Automatic Standpipe (BFA, for Borne-Fontaine Automatique, in French): the cashless drinking water management solution, available 24/7 and 100% secure
UDUMA integrates, if the context allows it, an autonomous and automatic community water point caretaker: the BFA. The BFA has been installed for more than 15 years in Sub-Saharan Africa. Equipped with a solar panel, the BFA is entirely autonomous, with no need for any radio or telecom link.
The user simply enters their RFID key to draw water. The water cuts off when the key is removed.
e-pumps : the “smart” pumps
The UDUMA model relies on precise monitoring of the volumes of water consumed at each pump. It therefore requires the pumps to be equipped with a measuring device (meter) and a recording and data transmission instrument (datalogger). Since 2015, UDUMA’s design office has invested in R & D work that has led to the development of an “e-pump”. A real challenge, since “conventional” water meters, designed for continuous water flows, are not adapted to manual pumps, characterized by intermittent flows.
The development of a system to communicate with the meter was the second major challenge. In the end, an innovative solution was chosen based on radio connectivity.
An electronic payment system
The proper functioning of the UDUMA model also means putting in place a system that collects the revenue in a secure and efficient way. In sub-Saharan rural areas, the banking network is underdeveloped and the risks of theft between the collection point and the bank deposit are not to be neglected. After having tested several solutions to adress the lack of network-connectivity in rural areas, an innovative payment method was developed in partnership with a fintech startup. This French startup is the European leader in cashless payment service and has worked with UDUMA to improve access to water in rural Africa.
Based on payment terminals and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, UDUMA offers the users the opportunity to pay for their water consumption at a water point by debiting her/his personal “WATER” card.
The card is credited by an UDUMA agent, either in cash or by using her/his Mobile Money account. The “WATER” card allows a flexible and precise pricing of the service, at the cent or even the tenth of a cent.
In order to ensure the end users’ endorsement for the digital payment solution, our partner has simplified its use and made it particularly intuitive, with an interface specifically designed for illiterate users. More than a year of R&D in the field has, among other things, made it possible to find a way to synchronise data despite limited connectivity in African rural areas.
Social and societal innovations
Ever since the 1980s, rural water supply projects for sub-Saharan Africa financed by governments, donors and NGOs have put the responsibility for the management of these facilities in the hands of village communities, i.e. by stimulating the creation of users associations. About 1 million manual pumps have been installed and only 500 000 still work today, for lack of effective maintenance.
UDUMA is the first private sector actor delivering a continuous and sustainable large-scale drinking water service for rural Africa. UDUMA’s affermage model makes it possible to benefit from economies of scale and to pool the risks related to pump outages, thus to smooth the overall cost of the maintenance of the pumps for the municipalities. The maintenance and repair deadlines are considerably reduced because these operations are now financed by the revenue from the water points, and not by one-off contributions from all users.
UDUMA generates economic activity and new professions. Water point caretakers are recruited to assist users, to collect revenue and to ensure hygiene around the water points. A network of mechanics provides preventive maintenance and repairs. Caretakers and mechanics are remunerated for the provision of services on the basis of a percentage of revenues from water points.
UDUMA fosters economic inclusion. In a village benefiting from the service, each household is fully involved in the local economy and freely manages its own drinking water consumption. Being a customer of the UDUMA service means taking out insurance on continuous and sustainable access to 100% safe water.
UDUMA brings transparency to the water management sector. Consumption data and water quality data are collected through standardized electronic solutions making them verifiable. Data is shared with public authorities.