A Miracle in the Toilets
David Kuria is a 37-year-old architect from Kenya. Already having a comfortable life working for the few wealthy Kenyans who could afford his services, he felt unsatisfied. He wanted to do more to help his community. David found his calling in an unlikely area: the toilets.
According to the Acumen Fund, only 48% of Kenya’s population has access to basic sanitation services. It has been more than 30 years since the government last invested in toilet facilities in Nairobi, one of the most densely populated informal settlements in the world. The few toilet units in low-income areas are beset by overcrowding, inaccessibility, as well as a general lack of privacy, hygiene and security.
Upon learning that women seeking privacy, would often pay a small fee to use a privately operated, unhygienic pit latrine, David saw an opportunity to build a business while helping his community. He founded Ikotoilet, a company which provides clean and secure sanitation services for a small fee. The company uses a Build-Operate-Transfer model of public-private partnership, entering into long-term contracts with municipalities to secure use of public lands.
David’s venture is now a real success. As an architect, he designed himself the facilities, which look like small restaurants, not toilets. An average of 1000 Kenyans use everyday each Ikotoilet because besides providing dignified and decent toilets, it also offers a range of services like showers, baby stations, phone booths, shoe shines and a small food shop. At the same time it creates jobs for urban youth.
David made a point to focus on sustainability especially with water which is now scarce in cities. That’s why each facility uses waterless urinals, low flush systems, rainwater harvesting and water saving taps to ensure optimal conservation. He is also keen on the potential for nutrient and energy recovery, harvesting urine and now exploring how to invest in conversion to ammonia. Also, biogas is generated from human waste and is used to light Ikotoilets.
His vision fulfilled David wanted to make sure expansion would not hurt the quality of service provided to the community. How could he guarantee the managers would keep each Ikotoilet spotless? David came up with very simple but effective idea: the office is located above or next to the toilets. No one would want to work or hold a meeting around stinking toilets.