hyper-local water kiosks for per-urban communities in Sub-Saharan Africa
Pitch us on your solution
In many urban areas of Africa, population growth is outpacing the development of water infrastructure. The underprivileged populations suffer most, paying exorbitant amounts for water that is often unclean.
We are developing affordable, off-grid, micro-water kiosk systems that clean, store and dispense clean water. Our kiosks rely on new-generation nano-materials that enable our kiosk to purify water without electricity, significant space or capital expense.
We will partner with local entrepreneurs in Tanzania via a franchise model, supplying them with the technology and support needed to purify and sell water into their own communities. This will result in economic opportunity for our customers and greater access to affordable water for end-users. Our value proposition is to undercut the price of bottled water by 50% whilst increasing profit margins for vendors.
Film your elevator pitch
What is the problem you are solving?
One billion people lack access to clean drinking water. The problem is acute in many low-income urban regions (our own research has been conducted in Dar es Salaam), where rapid population growth has outpaced the development of adequate water infrastructure. This deficit has encouraged the growth of private small-scale water vendors, many of whom:
Sell unclean municipal water at high mark-up
Sell expensive bottled water at a low profit margin
Low and middle-income urban populations often rely on these private water vendors for a significant proportion of their water. Therefore, the poorest demographics pay the most for clean drinking water. These are the people we will empower.
Who are you serving?
Our first customers will be current shop-owners in Tanzania, who sell bottled water (as well as other everyday items). Our on-the-ground research has shown:
(1) Current water vendors are unhappy with the low-profit margin of selling bottled water (5%)
(2) Their customers complain at the high price ($0.3/L)
With our product, water vendors will be able to undercut the price of expensive bottled water whilst simultaneously increasing their profit margins. End-users will receive greater access to low-cost, clean water.
In the mid-term will market to first-time entrepreneurs, with a particular focus on young women, who can use the Majico kiosk to become micro-entrepreneurs and generate an independent income.
What is your solution?
Our technology utilises new-generation nano-materials that efficiently cleans water when activated with sunlight, through a process called photocatalysis. It has a unique combination of benefits:
Effective against biological and chemical contaminants
Doesn’t change smell or taste of water
Our photocatalytic water purifier technology will be integrated into a hyper-local water kiosk (a system that stores, clean and sells water automatically). They will be rolled-out via a franchise model into the small-scale water vendor market. Current water kiosks often rely on conventional industrial purification systems (reverse osmosis, distillation, UV) that require a lot of space and capital investment, and incur significant running costs (electricity).
Our kiosk will offer an affordable, space efficient and off-grid water treatment-and-dispensing solution, allowing small-scale vendors to produce and sell clean water into their own communities. With our product, water vendors will be able to undercut the price of expensive bottled water whilst simultaneously increasing their profit margins. End-users will receive greater access to low-cost, clean water.
Which dimensions of the challenge does your solution most closely address?
Where is your solution team headquartered?Cambridge, UK
Our solution's stage of development:
Select one of the below:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Our water purification technology utilises a new-generation nano-material that efficiently cleans water when activated with sunlight, through a process called photocatalysis. Photocatalytic materials exist, but ours offers unparalleled efficiency and ease of production.
A water puffier that uses these sun-activated photo-catalysts has a unique set of benefits:
Effective against biological and chemical contaminants
Doesn’t change smell or taste of water
Our photocatalytic water purifier technology will be integrated into a product - water-dispensing kiosks - to be rolled-out via a franchise model into the small-scale water vendor market.
Whilst having some success (especially in India). Current water kiosks typically rely on conventional industrial purification systems (reverse osmosis, distillation, and UV). These systems rely on large amounts of mains power, require significant space and high CAPEX. This means these systems are only viable at high volume (i.e. each vendor has to sell a lot of water per day). Our system is cheaper, off-grid and small, lending itself to a more decentralized approach that we believe is more scalable.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
Our photocatalytic materials rely on the unique antibacterial and optical properties of silver nano-dots. Their powerful water purifying effect has been demonstrated in academia for several years - however, high-cost, complicated materials and a lack of real-world testing has prevented adoption.
During five years of academic work we developed a new, simple and low-cost photocatalytic material that can be synthesised using standard kitchen equipment (microwaves and ovens). We tested this material in low-income settings in Tanzania using polluted water sources and natural sunlight. We have also designed and tested locally manufacturable enclosures to house the materials.
The main advantage of our water kiosk is it's small-size, low-cost and off-grid functionality. For typical digital kiosks the bulk of power is drawn by the purification functionality (reverse osmosis, UV etc) that also take up significant space.
Our photocatalytic purifiers run directly from sunlight, this means our shop-owners only need a small (10W) solar panel to drive the microelectronics of the kiosk and nothing else. The purifiers are also small and modular and thus well suited to low-volume applications. These benefits mean the kiosk can be added to an existing shop owners premises, without the needing to build a standalone water kiosk shop (significant barrier to entry)
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Our on-the-ground research in Dar es Salaam Tanzania has shown:
1. There are over 3000 small-scale water bottle sellers in the city
2. Many of them complain about the low profit margin from selling bottles (approx 5% PM)
3. End-users complain about the cost of bottled water (£0.3/Litre) .and cite the lack of convenient, safe alternatives (38% of population rely on bottled water).
We surveyed over 120 vendors, community members and graduates and received a 97% approval rating on the Majico concept. Furthermore we co-created our business model and product concept (small-scale kiosk for shop-owners) with our team of interns and communities in Dar es Salaam. Finally we presented our plans at a WASH conference we organised in Dar es Salaam to a range of stakeholders and future customers and received significant interest, including requests to be first customers from existing vendors.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
We are currently working with 12 interns and 4 graduate students in Tanzania on the Majico. Our water kiosk is pre-MVP and yet to serve commercial customers.
Following a successful kiosk proof of concept, we project that our franchise model will enable us to scale as follows:
Year one: 10 kiosks serving a total of 180k litres per year
Year four : 400 kiosks serving a total of 7.2 million litres
Our projections show we can be financially self-sustainable after 4 years of operation. Thereafter, profits will be used and exponentially scale our impact and reach.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our short term goals are to reach MVP, regulatory approval and recruit our first franchises for a small commercial trial. Following this validation we intend to scale our franchisees (existing shop-owners who sell water), driven by strong branding/marketing and financial incentives for our customers and end-users.
Mid-term we will target first time entrepreneurs, with a focus on young women. Enabling the to become micro-entrepreneurs by using the Majico kiosk to generate an independent income. We will also expand across East Africa made easier by the the East African Trade Agreements.
Longer-term we will use revenue generated to fund non-profit WASH and education projects in rural areas of Tanzania & East Africa.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
1. Low rates of customer/franchisee adoption
2. Low rates of end-user adoption (i.e. customer to franchisee). Specifically changing patterns of behaviour in buying single-use water bottles and throwing them away
3. Regulatory and governmental hurdles - specifically getting our kiosk approved for use and receiving buy-in from local government,
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
1. In order to overcome this, we opt for human-centred design and co-ownership. Extensive customer and community engagement has been carried out.
2. Beyond the human-centred design, we are making user-friendliness, education, branding and marketing a strong priority. As well as the financial incentive of being significantly cheaper than bottled water.
3. We have already formed strong relationships with government (including the Tanzanian Bureau of Standards), DAWASCO and DAWASA (local government water and sewage services) and key NGOs in the ecosystem.
Select an option below:
Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit
If you selected Other for the organization question, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
1 full-time (Mike Coto) in Cambridge
4 part-time in Cambridge
12 part-time in Tanzania (graduate intern programme)
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
There is 4 years of academic work prior to Majico. Majico has been running for 1.5 years
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Technical Ability - Team of 4 PhDs from Cambridge University with expertise in water, materials, biology, engineering, physics. Other qualifications include: Impulse entrepreneurship training at The University of Cambridge, Of the 3% of applicants accepted into Smart.ly MBA program, Human-centered design training from international design house FROG.
Industry experience - 2 of the founders have worked on a UK government-funded water purification projects with two UK SMEs (£400k 24 -month project that has resulted in a new-generation UV purification system, due for commercial launch in 2020). Mike Coto & Peter Knight led the product development and management of the system.
Commercial experience - our founders have created companies in the medical, engineering, and biology sectors taking both technical and management roles.
Network in Tanzania - Partnerships in Tanzania with Brac, DAWASA (local government utilities), local NGOs (Bridge for Change), created personal relationships with communities and leaders created over 3 trips to Tanzania.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Ardhi University Tanzania. We partner with the environmental engineering laboratory to test our purification systems in the field. We have co-supervised graduate students who use the Majico devices. We have also run internships programmes with current and recent graduates to co-create models.
Bridge for Change (BfC). A grassroots youth empowerment NGO. We partner with BfC to implement community and voice-of-the-customer projects to understand the needs of the user. Together we organised a water and sanitation conference in Dar
SticLab. A local innovation/manufacturing hub in Tanzania - Sticlab support our prototype development, ensuring systems are locally relevant and manufacturable.
Arm. A global chip company. We have recently formed a partnership with ARM who will be supporting us in the development of our low-power electronic systems for our digital kiosk.
Brac - Tanzania. World's largest NGO, has expressed interest in partnering with us on commercial pilots and implementation (once we reach MVP)
What is your business model?
We will operate using a franchise business model. Our first customers will primarily be existing shop owners who already sell water (mostly bottled) in their small shops. Both parties share the risks and rewards in the following co-ownership arrangement:
Majico assemblies, supplies and installs the water kiosk system at no upfront cost for the franchisee, thereby lowering the barrier to entry. Franchisees also get access to Majico brand strength and branded re-usable Majico bottles to be sold alongside the kiosk.
The franchisee ensures the kiosk is secure and safe within their shop and receives cash (digitally) for each lire of water sold to end-users (their customers). Increasing their profit margin vs selling bottled water, whilst simultaneously lowering the cost for of water the end-user (we project by up-to 50%)
Majico shares revenue (automatically using the digital kiosk) with frachisees. This revenue is used to fund maintenance and support for all franchisees (training, water testing and parts replacement) to ensure the kiosks are functioning correctly. Revenue will also fund expansion and customer acquisition.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We will fund product development, in-country trials and regulatory approval using non-dilutive grant sources (next 12-18 months). Once we demonstrate the viability of the model with a small commercial pilot we will take impact investment to expand operations and growth (18-24 months).
Our long-term suitability comes from our franchise model in which we share revenue with our franchisees for each unit of water vended and each usable bottle sold. This will cover operational costs and fund long-term growth.
Why are you applying to Solve?
Network - we believe solve can help us build our network with, funding bodies, innovation/product consultancies and individuals, policy makers, legal and operational advisors.
Finance - Any cash won would be pumped into our product development + user experience work - helping to accelerate us towards our MVP.
Credibility - winning a prestigious award brings more credibility to our work, helping to open doors, improve our chances in grant applications and build excitement/exposure around our work.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Human centered design/user experience innovation houses such as Ideo, and Opinno. We are very focused on building a product that solves an important problem and is something that people actually want to use. We would benefit from guidance and support in prioritising the human element in product design for our customers and end-users.
Brand strategy/comms companies/advisors. We feel we have a great story to tell, we would benefit from some insights into how to make it shine through, especially in an emerging market setting.
If you would like to apply for the AI Innovations Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If you are not already using AI in your solution, explain why it is necessary for your solution to be successful and how you plan to incorporate it.
If you would like to apply for the Innovating Together for Healthy Cities Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
We would utilize the prize over two design sprints to reach our kiosk MVP:
1. Human-centered-design workshops in Tanzania to build a product (kiosk) specification based on community needs and input. Utilising existing partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa.
1.1. Design and development of a first-generation kiosk. Utilising in-house mechanical and water engineering and third-party electronic engineering and supported by ARM.
2. Human-centered-design workshops in Tanzania to generate feedback and observe user interactions on the initial prototype.
2.1. Design and development of a second refined kiosk prototype based on user interactions/feedback. The project will conclude with a product showcase in Tanzania.
If you would like to apply for the Everytown for Gun Safety Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
If you would like to apply for the Innospark Ventures Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution. If your solution utilizes data, describe how you will ensure that the data is sourced, maintained, and used ethically and responsibly.
If you would like to apply for the UN Women She Innovates Prize for Gender-Responsive Innovation, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
- Dr. Michael Coto CEO, Majico