Apologies that I haven’t updated my blog more regularly. After my weekend arrival in Nairobi – highlighted by my aha! moment with M-PESA – I jumped head-first into work.
Luckily for me, I didn’t literally jump head first on Monday – when I visited the newest Ikotoilet facility in Nairobi. Ikotoilet is the brand name of a chain of pay-per-use public toilet and shower facilities in Nairobi. Acumen Fund invested in the parent company, Ecotact, in 2008 with a loan to help the company build more facilities in and around the city.
The business model is relatively straightforward – Ecotact works with local authorities to secure land, on which it constructs modern, environmentally-friendly toilet and shower facilities. It costs just KSH 5 (about US $0.075) to use the toilet (for the shower, it’s about KSH 20 or USD $0.30). This is in a country where public facilities have been neglected and few new public toilets have been constructed since the 1970s. Due to public sector neglect, Kenyans without regular access to the toilet turn to open defecation or use a plastic bag, which they then throw as far from their home as possible – hence the colloquial term, “flying toilets.”
There’s nothing less dignified than using a plastic bag, in my opinion…which is why I’m so excited about Ikotoilet. The facilities are immaculate – thanks to user fees, the company employs a crew to constantly clean. And they’re popular – more than 30,000 people a day use an Ikotoilet, meaning the company is approaching operational breakeven and has been paying Acumen Fund’s loan back on schedule.
(For those curious few out there – yes, I used the Ikotoilet – it’s on par with (or better than) public facilities in the US.)
When it’s published, I will link to a great blog post authored by my colleague and friend Benje Williams, with whom I visited the Ikotoilet.
Otherwise, last week was basically work – and a lot of it. Thanks to the +8 hour time difference with the East Coast of the US, I’ve been on calls until 7:00 PM or later almost every night. I have been to dinner with various friends and others in the “Acumen Family” here in East Africa. Highlights include three home-cooked Indian meals since I arrived, all of which were amazing.
More to come…in the meantime, here are some photos from the Ikotoilet gallery. The first is of an Ikotoilet in Nairobi’s City Park (NOT Karangware) and the second two are from the launch. The guy on the left in Benje, who works here, and the guy on the right is David Kuria, the CEO of Ecotact.