In 2009, an NGO, a knowledge institute and three companies (Aqua for All, University of Wageningen, Rabobank, Shell and Royal Haskoning DHV) decided to combine their expertise to address the challenge of sanitation in Africa and Asia. Existing solutions focused primarily on building more toilets, and rather than addressing the challenge in a more holistic way, these were constrained by inadequate scale, lack of context, a lack of local ownership and unsecured long term financial investment.

The dynamics of this multisector group provoked an ambitious goal: ‘to develop and test a business model that uses sanitary waste as a raw material for valuable end products; generating an economic model to make it locally owned, financially sustainable and replicable.’

They focused on the opportunities from waste management, securing energy provision and addressing the growing need for nutrients in the agriculture cycle.

In Western countries, CapEx and OpEx are often financed with government tax (or a business case if the market allows). But in the developing world that is rarely the case. That is why we wanted to create a model that can not only be operated by the locals, but can also cover operational costs from the sale of treatment by-products.

To date, Safi Sana Holding BV has invested more than €4M to test technologies, treatment processes and market conditions for sale of end-products. Financial contributions so far have been made by Aqua for All Foundation, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Energy Ghana, IFDC, the AfDB and private investors.

The Safi Sana Foundation and the Safi Sana Holding Ltd were formally instituted in the Netherlands in 2010. Safi Sana Ghana Ltd is the local department of Safi Sana in Ghana and is 100% owned by the Safi Sana holding.