Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs/ DGIS through Plan Nederland
Project start: 
Project end: 
Jan Spit
Stan Maessen

Sanitation in Peri-urban areas in Africa (SPA)

Sanitation in Peri-urban areas in Africa (SPA) was to set up as a result oriented, innovative and self-sustaining urban sanitation system based on a business approach.

What we do

SPA stands for Sanitation in Peri-urban areas in Africa and the project has been running in Benin, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia from 2008 till 2015 (including budget neutral extensions).  The goal of SPA was to set up a result oriented, innovative and self-sustaining urban sanitation system based on a business approach.  The program ended its activities in Kenya (2010) and Benin (2013). At this moment, other cities in Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa are requesting SPA-like projects.

How we do it

Within the SPA programme we developed the Diamond model which since has been tried successfully.

The 4 links between the main stakeholders were made stronger, by demand creation on the user side, improvement of techniques and businesses for the businesses, improvement of the access to financial services for the businesses and capacity-building of the government sector. In practice this translates to:

  • Households in peri-urban areas (slum areas) take a loan at a local financial institution for toilet construction at their house. It depends on the local situation whether the loan-taker is the house-owner, the landlord or the tenant. The occupants of the house will pay for operation and maintenance. Through training the awareness of sanitation and hygiene of the house occupants and landlords is increased.

  • Small or medium enterprises (SMEs) can be engaged against payment to construct the toilet and to empty the pit. SMEs can take a loan at the same local financial institution for equipment and materials. If the local situation does not permit toilets at each house, public solutions by SMEs are stimulated. SMEs are assessed for their technical and commercial capacities and given training if needed.

  • One or more local finance institutions dispense the loans to the house-owner, landlord, occupant or enterprise. The loans are given at local commercial rates. The financial institution can be a (local) bank or micro-finance institute (MFI).

  • The municipality is the owner of the project in its city. It facilitates and monitor the process and is accountable to its population. The municipality negotiates with the local financial institute(s) on the lending system, facilitates the SMEs regarding the sanitation services to be delivered, and motivates the population to improve its sanitation situation. If so decided, the municipality will create a sanitation service within the municipality.

  • Guarantees for loans, if required, will be agreed between the financial institution, the municipality, and the programme.


In the four cities the same approach resulted in four totally different systems, depending on how the roles were picked up by the stakeholders involved:

  • Ethiopia: In the city Arba Minch, the government has played an active role in the creation of the diamond, they were active in the discussions with the banks.
  • Malawi: In Blantyre the business consultant was successful in upgrading the businesses working in sanitation. The government was involved but not in a dominant way.
  • Zambia: *** the banks quickly discovered the possibilities to invest in sanitation as a business, this encouraged businesses to grow.
  • Benin: In the city Parakou the forming of the diamond has not yet materialised. The roles of the different stakeholders continue to be unclear and in the city only the very poor don’t have a toilet, middle income households are looking for improved system development, at this moment there is not much to be seen here. Still the efforts continue.


The objective is to establish sustainable sanitation systems that not only provide good and safe toilet facilities at household level but also provice services to empty, collect, transport and dispose the excreta. In some cities the projects strive to use the excreta for agriculture by recycling the nutrients or for biogas production, thus enhancing the value. Sustainability is achieved when:

  • There is clear ownership: The relevant organisations (businesses, local governments, financing institutions and representatives of the households) take responsibility from the start of the intervention for dealing with the sanitation problem in their respective cities;
  • Existing settings are taken into account: The project environment is set within the present institutional setting (no parallel structures) and focusses on engaging small scale private sanitation sector for the toilet construction and the service delivery (from emptying up to disposal);
  • PPs are encouraged: the principle of public-private partnership creates a business enabling environment at the local level with demand (the users), supply (the small entrepreneurs, agricultural sector, etc.), financing (local banks and MFI’s) and facilitation (the local governments).