Water.org has announced plans to invest over Shs178million (US$2million) in WaterCredit programs in the next one year to ensure accessibility to safe water and sanitation in Kenya and Uganda.
The organization is also looking to expand the WaterCredit programs by working with a diverse set of financial institution partners and funders to attract additional capital to the WaterCredit ecosystem. So far, Equity Bank, Kenya Women Finance Trust, SMEP and Post Bank Uganda have developed water and sanitation products after successful market assessment and prototype development.
WaterCredit is the first program of its kind that puts microfinance tools to work in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. By connecting financial institutions (FIs) to communities in developing countries in need of clean water and toilets, small loans are then made to individuals and households.
According to Dr. Thorsten, as of August this year, the organization had invested over Shs860 million (US$9.7million) in WaterCredit programs in Kenya, Uganda, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Peru, offering more than 370,000 loans, benefiting more than 1.6 million people. Also, four microfinance partners in Kenya had disbursed 15,716 WASH loans serving 101,352 people. In Uganda, two partners have disbursed 285 WASH loans serving 6,684 people. Water.org has invested USD $1.6 million in WaterCredit and leveraged USD $8 million in loan capital in East Africa.
“We are keen on identifying and prioritizing new markets and models for WaterCredit expansion; including new products and channels for deployment and directing “smart subsidies” to microfinance institutions to establish WaterCredit portfolios. Water.org now has seven microfinance (MFI) partners engaged in WaterCredit in Kenya and Uganda, and we expect to bring on board a few other MFIs in Ethiopia before the end of this year,” he said.
The organization in conjunction with MasterCard Foundation is planning a two-day conference in Nairobi later this month to discuss about lasting solutions to the lack of access to safe water and sanitation and creating access to financing needed to secure these necessities among those living in poverty throughout the region.
The two-day WaterCredit forum dubbed Lend for Change will bring together leaders from the water, sanitation and finance sectors participants from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.
One objective of the Forum is to identify and help remove barriers to lending for WaterCredit. Another is to offer both knowledge and toolkits to encourage other organizations to use WaterCredit as part of their efforts to bring safe water and sanitation services to those who need them. Empowering people to be a part of the solution is what WaterCredit is all about.
Speaking ahead of the forum, Water.org Director of International Programs, Dr. Richard Thorsten, said there is more demand than public and private funding available to finance global water and sanitation needs. He noted that there will never be enough subsidies in the world to solve this challenge hence new models of financing and market engagement will be required to achieve the goal of universal water and sanitation access.
“Many families, even though they are “poor” by traditional economic definitions, are still spending countless dollars of precious disposable income each day on the most basic water and sanitation services they can afford. Access to larger sums of financing could help them break free of the vicious cycle of poverty, and put in place permanent and sustainable solutions,” he said.
In addition: “By providing families with micro-sized loans to purchase their own water connection or toilet, Water.org is empowering families to take charge of their own futures. In addition, as loans are repaid, they can be loaned out again to the next family in need. Water.org’s WaterCredit program reaches families four to five times faster than a more traditional approach.”
Water.org recognizes that there are financial institutions that are interested in expanding their portfolios in scalable, sustainable ways – with water and sanitation falling squarely within their clients’ basic needs. Water.org’s role is to link these stakeholders with one another, provide strategic expertise to help financial institutions develop and deploy water and sanitation loans, and thereby expand the reach and impact that microfinance for water and sanitation can achieve.