build thriving enterprises that serve vast numbers of the poor. Our investments focus on delivering affordable, critical goods and services - like health, water, housing, energy, and agriculture inputs - through innovative, market-oriented approaches.
Acumen Fund's Water Portfolio has focused on companies delivering safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation options to low-income consumers. For example, we invested in WaterHealth International, a company installing and operating water treatment plants in rural areas to extend access to safe drinking water at affordable prices, to support the company's launch in India. Now, the company operates nearly 300 such plants and serves over 240,000 regular customers.
At Acumen Fund, we believe that pioneering entrepreneurs will ultimately find the solutions to poverty. Our job is to provide "patient capital" and management support that can help their enterprises grow.
This Live Earth Run for Water guest post was written by Marc Manara, Portfolio Manager for the Acumen Fund, a Global Water Challenge member. Help efforts to fund sustainable and sanitary water solutions by participating in the Run for Water or by giving directly to a Run for Water project.