Friday, October 18, 2013

Getting your Water Technology from Here to There - by Ornit Avidar

You can conceptualize a water product or technology and be firmly confident that this is the most efficient and advanced solution . However, this is an insufficient (and sometimes not even needed) condition to get it to the millions/billions in Africa and the bottom of the pyramid ("BOP").

  To sell your products to the BOP, you need to:

1)    Cater to the BoP's specific needs
2)    Form an Innovative package
3)    Get financing
4)    Adopt the right attitude

BoP specific needs: As always, you first need to decide who the target end-user is, what they need and what is available locally to make this feasible.
Of course, clean and easily accessible water is a primary basic need but usually the existing infrastructure in developing regions does not allow for the utilization of technology often used in the West. Thus, appropriate technology needed often needs to be:
      low maintenance
      low energy - where there is no water, there is usually no electricity
      low cost
You want real solutions instead of money-wasting white elephants.

Innovative packaging and models:
The right packaging incorporates many options:
      Firstly, you need to enable a different price range. If one is to keep the quality, this means no frills; many of the components essential for the West are not needed and even wasteful in Africa, smaller packaging and smaller quantity are key.
      Add social mechanisms and business models. Over 50% of water projects in Africa are not sustainable after 6 months[1]. This is seen all over Africa in the form of malfunctioning equipment, lack of maintenance, faulty or soiled filters or just plain population misuse due to lack of training and understanding. This can be solved if you add social mechanisms and business models to your technology package.
      Training programs and a maintenance package are also essential as without these the project is short-lived.
      Turn-key solutions: BoP style projects, with an operation base from which Return on Investment can be generated, is always a very sought after model by many governments and agencies in Africa.

We need to keep in mind that the reality in Africa is that government budgets cannot cover all the costs thus requiring alternative methods of financing projects

The right attitude:
      Be creative and open to new ideas and sales techniques.
      Be optimistic and know that businesses can have a positive impact on people's lives.
      Partnerships with local partners and distributors are essential; you must have a local presence and be able to communicate with local culture.

Africans looking for Israeli technology and expertise should know certain facts about Israelis:
      Israelis are very pragmatic and often do what they can with what is available; that is one of the main advantages of working with Israelis.
      Israelis have a history of dealing with drought and lack of water, which has made them experts in this field.
      Israelis are very curious people – they often go to great lengths and to almost anywhere in the world just to see it, meaning they are very happy to travel wide and far.
      Lastly, Israelis tend to believe that there is nothing that can't be overcome.

[1] Founder of EWB, Professor Bernard Amadei, University of Colorado, USA – EWB seminar Tel-Aviv, 3 June 2012

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