Daily Video

April 16, 2010

Clean Toilets for World’s Poor

While drinkable running water and indoor toilets are standard in the United States, some of the world’s poorest still live without basic sanitation. NewsHour Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports that in slums outside of Nairobi, Kenya, people for generations have lived without functioning or sometimes even indoor toilets. They use the bush or streets instead.

In a new project, partially funded by $600,000 from Acumen Fund in the United States, local entrepreneur David Kuria is building pay toilets all over Nairobi. This kind of investment has been dubbed patient capital, an investment that pays off slowly, that encourages profit, but not excessive profit. It is a middle way that some believe can work better in today’s globalized economy.

It seems to be working in Kenya. Every day, 35,000 people come through 35 different toilets around the city and slums. In the city people pay 5 schillings, or 7 U.S. cents, but in the slums an entire family can buy a monthly card for 100 shillings or $1.20. Mr. Kuria is already looking to expand to 100 toilets in the next months, and moving to neighboring Tanzania and Uganda.


“If our current situation teaches us anything, it’s that unfettered, unbridled capitalism isn’t working, certainly not in interconnected worlds, where we need to find ways to include everyone into the global economy.” Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO, Acumen Fund

“The issue of sanitation, to me, is one of the most complicated issue dealing with the community, because it’s a behavioral issue. There are cultural issues and barriers, and also a lot of perception, in terms of, this is a service.” David Kuria, entrepreneur

“To me, I think my ultimate goal is more for social transformation. I see myself purely as a change agent and change-maker, and trying to really provoke a lot of really debate at different levels, from the community level, whether it’s from the business community level and also from the political level.” David Kuria, entrepreneur

Warm Up Questions

1. How important is clean drinking water?

2. What would it be like if there were no indoor bathrooms at home or at school?

3. What are the challenges of living in a poor village or slum?

Discussion Questions

1. Does it surprise you that some people still do not have access to toilets? Why or why not?

2. What is “patient capital”?

3. Mr. Kuria is convinced that the toilets should not be free, what do you think? How do you pay for toilets in your community?

4. How might having toilets change these communities?

5. Why do you think Novogratz is interested in Kenya slums?

Additional Resources

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