From shack to a toilet mall: How I moved with my toilet to the city

By David Kuria, CEO of Ecotact Limited, IkoToilet and Africaqua

Standing in the chilly, drizzling night of April, I debated whether to dash some 100 feet to the corner of our garden, where a little shack of rafters and mud—with a severely torn sack for a door and without a roof above—served as our toilet. The floor was laid with wood poles, with enough gaping separations that I could fit my leg through. I was not convinced I would make it, and my stomach was not giving into the demand to wait till morning.

That was three decades ago.

A decade later, I was admitted in Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology for an architecture degree in Nairobi. On admission to the residence hall, with the toilets and showers designed at the intersection of two wings, and at least with lights, I felt relief.

I quickly learned how to use a flushing toilet. I could not fathom how much water was being used and the amount of pressure just to flush a few grams of waste—but it was fun flushing. It was even greater fun trickling water for a shower, especially because I’d come from a village where we could only take a bath from a small jerry can.

My visits to a toilet in the city of Nairobi after my graduation were never very welcoming. These communal spaces were inhabited by street boys, clad with dirt and holding the muddy waste, ready to paint your face if you didn’t part with some coins. The toilets were dirty, stretches of feces from one end to the other, urine flowing towards the entrance, like a rude welcome gesture—nostrils closing from the emanating ammonia smell.

When I was faced with the possibility of clean, functioning toilets with running water a decade later, I knew I had to do something for our cities. The IkoToilet idea was born. This would be an urban toilet structure; it would be safe, clean, and convenient and we would add on utilities—like the sale airtime cards (which allow Kenyans to buy minutes and data for their phones) and M-pesa transfers (which allow them to make mobile money deposits/transfers), plus snacks and shoeshine services to ensure economic sustainability. This idea became a reality and now we have “toilet malls” across Kenya serving more than 10 million customers per year.

Today, when I look back, I agree with UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon: “We have a moral imperative to end open defecation and a duty to ensure women and girls are not at risk of assault and rape simply because they lack a sanitation facility.”

This is a dignity issue, and we must face it head on, both governments and the private sector.

David Kuria is a Ph.D. Researcher on Project Management and CEO of Ecotact; He is a 2015 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

Inkua Donkey Cart Design Competition winners awarded

The Inkua donkey cart design competition curtain came down Wednesday, November 18, 2015 with the winning team taking home Kshs. 100,000. The competition that commenced July, 28, 2015 was organized by the College of Engineering and Technology (COETEC) in collaboration with Africaqua and

The challenge attracted 18 teams drawn from various Engineering programmes in Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The teams were tasked to come up with functional, durable, cost effective and genders sensitive donkey carts designs.

Speaking during the award ceremony, Africaqua Chief Executive Officer, David Kuria, said in order to effectively and holistically solve societal problems, there is need for the academia to link up with industries and engage in collaborative research and initiatives.

Mr. Kuria lauded the students for taking time out of their normal studies to engage with the local communities for the success of the competition and said he was confident that the prototype that will emanate from the designs presented would be efficient and effective for water transportation especially in the rural area.

Acting Vice Chancellor, Prof. Romanus Odhiambo thanked Africaqua and for their effort in ensuring that the competition ran smoothly and was pleased by the number of female students who took up the challenge.

“I want to commend Africaqua for the work they do with the local communities and encourage them to keep up the excellent work of enhancing people’s livelihood especially those in rural areas,” said Prof. Odhiambo.

He also encouraged the student to take up such opportunities and come up with ideas that will make a difference in the community, improving people’s livelihood.

Principal COETEC, Prof. Bernard Ikua was impressed by the determination and teamwork shown by the teams and challenged Africaqua and other organisations to bring more challenges like this one, assuring them that JKUAT has a great pool of innovative and creative students who will always rise up to the occasion.

The winners of the competition, Maelo Sabasaba and Maina Muiruri, 5th year students, Mechanical Engineering, thanked all parties responsible in making the competition possible and guaranteed them that it has enabled them put into practice the skills and knowledge learnt in class.

“I am glad that we were part of this noble competition. It has not only enabled us put in practice what we learnt but has also enabled us play a part in solving a real life problem facing our society,” said Sabasaba.

The jury of the competition comprised of Eng. Reuben Mutevu, Dr. K. Njoroge and Mr. David Kweri. The prototype of the donkey cart design will be out by the end of February, 2016.


Courtesy: Jkuat Corporate Communications Office

An Accelerator That Believes Businesses and Girls Are the Keys to Africa’s Future

Women and girls are undervalued in societies across much of Africa. Spring’s goal is to support businesses that not only create goods and services that address the needs of girls, but that involve girls on the operational side as well. “Girls tend to make better employees and more reliable small entrepreneurs of their own,” Béhar says. “They tend to jump at opportunities when they come—so creating more opportunities for them is a great chance for an entrepreneur to get the best results out of their business.”

Sustainability and profit are not Spring’s only objectives. The program, which was initially conceived by the Nike Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Department for International Development, in the U.K., works with businesses to help them transform the lives of adolescent girls. “Girls are pretty invisible when it comes to business. That’s a big mistake,” says Rebecca Calder, Spring’s technical director and one of the world’s leading experts on the economic empowerment of adolescent girls. “They’re givers. They’ll re-invest in your business and in their own communities and in their families. And given the chance they’ll re-invest in themselves. There’s huge potential and it’s not tapped.”

David Kuria, a Kenyan architect and businessman, is the founder of AfricAqua, which aims to provide affordable and safe drinking water to communities across Kenya. Girls were not part of his original working model, but when Spring asked if he could revise his plans with girls in mind, he leapt at the chance. During the boot camp he decided to include schools in his distribution plan, all organized through student water clubs run by girls. “I’ll be able to train them to be ambassadors for safe water,” says Kuria, who intends to share revenue with the girls’ clubs. “We’re talking about almost 30,000 schools across the country with potential partnerships—that’s a major disruption of what I had initially thought about.”




Back row: David Kuria, Felix Kimaru, Galen Welsch, Roo Rogers, Moussa Habineza, Pierre-Damien Mbatezimana, Geoffrey Kobia, Yves Béhar, Andrew Foote, and Afzal Habib. Front row: Richard Bbaale, Linda Mukangoga, Dave Okech (in blue jacket), Abubaker Musuuza, Rebecca Kaduru, Gayatri Datar, Dr. Charles Kamotho, Gerald Otim, Leah Namugosa, and Cynthia Coredo. Photographed during the Spring Accelerator Boot Camp, just outside the grounds of the Masai Lodge, Nairobi, Kenya.
Photograph by Guillaume Bonn.