NAIROBI. – As he criss-crossed African cities and villages to market the Tecno smartphone, Zhong Yanxiong, 34, came face-to-face with clean drinking water challenges rampant in the continent.
Zhong has lived in Africa for six years and it was during his interaction with both rural and urban families that he realized that access to safe drinking water remained a mirage, and only novel innovations could offer a respite.
The co-founder and chief executive officer of iClear Wellife Service Limited, a start-up company based in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, is on a mission to revolutionise water treatment by leveraging Reverse Osmosis (RO) for households and offices.
In many areas in Kenya, a high density of minerals in water leads it salty and hard to taste. RO can remove 90 percent of the minerals and 99.99 percent of bacteria, purifying the salty and hard water into refreshingly pure drinking water.
During a recent interview with at his company office in downtown Nairobi, Zhong said that his six years sojourn in Africa as an employee of Transsion, the parent company of the Tecno smartphone, opened his eyes to the clean drinking water crisis in the continent, thereby motivating him to be part of the solution.
“I have been to a lot of countries and cities in Africa to push the name of my phone and I found the water crisis, especially for clean drinking water which is a common problem for most families in Africa,” said Zhong.
“So, I thought of what I can do to help customers solve the problem and ensure each and everybody had access to clean drinking water.”
Zhong has already adopted a local name,”Otieno,” which is a common family name in western Kenya, that has made him jell easily with colleagues and potential clients of the water treatment innovation he is promoting.
It was during his numerous visits to African households that Zhong learned that water sourced from boreholes was laden with minerals like fluoride hence the need to explore cost-effective and locally appropriate technology for treating the commodity and minimizing incidents of fluorosis and water-borne ailments.
iClear’s business model is unique since it is anchored on leasing out water purifiers equipped with Reverse Osmosis technology to clients including households instead of selling the entire equipment, whose cost is prohibitive.
He noted that RO purifiers that are sold in the local market cost up to 50,000 shillings (about US$423) to 80 000 shillings per piece, and customers should keep buying filters every half year. Leasing them, however, could cut down on expenses incurred by poorer households to treat contaminated water.
Zhong said that through leasing, clients only pay an annual fee of at least 10,000 shillings, an installation fee of 2,000 shillings besides benefiting from door-to-door after-sales service twice a year for free, including filter replacement and after-sales service, water system pipe disinfection and equipment maintenance.
He said that his firm has also encouraged households with humble budgets to pay the annual fee of leasing purifiers through instalment, as a means to boost water treatment and reduce the burden of diarrhoea diseases.
At present, iClear has chosen Kenya for piloting the water purifiers leasing model before plans to venture into other African countries. – Xinhua