If you’ve read the “About Me” page, you know that we are currently building a school in Africa, in a small compound called Linda, wich is near Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. You can read more about our school on our Foundation website www.asbirofoundation.com. However, it was not the sch school that was our first investment in that area. It was was the water supply business. Unfortunately, we have to close it down, because the government have forbidden us to deliver water to the residents of Linda.
Water problem in Linda
Water supply in Linda doesn’t exist. If you want to have water in your house, you need to build a well. This, though is very expensive. Prices are twice high as in the UK, and the average salary in Linda is only $250 / month. This is the reason why more than a half of the Linda residents don’t have water in their houses.
The company run by government has 4 wells in Linda, from wich it supplies water to the local community. Poor people have to buy water from this company for $1 per cubic meter. Price is not the problem. The problem is how to deliver this water to their homes. It is usually left for the children to deal with it. Several times a week, they take a large barrel, wait in one- or two-hour queue, fill the barrel with water, and then roll this 200-400 kg load back home. Those who live on the hill are just unlucky.
What we wanted to do
We spent $10.000, and together with the Catolic Parish in Linda, we built a deep well with the water tower. We started to connect neighbours of the parish to our water supply, and then the neighbours of the neighbours etc. Every family have their own water meter and pay us the same price as they would pay for the public company – $1 per cubic meter. The difference is that they have the water directly to the taps in their houses. In this way. kids can spend a few hours more at school or at work on the fields with parents.
For the start we connected something like 50 families. Everything was going well. Many of our clients started to be our resellers. Those who didn’t want to wait for a few hours to get to the government tap started to buy water from our customers. Nearly 200 familes (more then 1,000 people) usesd our water. The Parish started to earn money. It was one or three hundred dollars every month. Not so bad. We wanted to use this money to connect other families.
In 2010 we drew up a business plan to deliver water to every Linda family within 2 years. We wanted to bring cheaper and better pipes from Europe, and to build 6 big wells. our calculations showed that it would cost us $60.000. The funds would come from our Foundation. After that, the Parish would earn 2 or even 3 thousand dollars a month. This income would then be spend on building our school.
Why we stopped
I think that the public company began losing customers. The government officials came to us and said that water trading is illegal and reserved only for public companies. They wanted to give us a huge fine and close our business, but the residents of Linda began to defend us. They ouldn’t understand why the government wanted to close down the company that made their life so much easier. The case was presented even to the senators and the Parliament.
To make this long story short, we entered an an unoficial compromise with the government. Those families who are already connected to our water supply can use our water, but we can’t connect next houses. We also had to change contracts with our customers. Now is written that water is for free, but they have to pay us for the amortization of pipes.
How it is today
Today I’ve got a photo from my frien’s father, Jacek, who is the parson of the Parisch in Linda. The European Union has given a few hundred thousand dollars to the Linda’s public water company in order to make the water supply improvements. What does it mean? I don’t know. Time will show.
I visit our school in Zambia every year, and it makes me sad when I see hundreds of kids rolling heavy barrels of water. If the government had allowed us to (do our job) carry out our business plan two years ago, every family would have been connected to the water supply by now.
So, we decided to build a school, and teach them that free market in Africa is the only way to make their live easier.
- Feb 2014