Share article:

02 May 2024

Bridging the Gap: Insights from the WASH Learning Event in Ethiopia 

In Ethiopia, addressing the challenges of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) is pivotal to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite concerted efforts by the Ethiopian government, the road to ensuring universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation remains fraught with significant challenges, including a daunting funding gap nearing US$3 billion. In response to this pressing issue, the government has underscored the critical need to raise for private capital for the WASH sector. This blog post explores a ground breaking initiative that aims to integrate the financial sector into solving these WASH challenges, culminating in a learning event that offered valuable insights and strategic directions. 

The WASH Financial Inclusion Initiative 

In September 2022, Aqua for All , in partnership with Fair & Sustainable (F&S), embarked on an innovative program to onboard Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in the development of WASH-focused financial products. The initiative targeted five Ethiopian MFIs—Vision Fund MFI, Metemamen MFI, Dynamics MFI, Harbu MFI, and PEACE MFI. The overarching goal was to design andfinancial products that would facilitate access to WASH services for both households and micro and small enterprises across the country. 

The role of Fair & Sustainable Consulting (F&S) in the WASH Financial Inclusion Initiative is to provide tailored support and guidance to MFIs to introduce innovative financial services in the WASH sector As of the end of 2023, Aqua for All and F&S can boast significant achievements in advancing the initiative’s objectives. Here are some key contributions and their impact: 

  1. Client Outreach and Financial Mobilization:  The program was successful in reaching a total of 17,539 clients with Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) financing, channeling a substantial amount of $3.8 million USD into the sector. This financial mobilization marks a direct contribution to improving WASH infrastructure and services in the communities served. 
  1. Guiding Product Development:  F&S provided guidance to Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) to develop and pilot test various WASH products. This role ensured that a variety of financial products were available to meet the different needs of clients, ranging from individual households to micro and small enterprises. 
  1. Capacity Building: F&S took the lead in training branch staff on the new WASH products and collaborated with them to develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) Action Plans for each MFI. This capacity-building exercise aimed to ensure that MFI staff were not only knowledgeable about the products but also equipped with a plan for effective implementation. 
  1. Educational Resources:  F&S developed a draft of the “Financing WASH Investments Trainer’s Manual.” This manual is likely designed as an educational tool to train trainers, who will in turn build the capacity of MFI staff and other stakeholders, ensuring the sustainability of the initiative through knowledge transfer. 
  1. Strategic Planning:  F&S guided MFIs to develop a scaling plan, demonstrating their commitment to not just initiating, but also expanding the reach of WASH financing. This forward-looking approach is essential for the initiative to have a wider impact and create more significant improvements in the WASH sector. 
  1. Knowledge Sharing and Sector Engagement: The program included facilitating a sector learning event, which would have served as a platform for sharing best practices, challenges, and experiences among stakeholders. This collaborative approach helps in refining strategies and encourages a collective push towards common goals in the WASH sector. 
  1. Future Initiatives: Lastly, Aqua for All and F&S teamed up to develop a proposal for the next phase of the initiative. This indicates a long-term commitment to the WASH sector and a clear plan for continuing to build on the progress made so far. 

Through the program, Aqua for All and, F&S have not only contributed to the immediate goals of increasing financial inclusion in the WASH sector but has also laid down a solid foundation for continuous improvement and expansion. These efforts align closely with the overarching goals of enhancing WASH services and infrastructure, contributing to the well-being of communities, and supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Ethiopia. 

Insights from the Learning Event 

After a year of piloting, a learning event was organized to share the experiences and outcomes of this collaborative effort. The event was not just a showcase of successes but also a platform for candid discussions about the practical challenges of financing WASH initiatives. 

The conversations revealed a strong market demand for financial services tailored to WASH, particularly household loans. It became apparent that clients are not only eager to take out loans for WASH purposes but also have a commendable track record of repayment. This demonstrates a viable business case for MFIs to engage in this sector more robustly. 

However, the event also highlighted several obstacles that need addressing. MFIs reported difficulties due to limited liquidity, which hampered their ability to meet the growing demand for loans. Coordination issues with local government bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that sometimes offer overlapping free services were also cited as a significant challenge. The quality and availability of WASH equipment and services were other critical concerns, with maintenance issues compounding the problem. Additionally, regulatory constraints were discussed, particularly how current financial regulations limit innovative financing arrangements such as tripartite loans, which involve direct payments to equipment suppliers. 

Recommendations and the Way Forward 

The learning event concluded with a series of recommendations aimed at enhancing the impact of financial services in the WASH sector: 

  • For Government and Stakeholders: Establish a national WASH fund similar to other development funds, facilitate an environment that encourages privatization, and foster better collaboration at local levels. 
  • For the Private Sector:   Foster professionalization and standardization of services within the WASH sector. In addition, SMEs, should  collaborate more closely, forming associations to advocate and lobby for their interests effectively. 
  • For Financial Service Providers:  Increase efforts in client education about the benefits of WASH loans, to segment their clients more effectively based on their specific needs, and to explore digital innovations to enhance service delivery. This includes new payment systems and digital platforms that connect clients directly with suppliers, which could significantly increase the outreach and accessibility of WASH services. 


As this initiative moves beyond its pilot phase, the lessons learned from the learning event are invaluable in shaping future strategies. The collaborative efforts of government entities, private sector participants, and financial institutions are crucial for scaling up WASH initiatives effectively. By continuing to document and share these experiences, and by engaging in ongoing dialogue and collaboration, all stakeholders can contribute to bridging the substantial funding gap and improving WASH infrastructure across Ethiopia. 

This comprehensive engagement and strategic planning are essential for making sustainable progress in a sector that is vital not only for the health and well-being of Ethiopia’s population but also for the country’s overall development. 

Recommended articles

14 May 2024

Ziway Water Hyacinth Project: Closing Session Recap and Future Prospects 

On the 12th of April marked a significant milestone for our collaborative efforts in the Ziway water hyacinth project as we convened for the “Closing & Way Forward” session. The gathering was a vibrant mix of stakeholders including our consortium partners—Dutch rose growers from Ziway, local government representatives, the energetic youth from the briquettes groups, and the creative women from the handicraft groups. 

07 May 2024

Closing Ceremony of the PAC-PME Program and Launch of the Mali Mentors Alliance: A Milestone in Support for Malian Entrepreneurs

On April 26, 2024 in Bamako we organized a ceremony full of emotions and celebration, marking the closing of the Growth Support Program for Malian Small and Medium Enterprises (PAC-PME). Initiated in August 2022 with the first cohort in Bamako, the PAC-PME has since extended its impact through four cohorts, including two in Bamako, one in Sikasso and one in Ségou. This ceremony not only celebrates the successes of the program but also officially inaugurates the Alliance Mali Mentors (AMM), a professional network of entrepreneur mentors, representing a new chapter in the continued support of Malian entrepreneurs. PAC-PME will continue to consolidate its results until September of this year.

26 Mar 2024

Transforming Waste into Opportunity: Fair and Sustainable Consulting’s Initiative in Nyeri County

In a recent collaborative effort spearheaded by Fair and Sustainable Consulting, together with Governor H.E. Mwalimu Mutahi Kahiga, a pivotal meeting was held with a delegation from Fair and Sustainable Insect Farms. This meeting marked the beginning of an innovative venture aimed at revolutionizing waste management practices in Nyeri County, Kenya.