The FIETS in Gulu Northern Uganda, the F of (sustainable) financing


We, being Jacqueline and Valentin of WASTE, started of on Monday the 4th of June to Kampala, Uganda with the objective of facilitating a training course on the F of the mysterious (for our Southern partners that is) FIETS. The day of travel was uneventful. UWASNET, our WASH Simavi partner, had made many of the local arrangements.

Tuesday morning we had a meeting in Kampala with Cecily of UWASNET, who for understandable domestic reasons had no chance to accompany us to Gulu in the North of Uganda, a journey of some 4- 6 hours (depending on traffic and the time of the day). She also told us that the last day of the 3-day training should be half a day only. We met our financial consultant John, who was to be a key asset in the next days. We had requested John to join us because of his knowledge of the financial sector, but, yo and behold, he turned out to be a superb workshop facilitator.

Anyway, as it was a little complex to sort out the finances, we left rather late in the day for Gulu and as a consequence we arrived well after dark.

The next morning we waited, waited and waited for participants to arrive. We felt sorry for those three, who had come on time, but we needed some sort of quorum of minimum 10 participants. Some 2 ¬Ω hours after the scheduled starting time we could commence on the financial training of FIETS. Participants had been briefed by a well written summary of the programme written by Cecily of UWASNET, yet that was all the information they had.

Nevertheless their expectations were high (and I would say rightly so). At the end of the workshop participants expected to know:
– How to engage finance institutions in water & sanitation;
– What kind of products financial institution can develop.
– How the gospel of WASH can be spread around;
– How customers of the bank are going to pay back.
– What is this FIETS thing,
– What is sustainable financing;
– What and how financial institutions can add value to WASH, what is their relevance, if they have ever done this before.

A mixture of presentations, discussions, films all related to demand generation, business opportunities, sustainable finance and FIETS cumulated in addressing these above questions. The knowledge was tested in a role-play: how does one make a business plan that is interesting enough for bank to become a financial partner. This was tested before two ex-bankers who are asking all sort of bankers’ questions.

This is short was the content of the first two days and had to meet the participant’s expectations. That in short was my expectation.

This role-play or mock exercise became a real exercise when on the last day the most widely acknowledged business plans were presented to financial institutions (special thanks to Beatrice of Caritas and John for getting them). Their positive reaction surprised initially the participants, yet they quickly realized the mileage they can get out of it. At the end we asked our participants whether their expectations were met: a summary of their answers is below.

The product market combinations were really interesting, business opportunities galore (this is my interpretation of their replies), yet we need to identify and deal with the final disposal. There are many financial aspects to sanitation and corresponding financial resources and opportunities that can be tapped and there is a clear interest of banks.

All identified their next steps from mobilising local entrepreneurs in sanitation, training of more entrepreneurs, and presenting business plans to the bank. The Photo below shows the prospective entrepreneurs with people from the bank.

We also asked what our next steps should be according to the participants; not only do we have to document successes, we would also be encouraged to launch a platform (akvo seems the obvious source) where the participants, municipality, entrepreneurs, financial institutions, NGO and CBOs representing the community can come together. Participants requested that we should check their progress 3 months from now, and help them technically. William of DFCU (commercial Bank) summarized it quite well: now walk the talks! Participants and we, I must add, readily agreed.

Our own expectations were also met despite some minor hiccups, late starting of the sessions (we were getting better day-by-day, on the third day we could start nearly on time) and the shortened duration of the training, yet as any training it drains on the one had the energy of the facilitators and also replenishes energy (I realise this is a contradiction, yet who says that reality cannot contradict itself), and yes it can be further improved (already some of the time keeping elements were communicated to Fort Portal were the next training takes place

I will not join the Fort Portal training purely for WASTE internal reasons and my successor as facilitator Fera was properly briefed by John, Jacqueline and me (in Kampala). It were rewarding days thanks to Ann and Bernon of USWANET, all participants and last but not least a good interaction between Jacqueline, the entrepreneurs, John and (I am not very modest here) and Valentin. In banking terms our partners will be supported to pluck the low hanging fruit, but the fruit higher up the tree are also being ready for plucking if not in 2013 then in later years.

Valentin Post works as Controller / Senior Adviser at WASTE