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Enterpreneur finds opportunity in toilets

8th Dec, 2015

Few entrepreneurs would think of investing their money in the management of public toilets. Even fewer would imagine that human waste could be translated into a business idea.

But to David Kuria, the founder of Iko Toilet, this was a business opportunity idea, which he saw in over seven years ago and is now a cash cow employing in excess of 150 youths and serving 10 million people annually.

In an interview, he says the idea was to transform the thinking on toilet among many people in sub-Saharan Africa where toilet has always been taken as a taboo.

“The idea of Iko Toilet is more of a transformation and really thinking beyond toilet in our region where toilet is treated like a taboo, we needed to open that up and adress the social aspect of a toilet,” he says.

“To us the idea was to address the social aspect of a toilet and make it more beautiful, to me almost like a monument that would make people start changing their thinking to toilet,” he says. “But most importantly we also looked at ways of making toilet a sustainable venture that can be able to give a return on investment.”

Iko Toilet is built in the model of a mall where it goes beyond the long and short call functions of any ordinary toilet. The facility has extensions with shoe shiners, M-Pesa agents, and shops where one can buy snacks and soft drinks.

“So this is the only public toilet where you can get in and relieve yourself, buy a snack, send money and shine your shoes, all under one roof. The degree of cleanliness has to be top notch to maintain the hygiene,” says Kuria.

Iko Toilet is probably one of the largest toilet companies in Africa with footprints in Uganda, Tanzania and Liberia. Kuria says his major impact since idea conception is the transformation of a sector previously managed by the public.

He says he has been able to change lives through the provision of employment to hundreds of youths in a sector that did not exist ten years ago.

“To me it is more of a passion really trying to create some kind of change in what I call disruptive transformation. This is a solution to several problems in Africa that by extension through employment alleviates poverty in the society,” he says.

In 2010, the social entrepreneur received a UN’s international best practice award.

Among his other recognition are the Ashoka Fellowship, dubbed the change makers, which he received in the US in 2007, the Hall of fame – world toilet organization in Singapore 2008, Africa entrepreneur of the year in 2009 and the President Clinton Citation.

Kuria is banking on the Vision 2030 economic blue print and the new Constitution as he spreads his Iko Toilets to counties, which will become urban area under the new order.

He says he done thorough marketing and the concept has been received well in 20 municipalities across the country. The demand is soaring in emerging towns where people are looking at innovative ways of offering services.

“We are trying to provoke social entrepreneurs in cities such as Kampala, Der es salaam, Lusaka Ghana and Liberia which has simial sanitation problems,” he says.

The company has already piloted ten iko toilets in Kampala, similar model is also in Dar es salaam. through a franchise model.

“So our target is if we can have this idea across sub Saharan Africa but in a model that fits needs of the local. The target is to develop a franchise approach.”

 

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