This is the second of a two-part blog series on Water4 and how it addresses a market need to provide clean and safe water in Sierra Leone.
In the first blog, I explained that Water4’s business model is a market-creating innovation (MCI) because it transforms a complicated and expensive product (safe water) into a simple and affordable product, thereby making it accessible to a whole new segment of people.
This is done primarily by using their NUMA units, an easy to install and interchangeable piping system. The NUMA units deliver high-quality and safe water to Water4’s customers.
Across Africa, Water4 installs and operates a variety of NUMA units. The organization fits the NUMA systems to the needs of the community. So far, it has developed five different NUMA products.
- NUMA Nexus Water Point: A central unit that includes the retail sales, borehole, filtration, and pumping system
- NUMA Node Water Point: A substation that includes retail sales, storage tank, and metering capabilities
- NUMA Nano Water Point: A rural pumping station with a borehole, filtration, and pumping system that directly connects to households and institutions
- NUMA Now Institutional connections: Individual connections that use prepaid metering at clinics, schools, and businesses
- NUMA Now Home Connection: These offer convenient service with prepaid metering
Graphic courtesy of Water4.org
What makes NUMA as a piping system different?
First, NUMA water systems can supply ten times more water than a typical hand pump. Second, Water4 is based on a franchise model so more entrepreneurs can access the NUMA units and all the resources necessary to run a successful water business. Third, the organization leverages prepaid metering technology and a certain density of water points to achieve economies of scale. This way, the long-term operations and maintenance costs of NUMA are low enough to keep a continuous service to their consumers.
Additional Benefits of NUMA:
|Water quality and safety||The poorest and most marginalized may use an “improved” water source that is more convenient, but the water is often contaminated.||NUMA water is treated to World Health Organization (WHO) standards and available when needed. NUMA is a multinational brand known for quality and safety.|
|Affordability||To cope with contamination, those who can afford it purchase expensive water sachets or bottled water in small quantities. Inconsistent use results in no benefits.||NUMA water costs a tenth the price of sachet water, and provides an alternative safe water source for between 3-5% of household income (meeting WHO affordability standards). |
|Convenience||Low demand for safe water is often due to lack of convenience; water is heavy, so other sources are preferred if they are closer to home.||NUMA Now connections bring safe water just outside a home, school, clinic or business. NUMA Now customers purchase five times more water than NUMA fetch point customers because of the convenience.|
These units provide affordable, convenient access to safe water to thousands of Sierra Leoneans across Waterloo and the other 13 countries where Water4 operates. Moreover, Water4 partners with local innovators to create profitable businesses that also lead to job creation.
Beyond Water4’s ability to make clean water more accessible, it has created many life-changing opportunities for its employees. An employee mentioned in a Water4 meeting that I attended that working at this company provided him with the opportunity to build a career while making a difference in the community.
Water 4’s business model and creation of the NUMA units, which enables accessibility of safe and clean water to millions of Africans, can serve as a framework for entrepreneurs looking to develop market-creating innovation in growth markets.