PSI Ethiopia Prepares to Launch PSI’s First Franchised, Pay-for-Use Toilet Business

By Genevieve Kelly, WASH Coordinator, PSI

It was all-hands-on-deck this past August in Addis Ababa when an Ethiopian architect, expert from Sanergy, a sanitation social enterprise based in Kenya, PSI’s WASH coordinator and the distinct and talented team from PSI Ethiopia gathered at the PSI-Ethiopia office.

Their objective: to design a high-quality, pay-for-use toilet that will help to address the urban sanitation crisis faced in Addis Ababa.

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Photo Credit: Genevieve Kelly

Rapid migration from rural areas to the city, in addition to an onslaught of new municipal-wide government infrastructure projects, have resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people, many of whom are forced to reside in informal settlements. Without secure land tenure, or even the physical space, many households are unable to build a toilet to use at home. As a result, poor urban Ethiopians are often forced to defecate in plastic bags which are then thrown into the open — commonly referred to as flying toilets. Others defecate under the shelter of darkness, a practice which exposes women and children, in particular, to embarrassment and risk of assault.

Further contributing to the unhygienic conditions of open defecation are the vast number of large, expensive public toilet blocks, which are smelly, dirty and poorly maintained or even abandoned with pits overflowing with sewage.

Faced with these challenges, and the determination to provide the urban poor with an aspirational, yet affordable solution that individuals could be proud to use, PSI-Ethiopia and its partners sat down at the drawing table to develop a sustainable, sanitation business that provides not only a clean, affordable toilet to poor households, but also presents an economic opportunity for local enterprises.

The result: Liyu Class (liyu essentially means premier), a pay-for-use toilet that offers its users with an experience that is “beyond clean.” The toilet provides ample water, light, accessibility, affordability and even has showers available. Leveraging PSI’s core competency in social marketing and social franchising, PSI-Ethiopia is busy developing a brand that will reach its target audience and set a higher standard for the toilet while ensuring that poverty is no longer a barrier to a healthy, proud and safe lifestyle.

Our architect and sanitation expert provided key engineering and architectural support to design the toilet facility to make it aesthetically pleasing, as well as suited to the dense urban slums of Addis Ababa. The PSI-Ethiopia team is currently putting the final touches on a business model to accompany the toilets and will then seek investment by local entrepreneurs to create a profitable business opportunity.

Keep an eye on this space – the PSI-Ethiopia team is kicking off on an exciting adventure to demonstrate the viability of urban sanitation as a business — reaching low-income families in Addis Ababa with access to affordable, hygienic, premier-class toilets.

Photo Credit: Kaleb Belete