Reuben Mpunda, water seller and client of Accion partner Akiba Commercial Bank, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
In the main, 15-foot square room of Reuben Mpunda’s two-room house, you move seamlessly from living to eating to sleeping space. A large mosquito net hangs over his bed, a guard against malaria. Here Reuben lives with his wife and two kids. Walk outside, and you see what supports them, and where he spends most of his time. In his front yard sits a large eight-foot tall blue tank from which he supplies clean water to buyers from businesses nearby. Four customers stand next to the tank, holding empty jugs, patiently waiting their turn to fill them.
Thirty-four year-old Reuben started his business in 2004, after ten years of struggling in jobs at a hotel, a brewery and a ruby mine. Switching to supplying water seemed like a good alternative to Reuben, since demand for clean water in Dar es Salaam is a constant, even if the power that supplies it is not.
His first three years in business were difficult. Selling water from an above-ground tank alone was “not enough to make a good profit,” he laments. The pressure in the tank was always too low, and the fees for buying power from the local municipal authority were crippling. For help in solving these problems and building his business, he turned to Accion partner Akiba Commercial Bank.
With a first loan of 500,000 Tanzanian shillings (US$360), he bought an underground water tank, allowing him to increase his water supply. The extra money he earned helped him to pay the monthly municipal fees to pump water to his new tank. The additional income also enabled him to rent three trucks to supply water wholesale. Before the loan, he had sold 2,000 liters of water a day for a profit of just $7 and he now sells an impressive 25,000 liters a day and reaps a $46 profit.
Accion is providing expert microfinance managers to Akiba to help bring economic opportunity to other people like Reuben. A new information system, implemented with Accion’s assistance, is helping the bank to expand its branch network and to both identify and serve clients more effectively.
These days, the income that Reuben earns from his water tank does more than grow his business. As the soft-spoken entrepreneur says, he now can pay for school fees for his kids, ages 5 and 10, and support two younger brothers. And he has his sights set on further progress—he now dreams of the day when he can own his own well.