By Franck Olivier Konan, Learning and Communications Manager, PSI/Côte d’Ivoire
In early 2017, Seydou Bakayoko faced every small business owner’s nightmare.
A new, industrial brick production company had just moved into his neighborhood, and his business selling pre-fabricated building materials couldn’t keep up with the competition. It was failing.
Seydou started his small business twenty years ago in Yopougon, a low-income neighborhood in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. After working in many different small trades, he was able to save money and set up a small, informal brick-making enterprise called Bakayoko Services. His bricks were used by contractors as the construction sector in Abidjan continued to grow.
Bakayoko Services produced between 500 and 600 each week to sell to contractors, who purchased the bricks for their construction sites. Seydou could usually sell his entire weekly production of bricks in three days or less and took home a profit of up to US$52—a decent income for his family.
But Seydou’s success came to an abrupt halt when a large brick production company moved into Yopougon. With a high production capacity and sophisticated logistical support, the company took over the entire brick market in Yopougon – a hard blow for Bakayoko Services. Seydou’s customers disappeared and his profits dwindled; his once lucrative weekly production started to take a month to sell out.
After four months with his failing business in the red, Seydou was asked by the USAID-funded Sanitation Service Delivery project (SSD), implemented by PSI, WSUP, and PATH, if he would be interested in becoming a sanitation entrepreneur under the SaniPlus brand of sanitation products and services. SaniPlus needed manufacturers and entrepreneurs in Yopougon to scale up access to toilets and soak pits and wanted to use Bakayoko Services as a test site for the pre-fabrication of products, such as concrete rings used to build soak pits.
The SSD project, which operates in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Benin, aims to increase access to quality sanitation in West Africa. In Abidjan alone, 720,000 Ivoirians have poor quality septic tanks that overflow at least twice per year. This can expose residents to dangerous pathogens that cause a variety of diseases. Moreover, when a septic tank reaches its capacity, the connected toilets can no longer be used, thus forcing residents to find another place to relieve themselves.
At first, Seydou was sceptical about SaniPlus. “The bricks didn’t work at first, and some of my masons threatened to leave. On top of that, I had to pay them when I wasn’t making a profit,” he remembers.
“So, I asked two masons to trust me and stay on so that we could test the new concrete rings…After a few weeks, the concrete rings started to work, and I received my first orders from customers. I realized [SaniPlus] was a good business.”
SSD provided Seydou with practical training and a starter kit to manufacture concrete rings used in the installation of soak pits and double pit leach latrines. Contractors who install SaniPlus soak pits and latrines come to Bakayoko Services to buy materials.
Once he started manufacturing SaniPlus products, Seydou was once again back in business. He began earning his previous weekly income of up to US$56—a living wage for Seydou and his family.
A few months after the launch of SaniPlus sales and promotion activities in Yopougon, the number of purchases increased, and the market for SaniPlus products is now steadily growing. Bakayoko Services receives orders for 3 to 4 soak pits per week, which translates to the creation of 28 new concrete rings. To better meet the demand for concrete rings, Bakayoko decided to double his production and train three of his workers to make the rings.
By the end of 2018, 78 soak pits were installed in homes across Yopougon, providing environmentally safe and long-lasting sanitation solutions to each new household. Bakayoko Services made 50 of the concrete rings used for these pits.
With the sanitation market continually growing, Bakayoko Services sees a promising future in concrete ring making.
“Today, thanks to SSD, many masons have changed the way they work. They use concrete rings to make wells now, instead of bricks, and they last much longer. I’m very happy,” Seydou gleams.
The Sanitation Service Delivery (SSD) project is supported by the following partners:
Banner photo courtesy Franck Olivier Konan