Safe Water Network Showcases Innovative Financing and Partnerships for Ghana’s Rural Water Sector

Editors Note: In this post, Charles Nimako, Ghana Country Director at Safe Water Network discusses innovative approaches around financing and partnerships to improve access to sustainable safe water. 

At least 8 million people in Ghana lack reliable access to clean water every day. As the world raises the bar for development with the Sustainable Development Goals, shifting our indicators from number of water points to sustainable access over time, our government recognizes the need for innovative approaches to fill the gap.

Charles Nimako, Country Director, and Kurt Soderlund, CEO, Safe Water Network, talk with Hon. Sampson Ahi (MP), Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Water Resources, at the opening session.

Charles Nimako, Country Director, and Kurt Soderlund, CEO, Safe Water Network, talk with Hon. Sampson Ahi (MP), Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Water Resources, at the opening session.

Safe Water Network’s recent Beyond the Pipe forum in Accra focused on innovative approaches around financing and partnerships, two key areas Safe Water Network Ghana has prioritized in improving access to sustainable safe water. These topics brought such influential guests as Hon. Sampson Ahi, Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Ekow Coleman, Senior Investment Officer from the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund and Mr Kwasi Osei, Managing partner of Prizm Capital Partners.

My opening presentation put a spotlight on the Ghana Water Enterprise Trust, a proposed funding mechanism that Safe Water Network will develop with government and private sector stakeholders to address the financing gap for off-grid community water systems, and improve financial stewardship for our increasing portfolio of water Stations and subStations.

The Trust will be developed in two stages – first as a mechanism under which Safe Water Network will continue to own and operate water Stations, under the original Build-Operate-Transfer agreements, and manage them as a portfolio under improved operational oversight; and second as a Trust that will eventually grow into an independent, Ghana-based entity to secure significant amounts of capital with blended sources of financing.

Trust structures, public-private partnerships (PPPs) and pooled funds have been used to attract capital to scale interventions in different sectors around the world.  Our PPP initiative will come to life with a pilot in Danfa, located 20 kilometres outside Ghana’s capital, Accra. This community is a strong candidate for a market-based decentralized service that will expand the existing infrastructure given the relatively high population density; an average per person income of GHS 12 (USD 3) per day; access to grid power; rapid urbanization; and experience in paying for water. I look forward to reporting back on the Danfa pilot, which is scheduled to kick off in Q3 2016.

It will take time to structure the Trust in a robust way, with accounting and control systems that can be audited regularly, and a diverse governing board. The lively discussion among our 80 forum participants highlighted important issues like how  the Trust would affect local ownership and  how the Trust would structure contractual agreements with outside organizations for financial, operational and management responsibilities during the second phase. Participants also discussed how Safe Water Network would manage its brand, H2OME, under the Trust.

Safe Water Network and its advisors and partners will work through these issues over the next year. Each forum builds on the previous year’s discussions, but of course the lessons come from the practical, hands-on work we do all year round. The issues we address are focused on Ghana but general lessons are applicable elsewhere, such as India where Safe Water Network has just launched its 126th iJal water Station.

We’ve been hosting the forum in Ghana for four straight years, and it continues to grow as a leading platform for the market-based approach for community water supply. This year’s Forum was a timely event, taking place just a few days ahead of World Water Day, which this year celebrated the impact of water on jobs and livelihoods. Water solutions that work are essential to all livelihoods — restaurant owner, farmer, schoolteacher and doctor alike – and we celebrate the power of these solutions every day.

We look forward to celebrating the power of water that works throughout the year. In August, we will host a session at Stockholm International Water Week on practical solutions for small water enterprises in India, showcasing tools that allow a broad range of stakeholders, from entrepreneurs to government, do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

If you’d like to connect with us on how to get involved, please contact Joseph Ampadu-Boakye, Program Manager.