African culture can be a hindrance to talking about sanitation issues, says David Kuria, but it’s something he is nevertheless tackling head-on. Founder of EcoTact, a Kenya-based NGO that focuses on water sanitation and scarcity issues, Kuria believes that opening the dialogue about public sanitation issues is only the beginning to combating the 80 percent of diseases in Africa that are caused by water-borne pathogens.
The Ikotoilet, one of Ecotact’s leading projects, is a public toilet that provides services beyond sanitation: soft drinks, an ATM, and even a shoe shine. “The intent of this model is to create multiple reasons for the public to visit the facilities,” he says, noting that Ecotact has even used local celebrities and political figures to raise the profile of Ikotoilet and the issue of sanitation itself. “We have been able to engage political heads up to the very highest level to come and visit the toilet, but it’s very interesting to also see Miss Kenya visiting the public toilet and everybody’s like, ‘What is she doing?’”
The toilets also address the issue of unemployment for young people. Young men and women are responsible for providing shoe shines, as well as cleaning the facilities. “Within one facility of 50 square meters, we are having 10 young people fully engaged in really viable employment opportunities,” Kuria says. The company currently serves more than 30,000 people a day, with plans to expand.