Private Sector opportunities in Kenya’s Water Sector

March 27, 2021 - 5 minutes read

On 26th of March, 2021, the World Bank Water Resources Group in collaboration with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). The purpose of the webinar was to explore opportunities for unlocking the market and strengthening the enabling environment for a circular economy approach to wastewater management in Kenya.

The event, which is part of a larger series, was in cognition of Kenya’s vibrant and innovative private sector that has been able to demonstrate leadership in developing innovative solutions across a variety of sectors. With an increased focus on innovative finance models such as Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in combination with supportive macro-economic policies such as the Water Act 2016, the PPP Act 2012, the National Water Master Plan 2030 and Vision 2030, business opportunities for the private sector to participate in Kenya’s water sector have never been better.

Background:

The circular economy (CE) holds particular promise for private sector players as an area expected to experience significant growth in the near future. Given the current water stress situation in Kenya, it is becoming increasingly clear that having strategies in place to ensure that water is used sustainably, is no longer “nice to do” but a “must do”. Using models and mechanisms to keep resources circulating in the economy at their maximum value has the potential to bring real change in using water sustainably and offers many opportunities for businesses. Moreover, the unmet need for water and sanitation across the country, in combination with new industrial policies that contain ambitious targets aimed at transforming Kenya into an industrial nation and incorporate sustainable and, particularly, green industrial policies, create an unprecedented opportunity to implement circular water economy solutions at scale.

Webinar Objectives:

The overarching objective of the webinar was to facilitate a transition in Kenya’s wastewater management practices towards a transformative circular economy approach by leveraging strategic public-private partnerships. It provided the private sector an opportunity for early engagement in defining a road map to enabling investment in wastewater management and the adoption of circular economy principles.

Specifically, the webinar:

  1. Showcased opportunities for private sector investment in wastewater CE in Kenya
  2. Explored how to strengthen the enabling environment to wastewater circular economy transition in Kenya

In attendance were Government representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) as well as Private Sector players including the Kenya Breweries Limited.

Dr. Ayub Macharia, Director of the Environmental Education and Awareness Unit at the MoEF gave a presentation highlighting the current policy and legislative environment impacting on water circularity. As part of the key messages and purpose of the regulatory instruments Dr. Ayub highlighted resource recovery and recycling, transition from linear to circular economy, private sector investment in environmental efforts and programmes, enhanced resilience of the blue economy and water sector.

He did however note a number of gaps which the Ministry is currently looking into which relate to a comprehensive range of pollutants; the need for standards for treated wastewater use; wastewater pricing; and the need for a deliberate circular economy approach to wastewater.

In order to address these gaps, he highlighted the following as some of the ongoing measures: multi-agency technical working group on wastewater circular economy; baseline study on wastewater CE in Kenya; multi-agency technical working group on wastewater CE; National policy framework on CE in wastewater management; and development of regulations, standards and guidelines.

To showcase Private Sector’s best practices, Ms. Arnolda Shiundu, Head of Sustainability and Community Engagement at the Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) provided a case study of what KBL has managed to achieve in the past 6 years. In her presentation, Ms. Shiundu was able to demonstrate KBL’s deliberate measures that have been implemented towards promoting circularity. In fact, as a result of the investment by the company, KBL has been able to reduce its water usage in manufacturing by 33% with upto ONE BILLION LITRES recycled to support general purpose activities. This has translated to Kes. 8.7 Million shillings saved annually which is a clear indication that corporate sustainability isn’t just a “good to have” but is also profitable.

As part of her presentation, Ms. Shiundu called for more collaboration with the Government particularly calling for more financial incentives such as discounted licensing fees for compliant institutions with clear continuous improvement programs aimed at reducing disposal e.g. enforcement payment for effluent discharge fees.

Other asks to Government included: the harmonization laws and policies to international conventions: Adherence to global and regional instruments and policy commitments at national level have not been adequately addressed or coordinated; effort is needed to reduce the Non-Revenue Water from the current level to below 20% by the year 2030; and clear standards and prompt approvals for water recycling project effluent discharge parameters.

Key takeaways for participants were:

  1. Able to identify opportunities and entry points for private sector investment in wastewater contributing to efficient use of resources with the adoption of circularity in Kenya.
  2. Able to get key learnings from presented case studies by the private sector and linkage to technology providers.
  3. Documented proposals on policies that will create an enabling environment to encourage private sector investment in wastewater while adopting the circular economy principles in Kenya.
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