Social franchising partnerships for O&M - School sanitation business story from South Africa
O&M franchises as change agents and job creators
A pilot program for establishing franchises to clean and maintain school sanitation facilities has resulted in micro businesses that are now active in four school districts, totaling nearly 1,300 schools and close to 20,000 toilets in South Africa.
The project and the experiences:
Many school water and sanitation infrastructure in South Africa either requires extensive refurbishment, or is serviceable but deteriorating, and likely to deteriorate further if not supported by good operation and maintenance. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Water Research Commission (WRC) of South Africa and the company Amanz’ abantu Services ("Water for the people”) evolved and piloted an innovative system for the maintenance and servicing of water and sanitation facilities. The essence of this system is the creation of social franchising partnerships for skills development and job creation, built around quality control and mutual incentives. The system borrows from and adapts some of the same franchising principles commonly found in the way in which many petrol stations, fast food outlets, printing shops and other small businesses are set up and supported so as to ensure consistent quality and reliability of service.
In 2009 Irish Aid, the CSIR, the WRC, the Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Education (DoE) and Amanz’ abantu signed a memorandum of understanding to implement a three-year social franchising partnership pilot for routine servicing (akin to the 15,000 km routine servicing of a motor vehicle) of water and sanitation facilities at the approximately 400 schools of the Butterworth education district. A scope of work was agreed, and training and operation plans developed. Advertisements called for parties interested in becoming “water services franchisees” to come forward. The franchisees were required to be residents of the Butterworth area to ensure that the work would be done by “local” people drawn from the communities that would be served and to minimise travelling time and cost to Butterworth and to the schools that would be serviced.
Before starting work, the selected aspirant franchisees received technical training from franchisor Amanz’ abantu, and assistance with setting up their business- es. Among the first to take up the opportunity was Nocawe Lupuwana, a former teacher. “We provide two services”, explains Nocawe. “One is cleaning the existing structures and teaching pupils and educators about cleanliness and hygiene. The other service involves sucking up the ‘blackwater’ which fills many of the toilets, making them unusable.” But the impact of her work goes further. “We have become change agents not just in the schools but also in the communities, because the children tell their parents about what has happened at the school, and how the household facilities, and their use, should improve.” She continues: “I have also become a job creator, and my employees can now put food on the table for their families.”
Under the guidance of the franchisor, the trainee franchisees undertook the initial cleaning and thereafter routine servicing of the water and sanitation facilities, with mentoring and further training as necessary. The cost of methodology development, training and other assistance was borne by a combination of external funding from Irish Aid and the WRC, as well as social responsibility contributions from Amanz’ abantu and from the CSIR. The maintenance services provided by the franchisees were paid by the infrastructure owners (the schools authorities) from their budgets annually allocated for O&M, making the maintenance programmes financially sustainable.
Thus the initiative has simultaneously: restored sanitation facilities to a usable condition; created, mentored and supported first-time entrepreneurs who are now running their own micro businesses; and created jobs, training people who have never before in their lives been sufficiently skilled to hold down a steady income-earning job. Franchisees are now active in three further education districts, totalling nearly 1,300 schools (of the order of 20,000 toilets).
Mr Mthunywa Ngonzo, the head of the DoE and an enthusiastic supporter, says he would like to see the initiative extended to many more of the 6,000 public schools in the province.
The key lessons of the story:
Dr Kevin Wall (formerly CSIR, now University of Pretoria) identified the following important lessons learned from this pilot project:
- Task-specific concept development (e.g. the specifics of the business model, the training programme and the operations manuals) can be done only by a franchisor that has had first-hand experience of what the tasks entail.
- Franchisees must be chosen on the basis of willingness to work hard and to commit to the business principles.
- Provision must be made in the franchising agreements for prompt replacement of non-performing franchisees.
- Cash flow problems will quickly put any small enterprise out of business. Careful attention must be paid to ensuring prompt payment of invoices submitted by the franchisees.
- To facilitate rapid and dissension-free agreement that the work has been performed according to contract and payment can be authorised, tasks must be as standardised as possible, and assigned standard prices.
Contribution to the SuSanA sustainability criteria
Technically appropriate including O&M: Franchises provide toilet O&M to keep toilets in good working order.
Protect the Environment and Natural Resources & be Financially and Economically Viable: An innovative franchising scheme not only keeps school sanitation facilities in good working order but also is financially sustainable!
Project location: 400 schools in the Butterworth district of South Africa
Financing for methodology development, training, and further assistance: Irish Aid, WRC, Amanz' abantu, CSIR
Irish Aid is the Irish Government’s programme for overseas development. The programme is managed by the Development Cooperation Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The work they do in fighting global poverty and hunger is integral to Ireland’s foreign policy.
WRC (Water Research Commission) was established in terms of the Water Research Act (Act No 34 of 1971), following a period of serious water shortage. Their mission is to have highly informed water decision-making through science and technology at all levels, in all stakeholder groups, and innovative water solutions through research and development for South Africa, Africa and the world.
Amanz’ abantu Services (Pty) Ltd is a private company whose shareholders include both Eastern Cape and nationally based companies, representing the full range of skills and experiences required for implementing rural water supply and sanitation projects.
CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) in South Africa is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. It undertakes directed research and development for socio-economic growth.
Dr. Kevin Wall
Department of Construction Economics
University of Pretoria