Ready to scale water services in rural Tanzania

Bomba is a start-up water services provider in Tanzania. Born from an opportune change in Tanzania’s regulatory environment, Bomba focuses on what its clients really want: water services at home. Taco de Nies, board member at Bomba, says that Bomba is ready to scale. The company will cover Tanzania’s Mara region before 2019 and reach at least 44 villages, equalling more than 75,000 households.

In 2009, Tanzania’s Water Supply and Sanitation Act caused a shift in the country’s regulatory landscape. Until then, the government of Tanzania owned the exclusive rights for the construction and exploitation of water services. With the new act in place, however, communities and their municipal governments are permitted to partner with private sector companies for the supply of their water services. Bomba – which in Swahili carries the meanings of both ‘good’ and ‘tube’ – seized the day, and was founded in 2013 to supply water services to Tanzanians in rural villages.

For-profit company

A social enterprise, Bomba was co-founded by Dunea, BoP Innovation Center, SNV and three Tanzanian private sector partners: Wedeco, Chigoto Plus and REAM Africa. Bomba wants to improve livelihoods in Tanzania’s rural areas, while taking a commercial approach at doing so. “What our prospect clients are really interested in”, says Taco, “are water services at home. Although our goal is to provide a basic need – water – Bomba is designed to be a for-profit business, with its profits reinvested in the company’s growth.”

As the first private sector water services provider in Tanzania, Bomba has secured a contract with the Tanzanian government, and districts and communities to rehabilitate, build, own and operate water services infrastructure during the next 25 years. Its business model and the agreements with the government allow Bomba to cover its operational costs, and recoup investments and costs of financing these investments. “Moreover”, says Taco, “the contract provides us with the right incentives to keep investing until the last day of the contract. The value of our investments are protected, which to our knowledge is a contract form that could carry innovative potential in the area of rural water supply in Africa.”

Ready to scale

Taco: “Bomba is now up and running, and in three locations water is delivered to our first customers. Yet scale is required to realise affordable services for the people in villages – and we are ready to scale. With the currently operational villages we have demonstrated that small villages benefit from scale. Economies of scale bring down prices in smaller villages, and allows Bomba to include villages that in the past could not be sustainably connected to water supply infrastructure.”

As a start-up, Bomba secured initial funding from several partners, which facilitated its launch. It is now ‘hunting’ for additional money. “In total, Bomba requires around €15-20 million until 2019.  This money is required to invest in core water infrastructure like pumps, treatment plants, tanks and piping. Additional investments are required to offer financing to households – our customers – and realise household connections with our so-called Bomba Yard Tap. We are looking for the right blend of investors: donors, development banks, institutions and investors that can commit to the types of investments we require, while supporting our mission.”

Water from a tap, at home

Taco concludes: “Bomba is in its early days. But with the ongoing and confirmed support of our partners, our new investors, and the strong support and collaboration of the Tanzanian government, we will succeed and ensure that in the coming 25+ years people in rural Tanzania will experience what others take for granted every day: water from a tap, at home.”

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