In order to help bridge this gap, Water Access Rwanda- a social enterprise committed to eradicating water scarcity by providing appropriate technologies for durable access to water, is on a mission to raise more capital with a goal of covering 12 countries by 2030.
With 70,000 serviced daily via its safe water mini-grids, WARwanda is setting high ambitions to service over 30 million people in the next 10 years and create over 13,000 jobs, greatly multiplying its current reach.
Despite running an innovative and lucrative product portfolio, the company has been bootstrapping with most of its operating cash directly sourced from revenues and time to time complemented by grants won through challenges and competitions.
Christelle Kwizera, the founder of Water Access Rwanda said there is generally a lack of financing available in the ecosystem for innovative start-ups.
“At WARwanda, we are pushing boundaries with all our services and products, and unapologetically design for the bottom of the pyramid living on less than $5 per day. We thus easily miss out on funds looking for more established and predictable business models,” she said.
“The water sector requires very patient capital but offers massive impact return together with the capital return. I feel like raising money for such a niche sector while also being a black female founder was much harder,” she added.
Kwizera revealed however that they were able to find a great investor, 3rd Creek Foundation, a US based private family foundation whose vision is a world without poverty.
The foundation makes grants and impact investments, most often in initiatives that target job creation, income improvement, or increased household savings for people experiencing extreme poverty.
“The investor believes in what we do and is busy pulling in others to invest in us. It is important to note that we are getting this funding from foundations who have now opened impact investment arms instead of being grant-only, it fits in our deep belief that we can create business models that deliver profit and impact and can be sustained by the market at scale,” Kwizera remarked.
Gwen Straley, Executive Director of 3rd Creek Foundation said they are investing in Water Access Rwanda because the organisation has a strong track record supporting communities with accessible, affordable and safe water.
She said, increasing clean water accessibility has a real impact on individual livelihoods, particularly for women, who are often burdened with the responsibility of collecting water. When women recover that time and energy, (sometimes multiple hours per day) from using a WARwanda water point, they access more independence to work on other necessities or ambitions.
“We are impressed with Christelle and her team’s dedication to building out WARwanda’s vision, serving disenfranchised communities, and commitment to transparency. We hope other funders will consider supporting this endeavour to make clean water accessibility ubiquitous throughout the region.”
“As a very small foundation, we want to ensure our investment dollars serve our partners and their communities in the most impactful way. By evaluating a new partner/project, and thereafter making an early stage investment. Our aim is to attract additional funders to the table, ideally catalysing additional funding to support solutions to ending global poverty. So while other investors may be discouraged from being the first to invest, we often see an incentive to be first – or at least early,” Straley noted.
Kwizera revealed that there were several delays in acquiring investments due to Covid-19 and that they had some potential funding suspended, however, they are only six months behind
“It could be worse, so we are grateful. It is important to note that we are getting this funding from foundations who have now opened impact investment arms instead of being grant-only, it fits in our deep belief that we can create business models that deliver profit and impact and can be sustained by the market at scale,” she remarked.
Water Access Rwanda is an award-winning social enterprise that has been operating in the water sector for six years since a 2014 debut.
The company is primarily focused on the bottom of the pyramid’s need for affordable and safe water and deploys models of access that provide clean water in a convenient manner.
The social enterprise is hoping to conclude its 2020 Phase 1 Transition to Scale fundraising with two more deals in their final stages of negotiation, which will see the total of USD 490,000 target met.