It’s official – construction on Zone 3 is well underway.
Located in the bustling town of Mudaka, about a half hour from Bukavu, Zone 3 will be Asili’s most ambitious project yet. Our work in Mudaka will have the building blocks of Asili’s business model, but this newest zone will work as a comparison test of sorts to the first two, which are in rural and semi-rural locations. We’re expecting big crowds, lots of demand, and a different set of challenges. One thing will certainly remain the same, though. Our businesses in Mudaka – like our world-class water system – will continue to change the way aid is done in Eastern Congo.
Unlike in Zones 1 and 2, there are existing water systems in Mudaka – they’re just not currently working. One of these was built by a Belgian NGO in 2009, for example, but their 41 water points in and around Mudaka are almost completely defunct. There’s only one tap that provides water to the town of over 12,000 people, not to mention the additional 10,000 people that flow into the area during the market’s peak hours. Instead, the community is mainly sourcing their water from nearby streams, which is very unhealthy – many families get sick from contaminated water.
Africa is littered with broken water systems, just like the one in Mudaka. These systems almost never last more than a few years. And when they do work, service is often inconsistent, water outages endemic. It’s clear that a traditional approach to this problem won’t solve Africa’s water needs – or more specifically, Congo’s. Asili’s innovation then will lie not only in building effective water systems, but in applying a business model and management system that works – and that last for decades.
Our special sauce is a business model, a world-class brand, and management expertise that allows our system to operate 365 days per year. There are no shortages, no inconsistencies in service. Our hours of operation are listed on every water point, along with our prices for Asili members and non-members. Transparency is key – everyone we serve knows that our prices won’t change, our hours are the same every day.
The Asili business model allows all retail, operations, and maintenance staff to be paid a livable wage through the resources of the community. These folks then become our greatest allies, loyal employees, and biggest advocates amongst their friends and family. We are business-led and community-enabled – we build out our costs and then build a revenue model that will sustain it, remembering that the communities where we work are the engines of Asili.
Another major difference between the multitudes of failed water systems across the continent and Asili is our rock-solid supply chain. And as we grow, we’re able to control and manage our supply chain even more effectively. We always have critical repair pieces in stock – when something breaks we can repair it in short order. This is the downfall of most other organizations, who turn the system over to community management right after building it. Essentially, that’s like constructing a pipeline in your neighborhood, handing you a wrench, and wishing you good luck. Those systems just don’t’ have the economies of scale and backbone infrastructure to stock the all-important parts for immediate repair and replacement, or even the technical expertise to fix the problem if they did. Instead, the parts never get fixed. The system falls into disrepair. And communities go without water.
In Mudaka and wherever we work, Asili will change all that. Our goal is to build a water system in Mudaka that will last generations. That’s a bold statement for water projects in Africa. And yet, it’s not impossible. Far from it. We’re doing it already in other towns like Buhanga and Cirunga. Our proven business model will only continue to grow and iterate. Our recent water sales in Bukavu, for example, are strengthening our cost to implementation ratio. In fact, some of our biggest water customers are other NGOs in town, whose own water systems – some functioning and some not – dot the countryside.