Toilets Need a Market Too

by Laila Jewayni, Associate Program Manager, West & Central Africa, PSI

Nearly 40% of the world’s population lacks access to toilets. The absence of adequate sanitation has a serious impact on health and social development. Children are particularly vulnerable to a range of health risks as a result of poor hygiene practices and low access to sanitation and clean drinking water. According to the Centers for Disease Control, every day, 2,195 children die of diarrhea. That’s like losing nearly 32 school buses full of children each day. Without access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene services, the overall health of a community suffers.

In Senegal, the slow progress in achieving universal access to basic sanitation stems from different underlying reasons. Previous efforts concentrated funds towards unsustainable sanitation programs. Governments at the national, regional and local level lacked coordination. Sanitation hasn’t yet been seen as attractive to consumer and enterprise financiers.

In an effort to reverse these trends, USAID established the Projet Assainissement – Changement de Comportement et Eau pour le Sénégal (Accés) to improve access to basic sanitation in rural Senegal. The five-year project is being implemented by Natural Resources Consulting Engineers in partnership with PSI, Catholic Relief Services, Caritas, Montgomery Watson Harza and Impaq.

Using a market-based approach, Accés aims to improve supply and demand of affordable and desirable sanitation products and services. In addition, the project will create an enabling environment to support market growth and improved access for the poorer segments of the population in six regions of Senegal: Kolda, Sedhiou, Matam, Kedougou, Ziguinchor and Tambacounda.

Drawing from experience in building markets for sanitation, PSI and its independent network member in Senegal, ADEMAS, led a workshop focused on PSI’s market development approach for national partners. The workshop brought together representatives from the Senegalese government, private sector, civil society, consumer associations and NGOs to discuss how this approach could be used to achieve national sanitation goals.

Over the course of three days, the workshop led to several key outcomes, including:

  1. The participants analyzed the root causes of the Senegalese sanitation market’s failure to reach more consumers, particularly in rural areas. They used insights from the diverse participants to develop practical solutions and clear objectives as well as discussed the roles that each actor could play to achieve common success.
  1. Actors from different sectors of the sanitation market met and collaborated for the first time. This sparked a commitment for continued collaboration and the participants all agreed to work more closely together as one multi-stakeholder group. Several private sector actors came together to create an association to improve their position in the market.
  1. On the last day of the workshop, government and private sector representatives held lively discussions on how they could collaborate better and support each other in sanitation efforts. Participants committed to creating a multi-stakeholder technical validation desk to quickly review new innovations and technologies to assess whether they could be introduced into the market. This is a remarkable step forward and shows the government’s commitment to finding innovative solutions for improved sanitation.

For many, it was their first time looking at the problem of sanitation in Senegal through a market development lens. Despite some initial skepticism, participants left with a deeper understanding of how a market-based can apply to rural Senegal, along with newly-formed partnerships.

After hearing of the potential for the sanitation market, entrepreneur Fatou Coulibaly said she believes it can grow like the market Senegal has for cell phones. “You should be proud to have a nice toilet!”