iDE Global

Press Release: If water is the key, finance options are the lock that must be opened

iDE presents at World Water Week 2018 alongside colleagues, calling for integrated financial systems to deliver water and sanitation solutions in the poorest locations.

August 28, 2018


CONTACT: KC Koch, iDE Director of Global Communications,

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN — “Water and sanitation are critical for the health and wealth of nations,” says Yi Wei, iDE Global WASH Director. For people in the poorest locations, however, sustainable access to water and sanitation is a challenge, with interventions often delivered spottily or temporarily.

As part of this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm, Wei co-hosted a joint session called “Smart(er) systems for water and sanitation: subsidies, financing, and markets” alongside Joel Kolker, Program Manager for Global Water Supply and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) of the World Bank, Vedika Bhandarkar, Managing Director of India, Hon. Mansour Faye, Senegal’s Minister of Water and Sanitation, Eng. Benson Ajisegiri, Nigeria’s Director of Water Supply and PPPs, Ministry of Water Resources, and Social Finance.

The discussion focused on the need for using different financial vehicles, ranging from traditional development funds to investments from the private sector—to deliver WASH services at scale sustainably.

“What often gets forgotten in conversations about delivering water and sanitation to the poor or last mile is that the poor are not a homogenous group. They’re not equally poor so we cannot expect there to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Truly addressing this problem requires a variety of approaches—some market-based, others subsidy-driven—that complement each other and solve for the system.” 

— Lesley Pories, Senior Sector Analyst at

At the macroeconomic policy level, the participants discussed the importance of targeting the use of different financial vehicles that are responsive to the unique political and economic conditions of each country. For example, in the case of Cambodia where the government is not directly funding the development of sanitation markets, crowding in private sector investment is particularly important. In countries such as India, where the Swachh Bharat (“Clean India”) Mission campaign is a national government priority, the country has been able to mobilize public, private, and development resources alike.

Moreover, the panel discussed different tactical tools used to ensure subsidies reach the poor. These possible options include targeted subsidies delivered through voucher systems, installment payments offered by enterprises, and encouraging greater operational efficiencies and thus affordability in processing loans.

“There are a variety of factors to consider when looking at options for subsidies. Maximizing externalities to foster public health and economic productivity, affordability, optimizing consumption and reducing deficits all need to be considered when examining subsidies.”

— Joel Kolker, Lead Water and Sanitation Specialist at the World Bank

Every year, World Water Week brings together experts, practitioners, decision-makers, business innovators, and young professionals to share new thinking and ideas to address the most pressing water-related challenges of today. iDE’s WASH team highlights the successes achieved in addressing these barriers through a market-based approach. When a family invests their own money in a toilet, water filter, or hand washing device, they’re more likely to adopt the necessary behavior changes to utilize it consistently. Well-designed, aspirational products and satisfied customers increase the likelihood that their neighbors will make a purchase and change as well.

About iDE

Formed by life entrepreneur Paul Polak in 1982, iDE uses the power of business to solve poverty. Working in agriculture; water, sanitation, and hygiene; and access to finance, iDE creates opportunities for low-income people to form businesses and support market solutions that bring transformational products and services to people living on less than $2 per day.

iDE is a 501(c)3 organization based in Denver, Colorado with offices in London, England and Winnipeg, Canada. It operates programs in eleven countries—five in Africa (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Zambia), four in Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, and Vietnam), and two in Central America (Honduras and Nicaragua). With a current operating budget of $30 million, iDE has 1,100 staff, 96 percent of whom live in the countries they support and 93 percent of whom are citizens of those nations.