Seynabou Ndour, a young female kiosk operator in sicap mbao, Dakar, Senegal. Photo Credit West Africa Water

For Yaye Seynabou Ndour, a young female entrepreneur in Senegal, the goals and efforts of West Africa Water SA (WAW) have created major changes in her personal and professional life. In 2019, WAW emerged as a fully owned subsidiary of Swiss Fresh Water SA (SFW), with both entities sharing a common mission: providing high-quality and affordable drinking water to the people of Senegal while also fostering local entrepreneurship.

Tracing its origins back to 2008, SFW initiated its work in the Sine Saloum region of Senegal, now known as the Kaolack region. The area was burdened with brackish and fluorinated water sources, resulting in severe health complications. By 2012, SFW’s impactful interventions began to yield tangible societal benefits. However, recognizing the evolving needs, SFW shifted from being a philanthropic effort to becoming a sustainable, profit-driven social enterprise with the inception of WAW. This transition aligned with Senegal’s growing urban populations and their increasing infrastructure demands.

In response to this new paradigm and motivated by the high cost of bottled water and the environmental drawbacks of single-use plastics, WAW introduced an urban-centric franchise model using the blended finance approach. The vision was to partner with local entrepreneurs to establish water kiosk franchises, which would also serve as community centers, employment hubs, and symbols of sustainable development.

In November 2021, WAW received financial and technical support from USAID through the West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) for a project titled “Production and Commercialization of Potable Water in Senegal (Production et Commercialization de l’Eau Potable au Senegal). With a budget of $1,255,000, including a $505,029 co-investment grant from USAID/Trade Hub, WAW is working to expand access to affordable and high-quality drinking water while simultaneously creating employment opportunities, especially for women and youth, in Dakar, Thiès, and Kaolack.

Nearly two years into its implementation, WAW has injected $733,435 into Senegal’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector achieving remarkable results. WAW has set up all 50 Kiosks expected under the partnership, serving communities in Dakar, Mbour, Thiès, and Kaolack with drinking water. Their kiosk network has grown to 100, with sales reaching $1.2 million, through this over 200,000 people now have access to potable water, 269 jobs have been created and 85 jobs have been sustained, with 197 jobs created for women and 235 for youth.

Emphasizing the commercial viability of WAW’s business model, 86 percent of its newly established kiosks are profitable, with innovative features like delivery services and reusable bottles having added value. With over 5,000 daily customers accessing safe drinking water through these services, WAW is on track for sustained profitability, with a goal to sell at least 3,000 liters (approximately 792.52 gallons) of water daily, per kiosk.

Both companies acknowledge the positive collaboration with the Trade Hub and USAID as a key component of their success. Thomas Gajan, CEO of SFW, reflects with gratitude, “USAID has been instrumental in recalibrating our course, shaping our future.” Serge NDAO, the CEO of WAW, upon reflecting on the journey and the road ahead, emphasized, “I am committed to building a strong team and cultivating operational excellence. The support from USAID is invaluable in realizing this vision and reinforces our drive to make a meaningful difference. USAID’s team went the extra mile to help us close a deal with a leasing company…they also helped us improve our technical and managerial competencies through training and coaching.”

The project’s transformative power is highlighted by the success of entrepreneurs like Seynabou, who now operates two kiosks made possible by reduced risks and startup investments through the Trade Hub partnership.

As owner of SICAP Mbao kiosk, Seynabou shared, “Being a WAW franchisee has allowed me to realize the dream of being an entrepreneur and creating innovation in my community; living outside of the main cities, we’ve always been short-changed when it comes to new innovations.”

Recognizing the impact and methodology of the Trade Hub project, Aqua for All, a renowned international foundation working towards transforming the water and sanitation sector into a sustainable and inclusive economy, has awarded a follow-on co-investment grant to WAW. This grant aims to strengthen WAW’s sustainability, accelerate its profitability, and prepare the company for private institutional investment.

Bouya Khouma, WAW Operator in Garage Tasset Kiosk. Photo Credit: West Africa Water

The partnership between WAW and USAID/Trade Hub is more than a commercial success—it exemplifies the potent blend of collaboration, community empowerment, and unwavering dedication to societal betterment. USAID’s engagement has set in motion a ripple effect of positive transformations, creating a benchmark not only for Senegal, but also for global initiatives.

For Seynabou, beyond how the innovations have impacted her personally, she’s been empowered to impact others around her. “I’m able to hire young people from my community to serve.”

During the evaluation of the number of people with access to safely managed drinking water, Amy THIAW, a woman in her 60s, gave this testimonial: “For a long time, I suffered from blood sugar problems. However, since I started using DIAM’O water, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my sugar levels. That’s why my family and I consume this water exclusively. We buy around 240 liters (approximately 63.4 gallons) a month from the Ocass kiosk to meet the needs of the whole family. Direct feedback from the different regions like Kaolack underscores improvements in both health and water quality.

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