The initiative to pilot franchising principles for municipal service delivery flowed from the WRC’s research on infrastructure maintenance and the reasons for the poor condition of infrastructure in some instances. Dr Kevin Wall of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was commissioned by the WRC to explore well-known franchising business principles and to adapt these for the benefit of operation and maintenance of infrastructure. The outcome of this research provided sufficient evidence to proceed to a piloting and demonstration project, which was led by the CSIR and the East London-based water services provider Impilo Yabantu.
A number of emergent micro-entrepreneurs in the Eastern Cape were trained and mentored, and have since undertaken the routine servicing of water and sanitation facilities at all schools of the Butterworth Education District. The micro-entrepreneurs are franchisees in a social franchising partnership with Impilo Yabantu.
Significant achievements of the pilot project include:
- Water and sanitation facilities at 400 schools have been serviced;
- Six emergent franchisee micro-entrepreneurs have been established and supported;
- A number of training modules and tools have been developed;
- More than 20 sustainable jobs and many informal employment opportunities have been created;
- A public-private partnership, supporting job creation and the establishment and nurturing of emergent micro-entrepreneurs, has been created; and
- The concept of social franchising has been successfully demonstrated in two different cases.
“Not only has the work been done efficiently and effectively, but the social franchising system utilised has ensured quality and reliability of service, peer learning, skills transfer and health and safety training,” comments Dr Kevin Wall. “In addition, the franchisees' employees are also empowered – they are mostly rural women who have not previously benefited from any kind of job-related training,” he notes.
“The learners at the 400 schools have benefited tremendously, especially the girl learners, who now have access to private, clean and hygienic toilets,” says Wall. The sanitation improvements have seen an increase in attendance rates at schools which are being serviced.
The success of this model and approach has been further demonstrated in the Amathole District Municipality (ADM). Within a period of two months, the franchisees have emptied 250 household ventilated improved pit (VIP) toilets as part of the pilot, and have been requested to tackle a further 160 households.
According to Jay Bhagwan of the WRC, social franchising partnerships for water services operation and maintenance address the requirements of many of South Africa's national goals, particularly:
- Creation of jobs at the lowest levels of the pyramid, where unemployment is highest and possession of workplace skills is lowest;
- Transfer of workplace skills;
- Micro-enterprise creation and nurturing;
- Broad-based black economic empowerment; and
- Most importantly, infrastructure and service delivery, through maintenance activities that increase the quality and reliability of services, and the availability and utility of infrastructure.
“The concept is now ready to expand beyond its current comfort zone of routine servicing of low-technology water and sanitation infrastructure in rural areas. It needs to be developed further, so that it can move up the technology ladder, expanding its range of competencies beyond its current capabilities,” says Oliver Ive of Impilo Yabantu.
Bhagwan concludes “The success of this project and approach is largely due to the vision and long-term views of the WRC, as well as the generous funding and support by Irish Aid, aligned with funding from the Eastern Cape DoE for payment for servicing completed for this demonstration project. The social franchising concept is ready to roll out to support many other areas in water services operations and maintenance, such as meter reading, water quality monitoring, leak detection, water quality analysis, etc. It could lead to addressing many of Government’s goals for job creation, local economic development and improving the sustainability of water services”.
Mr Jay Bhagwan
Director: Water Use and Waste Management
Water Research Commission
Tel: 012 330 0340 Cell: 083 290 7232