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How do you take account of the needs of the most disadvantaged sections of the population, for instance when developing a suitable new service?

The solutions that Veolia puts in place for people are designed above all to reflect local realities. We always set out to incorporate these realities into the services we offer.

Money is one factor that can make it difficult for people to access services (high initial connection fee, work involved in establishing a connection, difficulty in paying a monthly bill), but other factors can be administrative, linguistic or physical (distance, elderly, etc.).

We develop solutions that fit the local situation to ensure that people can have access to quality services. Our ACCESS process — which includes technical, financial, institutional and social engineering components — is a perfect example of our strategy and commitment. It consists of a set of solutions originally developed to boost access to water in Africa and now used in every country and for every service. We support policies that target the most disadvantaged people and/or neighborhoods, working hand-in-hand with local authorities to develop new forms of access and payment.

For example, in 2017 we launched an African-based service offer in partnership with Odial Solutions. The partnership provides comprehensive contracts for the delegated supply of water and electricity to towns and their surrounding rural districts with the aim of mitigating the imbalance between urban and rural areas. Urban areas make a small financial effort that means the cost of a liter of water or a kilowatt-hour of electricity is far more affordable to people in rural zones. This service provides a direct response to the aims of SDG 6.1 (achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all) and 7.1 (ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services).

Another example is in Niger, where Veolia has partnered with a startup called CityTaps. For the poorest members of society, the issue of the cost of access to water is a challenge they deal with every day. Many people have irregular incomes that sometimes make it hard to pay a monthly water bill. Veolia has teamed up with CityTaps, a startup that has developed an innovative and inclusive (Pay-As-You-Go) solution to improve access to water that includes prepayment and a smart meter. Customers can then use their cellphone to pay for their water in advance, choosing an amount to suit their ability to pay: 1, 2, 10 cubic meters, or more. This solution empowers households who now find it easier to manage their budget, while using cellphone technology means that it can be rolled out in Africa simply and very widely. The service was trialed in Niamey, Niger, with 200 meters fitted for the local utility water company’s customers. In 2018, an additional 1,300 meters were fitted, providing water to around 10,000 people. By 2020, up to 100,000 people should be benefiting from the service, delivered via 10,000 connections.