Developing capacity to design and distribute potable water supply technology in East Africa

Project rationale

  • This project targets UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  • The project aimed to achieve safe and affordable drinking water for all, by focusing on the development of essential skills in early career researchers who have the capacity to design and distribute potable water supply technology in East Africa.
  • Initially, the project focused on knowledge exchange but is now focussed on the creation of commercially viable new products and processes.
  • The team have actively promoted the creation of new companies, jobs, skills development and have worked to increase the effectiveness of public services and policy.
  • Whilst the initial beneficiaries were academics and researchers in higher education institutions spread across the UK and sub-Saharan Africa, the project is also inspiring students and African communities where safe and reliable water supply is a problem. 

This project builds upon an existing collaboration between the University of Plymouth, the Nelson Mandela - African Institute of Science and Technology (NMAIST) in Arusha, Tanzania and Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), in Kakamega, Kenya.

The aim of the project is to directly benefit Kenya, which is a country listed in the category of 'Other Low Income Countries' on the DAC list. The project also focussed on benefitting Tanzania, a country listed in the category of 'Least Developed Countries' on the DAC list.

Both of our African partners have been central to the development of the project and have broadened the network of East African collaborators to include a number of new higher education institutions and commercial companies in both Kenya and Tanzania. 

The Africa Competitiveness Report 2017, found that there has been a lack of progress in creating conducive environments for development and economic transformation across Africa. In Kenya, that need is well recognised in the Kenya Vision 2030 programme which explains the need to develop technical higher-level skills for the engineering sector in Kenya. The Kenyan vision promotes strengthening linkages between industry and training institutions but states that transformations can only occur if the workforces’ health is secure. 

To address that need, in March 2017, the Royal Academy of Engineering approved funding for a project called Water-LION. The Water-LION project took a water filter, developed at NMAIST in Tanzania and, via the University of Plymouth, created a collaborative network with two Universities in Kenya (MMUST and Oshwal College in Nairobi) to introduce the water filter into the Kenya market. 

Water-LION addressed needs in Kenyan communities with poor infrastructure and where there was chronic ill-health resulting from water contamination. As well as providing an impact on the health security of Kenyan communities, the Water-LION project also learned lessons about the challenges facing entrepreneurs in their quest to “spin-out” innovations from African Universities.

This project is building on the achievements of Water-LION by running two workshops for a mix of UK and African early career researchers, emphasising rural community and engineering enterprise development. Our first workshop focussed on developing skills in entrepreneurship and our next workshop will develop strategies for enterprise development in East Africa.

Benefits and Impacts

Dissemination of findings and next steps

This YouTube video has been released in order to raise awareness of the first project workshop in Plymouth.

The Sustainable Earth Institute is in the process of compiling a special issue magazine focussing on Entrepreneurship in East Africa.

A report on the first workshop is being prepared for dissemination at a second workshop in Kenya in May 2020.