Managing Director at Banka Bioloo and private sector representative on SWA's Steering Committee
3 Mar, 2017 in Partner Perspective Categories
The World Bank estimates an annual need of $114 billion between now until 2030, three times the current investment levels, if we are to achieve the WASH-related targets of the SDGs. How can the private sector help bridge this financing gap?
The private sector, once non-existent for the social development sector; then becoming peripheral, and now the private sector is central to the whole SDG agenda. The private sector – large corporations and small-medium enterprises –, can and are playing a vital role in achieving the SDG. Even in WaSH, the private sector is contributing towards safe water, decent sanitation and hygiene in various ways. In terms of financing the WaSH sector, “blended finance” is being looked upon as a key source. Private funds can be deployed for public good, with reasonable returns. Another good resource is the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) budgets of companies. Many companies, worldwide, are enabling and supporting the creation of WaSH infrastructure through CSR programs – such as the ones in schools and community centers in rural areas. Finally, in the rural hinterlands WaSH is being provided, products and services, by small and medium enterprises – again through private funds.
What is the role of SMEs in particular?
The SMEs are at the forefront of WaSH. Globally, it’s the SMEs who are providing safe water and hygienic sanitation till the last meter – not just the last mile. Be it Asia, Africa or Latin America, the SMEs are providing basic and affordable water and sanitation. The SMEs, either through own funds or loans and some equity, are delivering water and creating sanitation infrastructure in the rural-remote or dense-urban areas, to the low-income families. These SMEs – also referred to as social enterprises – provide, in various innovative ways, safe water in cans or affordable water filtration systems; and similarly, household latrines with onsite waste treatment or transportation and treatment/recycling of the waste in the faraway places.
What should be the main message from the private sector to the ministers of Finance at the upcoming 2017 SWA High-level Meetings?
The private sector can support and supplement the governments in meeting the SDG 6. The governments need to provide an enabling environment and support the businesses in their provision of WaSH services. Today, almost everyone is espousing market-based solutions for various social needs, including water and sanitation; and the private sector is living up to this by providing innovative, affordable solutions. The governments, generally, have a one-size-fits-all attitude, and are unable to meet the expectations and aspirations of the vast underserved population; which can ideally be served by the private sector. Today’s business is not so much about profits alone, but also about nurturing the society, sustainability, and long-term development of the society.