Newly created Malian company Uduma Mali is set to receive a €170,000 grant from the GSMA to invest in mobile-based cashless payment facilities for drinking water.
A subsidiary of the French group Odial Solutions, the company is one of 12 grantees of the third round of the GSMA Mobile for Development (M4D) Utilities Innovation Fund, supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Scaling Off-Grid Energy: A Grand Challenge for Development.
Thierry Barbotte, Chairman of the Odial Solutions group and Director of Uduma Mali, said that the grant would be used to invest in an initiative that will provide drinking water to 560,000 people in Mali’s rural Sikasso region across the next 15 years, noting that the company had “entered into public service delegation contracts with the first 11 out of the 30 targeted municipalities.”
He added that 75% of the country’s population lives in rural areas and receive drinking water via manual pumps – however, these are frequently out of service. Furthermore, boreholes made unusable by defective pumps represent nearly 66 billion CFA francs (€100 million) in lost public investments.
Nicolaas van der Wilk, Operations Manager of Uduma Mali, commented: “This existing situation implies more time-consuming and exhausting water chores, has a high cost for the pump upkeep, affects the health conditions and contributes to the rural exodus.”
The project, under the tutelage of the Malian Ministry for Energy and Water, is offering an alternative to this situation for the Sikasso region. The Malian local authorities will entrust the management and the operation of 1400 water points equipped with manual pumps to the private operator Uduma Mali. The operator guarantees a continuous water service (72-hour max downtime) for at least 15 years and renews a large part of the equipment.
Uduma Mali will be charging a fixed user fee per consumed volume (500 CFA francs/m3, €0.76). The water pumps will be equipped with digital water meters. The water service is provided by a caretaker (1 per pump) and a mechanic (1 per 50 pumps), whose remunerations evolve with water consumption. The new water service delivery model is expected to create small-scale income-generating activities for nearly 1500 women in the Sikasso Region.
The GSMA M4D Utilities Innovation Fund grant will enable Uduma Mali to deploy mobile-enabled devices for cashless revenue collection, combining Mobile Money and Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies. Nicolaas van der Wilk explains: “The M4D grant will be used to gain the required technological expertise, but also to spread awareness among the end-users on how to use these technologies. The grant-funding will absolutely help us jump-start operations in Mali”.
The Mobile for Development Utilities Innovation Fund was launched in June 2013 to test and scale the use of mobile to improve or increase access to energy, water and sanitation services. Across three phases of funding, grants were competitively awarded to 53 organisations across Asia and Africa. Seed grants were awarded for early stage trials, Market Validation grants for scaling or replication of business models.