Commercially Viable Business Development Centers

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Commercially Viable Business Development Centers

Hi everyone,

I'm searching for examples similar to what is often found in the agriculture sector of commercial training centers, but for WASH-related products and services (or just water or sanitation).

For example, we are exploring the opportunity in Ethiopia to establish "WASH centers" that will function as wholesalers of products (to local enterprises) as well as to provide business and technical training (e.g. bookkeeping, stock management, promotion, slab construction etc.)

Ideally, we'd like to explore ways to make these commercially viable without public sector or other subsidy in the long term. Does anyone have examples of business development/training centers that have successfully operated with local enterprises buying their services? Or even with subsidy, some particularly good examples of how this has been done elsewhere?

Thanks!
Genevieve

Genevieve Kelly
WASH Associate Technical Advisor
Population Services International
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Re: Commercially Viable Business Development Centers

Dear All, this is an interesting dimension as it relates to expanding WASH products and services. Relying on my experience in our ongoing implementation of the rural business plan model for Microfinance Institutions in Nigeria, I think it is possible to build in or integrate this opportunity for the Microfinance Institutions. The rural business plan model is a concept designed to introduce and motivate Microfinance Institutions in Nigeria to consider expanding to the rural areas using a set of rules, key assumptions and strategies. I will be exploring the feasibility further and be willing to collaborate with interested parties. Thank you!

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Re: Commercially Viable Business Development Centers

Hi Ossai,

Thank you so much for the response. Our objective is to sell products such as latrine pans, covers, liners as well as to provide training (slab-making, installation, business management etc.) to local enterprises. With the microfinance institutions, were you able to integrate this type of work?

Regards,
Genevieve

Genevieve Kelly
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Population Services International
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Re: Commercially Viable Business Development Centers

Dear Genevieve, we are yet to integrate your concept of commercially Viable WASH Business Centre into our Rural Business Plan concept. However, I am of the opinion that your concept will resonate with our concept as it will serve as an additional value proposition. Am starting to process the integration ASAP, ofcourse it will require additional training of the Microfinance Institutions. Do you have any financing to support this integration? We would also appreciate a list of manufacturers of these products that you listed to enable us structure the mechanism for release or wholesale of their products to our financial inclusion.
Will like to hear from you at your earliest convenience.

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Re: Commercially Viable Business Development Centers

Dear Genevieve,

I would like to re-vitalise this thread as it sounds like a very interesting and different initiative. In order to get people thinking, could you perhaps clarify for us the following:
You said:

what is often found in the agriculture sector of commercial training centers


Could you expand a bit on that? What are success factors for those? Is it comparable to WASH? Perhaps not as the agriculture sector is directly about selling products, not about a public good like health and sanitation. Should you perhaps rather look at the health sector for comparable models? Or can you piggy back on models of other sectors (like agriculture) rather than trying to set up a stand-alone business development centre for WASH?

How did this idea come about and who would initially fund it?

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. Another option to get more replies from SuSanA members would be to send an e-mail to one of the working group mailing lists, like Working Group 2. The e-mail address for the moderated mailing list is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . I suggest you send an e-mail to that group as well, providing a link to this thread so that people reply by e-mail or better here on the forum.

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Re: Commercially Viable Business Development Centers

Dear Elisabeth and Ossai,

Thank you so much for the responses - especially to Elisabeth for revitalizing the conversation!

Elisabeth:

Could you expand a bit on that? What are success factors for those? Is it comparable to WASH? Perhaps not as the agriculture sector is directly about selling products, not about a public good like health and sanitation. Should you perhaps rather look at the health sector for comparable models? Or can you piggy back on models of other sectors (like agriculture) rather than trying to set up a stand-alone business development centre for WASH?


The best example - and why we were asked to do WASH service centers - is described in this 2014 Africa AgriBusiness Article on Ethiopia Service Centers which includes a pretty thorough description of the model. As we understand it, this model was the inspiration behind the USAID RFA for Growth Through Nutrition (won by Save The Children with PSI as subs focused on WASH); we did not select this approach ourselves but are explori ng it in response to the donor request.

We do not intend to set up a standalone WASH business,[/url] but we are still struggling to find examples of successful models - whether standalone or piggy-backing - that have made the WASH component commercially viable in rural areas. As you've already mentioned, with agriculture the market is far more mature (in Ethiopia) and the products and services sold are income-generating, making it difficult to convince an agribusiness to include WASH products, training etc. into their model. We're looking at health centers as well, but in Ethiopia there are few - if any - privately-run clinics operating in rural areas.

Ossai:
We are operating in Ethiopia - not Nigeria - therefore I'm not sure we can be of much help in response to your request. We are still in early stages of the project, and have yet to identify the full suite of products and services that we aim to promote. We have financing through our USAID project funding that we will use to fund capacity building of the centers, but we have yet to determine if/how else we may support the ongoing activities.

Regards,
Genevieve

Genevieve Kelly
WASH Associate Technical Advisor
Population Services International
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Re: Commercially Viable Business Development Centers

Dear Genevieve,
Thank you for your response to my request. It was indeed heartwarming to hear from you and your position well taken. Thankfully, you are still hoping to expand your reach, to this end, we would be glad to standby to have the opportunity to collaborate with you in the nearest future.

Again, thank you and remain blessed.

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