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Rethinking funding structures for youth-led WASH entrepreneurs in achieving SDG 6

About the blog

Jacob Kwasi Amengor
Co-Founder, WASH Advancement Centre, Ghana.

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  • Rethinking funding structures for youth-led WASH entrepreneurs in achieving SDG 6

Presently, Ghana boasts an impressive 85% accessibility to improved drinking water and a 60% reach in improved sanitation. The period from 2015 to 2021 witnessed a commendable 30% surge in WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) service accessibility, although the remaining 15% poses a challenge, primarily concentrated in rural areas that fall outside the conventional business scope of public utilities. The centralized systems of these utilities render water supply to remote communities financially unattractive due to substantial operational expenses. Therefore, a solution lies in adopting a hybrid model, integrating decentralized, community-based systems tailored to the unique needs of scattered rural populations. Additionally, fostering co-design, collaboration, and partnerships in WASH service management at the community level is crucial. Involving beneficiaries as stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle ensures community ownership, enhancing sustainability and breaking the cycle of neglecting broken-down facilities, a problem rooted in the misconception that external donors solely bear the responsibility for maintenance.

These challenges in the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector offer the youth remarkable opportunities, such as advocating for the adoption of community-based WASH systems, taking the lead in community engagement through creative mediums like drama and music, and the leverage of digital innovations. Moreover, the youth are capable of transforming these challenges into entrepreneurial ventures within the WASH sector. A compelling example is Beth Koigi, founder of Majik Water, who, inspired by her firsthand experience in a community lacking a water source, established a pioneering water enterprise. Through innovative methods like atmospheric water generators, Majik Water now provides accessible and clean water to communities and schools in Kenya, demonstrating how entrepreneurial solutions by the youth can address critical challenges in the WASH sector.

The youth are capable of transforming water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector challenges into entrepreneurial ventures

A wave of young WASH entrepreneurs is spearheading remarkable innovations through their start-up ventures, often propelled by support from incubator and accelerator programs providing financial boosts of USD 5,000, USD 10,000, or even USD 20,000 to develop prototypes and launch products. While these initiatives equip entrepreneurs with essential training, a drawback emerges as multiple funding sources necessitate repetitive training sessions, resulting in a redundant allocation of time and resources. Although these support structures generate impactful outcomes, they fall short of fostering systemic change — a requisite for achieving the ambitious SDG 6 goal. To truly empower young WASH entrepreneurs, there is a critical need for a sustainable and relevant amount of funding that not only facilitates the creation of vital infrastructure but also enables scalable operations on a large scale, propelling these ventures toward impactful, lasting change.

In conclusion, fostering progress towards the targets of SDG 6 demands a recalibration of trust and financial support mechanisms for young WASH entrepreneurs. Currently, substantial funding is directed towards governments and large-scale systems, leaving the innovative endeavors of young entrepreneurs with comparatively limited resources to implement equally crucial interventions. It is imperative for donor agencies and financial institutions to revaluate and adapt the governance structure of funding, considering the diverse scenarios and conditions faced by youth. By providing adequate and flexible funding, we pave the way for the establishment and growth of WASH enterprises led by the youth, a vital step towards substantial progress in achieving the targets outlined in SDG 6.

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