Article

Valorisation by innovation in the water sector in Africa

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Abstract

VIA Water was an innovation programme of Aqua for All and IHE-Delft funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VIA Water stands for Valorisation and Innovation in Africa in the Water sector. Between 2015 and 2019 the programme supported 62 urban water innovations across eight countries in Africa with a total grant of € 8.3 million. The programme offered grants to pilot new ideas and innovations in combination with technical, learning and business development support. Of the 525 original concept notes that were received, 62 secured a contract with VIA Water (12 %). Of the supported innovations, 53 % reached a stage of market introduction and dissemination, while less than 10 % of pilots failed. VIA Water has demonstrated a high inclusivity of African-led innovators with a similar level of effectiveness. Its portfolio was almost evenly distributed between innovations led by African and non-African lead partners. The programme was able to create a level playing field by providing special support to African innovators. This article explores the conditions which are needed to create this level playing field, including building a trustworthy environment in which learning and exchange are stimulated. Further, the article analyses some possible success factors, such as the country in which the innovation is applied, the theme (“pressing needs”) addressed by the innovation, the type of contract organisation and the approach chosen by the programme. Compared to three selected reference programmes, VIA Water has shown comparable performance despite being less risk averse.

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