Taking an entrepreneurial approach to public health and wellbeing in Niger
Public markets in Niger’s Capital, Niamey, consist of crowded alleyways packed full of vendors selling vegetables, meat, fish, fabric, and more. A shopper in need can find almost anything in these markets, except that most basic of human needs: a toilet.
Most public markets in Niamey entirely lack any sanitation facilities. As a result, large waste piles accumulate around the market, creating extremely unsanitary conditions for vendors and for the community at-large. When crowds of shoppers wander the stalls of Niamey’s markets, they do so at the detriment of their health, stepping lightly to avoid human waste.
In the face of this major community health problem, local Niamey entrepreneur Djibril Seydou saw both a way to improve sanitation and health in communities across Niamey and a business opportunity. Djibril developed a simple yet innovative technology: mobile public toilets. Djibril’s toilets can be easily transported and installed in markets across the city, and have removable waste compartments and hand washing stations. The company that Djibril founded to administer these public toilets, Toilette Privée Mobile, is providing a much-needed public service to the city, but also has a financially viable and sustainable business model that uses a pay-for-use model at each toilet.
Djibril is a grant recipient within SNV’s Youth, Advocacy, Women, Work and Alliances (YAWWA) programme, made possible by USAID. YAWWA supports Nigerien entrepreneurs and innovators like Djibril to scale up social enterprises that increase civic engagement and positively affect communities, and is creating a culture of entrepreneurship throughout Niger. The project identifies young change-makers and youth organizations and connects them with the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to transform their localised civic activities into socially beneficial enterprises that can be expanded, scaled-up, and replicated.
With a grant and guidance from YAWWA, Djibril’s company, Toilette Privée Mobile, produced its first toilet prototypes, worked with local mayors to install them in various markets and public areas around Niamey, and launched an accompanying marketing campaign to encourage good sanitation and hygiene practices. Since its founding, YAWWA has helped Djibril expand Toilette Privée Mobile to employ seven team members, plus eight employees for each of the toilets, creating jobs in the communities that his company serves. With 67% of Niger’s population under 25 years old, youth unemployment and underemployment are acute problems that entrepreneurs like Djibril are working to solve in creative ways.
To make sure Toilette Privée Mobile is financially viable, Djibril conducted market surveys to identify a price point that vendors could afford so as to not deter them from using the facilities. To offset the lower prices of public toilets, Toilette Privée Mobile also rents toilets for private events such as weddings, baptisms, and other ceremonies. To date, Toilette Privée Mobile operates eight mobile toilets, and has signed several contracts worth more than $3,500 USD with large Nigerien companies to provide toilets for fairs and other large events in Niamey.
Djibril has also initiated partnerships with other YAWWA grantees who launched enterprises in garbage collection, environmental protection, and recycling in order to incorporate composting and recycling into the business model of Toilette Privée Mobile. Djibril connected with these other social entrepreneurs through networking events and activities organised by YAWWA, including the annual social entrepreneurship fair. Djibril also continues to receive trainings from YAWWA in the technical, financial, and administrative aspects of running a business, and receives support from YAWWA project in helping his team expand and professionalise their social enterprise.
Before setting his sights on tackling sanitation challenges in public areas, Djibril gained experience in the health and sanitation field by leading a small company that conducted awareness campaigns and trash collection in several neighbourhoods in Niamey. He has also drafted several designs for inexpensive mobile toilets that could be used in more rural areas of Niger. As well an entrepreneur, Djibril is a communications professional, and stays very focused on both the marketing of his products and the behaviour change aspect of hygiene and sanitation.