GIM delivers a keynote speech at the Sixth World Water Forum: Testing solutions for water products at the BOP must take a multi-product approach, instead of a single product-driven approach
In a keynote presentation at the Japan Water Forum Side Event at the Sixth World Water Forum, Marseille, 14 March 2012, Sahba Sobhani (Growing Inclusive Markets Initiative, UNDP), reflected on the challenge of growing inclusive markets for water products in low income communities, where the challenge is to find strategies that are replicable and scaleable. The session focused on business-based pro-poor approaches on water and sanitation for better sustainability.
Mr. Sobhani said, “research and pilot testing is essential to take into consideration the cultural characteristics and ease of use in water sector products. Awareness building and community mobilization are also necessary cost factors. He noted that a sector approach testing multiple products can be more beneficial compared to the standard ‘product’ based approach pursued by most companies when entering the BoP market. Sectoral approaches enable comparative benchmark analysis of pro poor impact, demand for the products and business cases. The presentation included findings from a recent UNDP multi product testing undertaken with two Japanese water purification products as part of a Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs funded initiative -perhaps one of the first multi-product feasibility studies of its kind.
The BoP business model can apply not only to point of use systems, but also to support the construction of water supply systems for the unserved, in order to sustainably improve public hygiene with safe water supply. The JICA experience with the BoP business experience has so far demonstrated that these businesses are more difficult than other ordinary private water projects because they are small, target low income groups, and are high risk. Therefore, private finance is very limited. Osamu Murata (JICA), explained that this is why JICA is supporting the costs of feasibility studies by private companies that are willing to invest in the BoP business model. JICA will continue to welcome collaborations with other donors, NGOs and private companies.
The session concluded that the BoP business model can be successful in meeting the needs of poor people for improved water service provision at an affordable cost. It can also open up significant new markets for businesses and enable them to make a profit. And finally, the BoP model provides a long term contribution to sustainable poverty reduction by using more energy and resource-efficient technologies, increasing economic activity and creating opportunities. Unserved communities, private companies, and the international development community can all achieve their objectives by working together using the BoP business approach. Work by the Japan Water Forum, JICA and colleagues on the BoP solutions will build on the suggestions made during the Side Event in preparation for further presentation and discussion on this topic during the 7th World Water Forum in Korea.