Pamela Kabasinguzi Teddy stands at the forefront of Uganda’s battle for better sanitation. As the head of FINISH Mondial Uganda, she has played a crucial role in reshaping the sanitation landscape in the country. In this interview, she sheds light on Uganda’s sanitation challenges and the innovative solutions being implemented by FINISH Mondial. She also delves into the financial strategies employed to ensure everyone can afford proper sanitation, emphasising the collaborative efforts with microfinance institutions to facilitate accessible loans for sanitation infrastructure. And she shares inspiring stories from the field.


Pamela Kabasinguzi

Pamela, can you describe the current sanitation situation in Uganda and any progress made so far?

In Uganda, only about one-third of the citizens have access to safely managed sanitation facilities, and close to 13% of the population still practices open defecation. The good news is that we have made significant strides forward. One positive aspect is the growing numbers of stakeholders involved in the sanitation sector, contributing to positive developments. At the same time, rapid urbanisation poses fresh challenges by placing a significant strain on existing sanitation infrastructure. The urban newcomers, mainly from the lower-income segments of society, are financially unable to support new sanitation services. This financial gap hinders the achievement of SDG6.


A central aspect of the FINISH Mondial programme is precisely to foster financial inclusion. This means ensuring that individuals can afford a toilet, irrespective of their income level. Could you elaborate on the strategies you’re employing to achieve this?

Our mission is to develop innovative methods that enable households with low incomes to access safe sanitation services. For example, one approach we’ve adopted involves clustering households together to reduce costs. The idea is that households pool their resources and benefit from “bulk buying”. They can then build toilets gradually, one household after the other. We’re exploring other financial mechanisms, as well, such as village savings groups, where community members can take group loans for sanitation purposes. Furthermore, we’re actively engaging with the formal banking and microfinance sectors, encouraging them to create loan products for WASH. These financial products can then be used by families to construct toilets or improve the already existing ones to a safely managed level. Finish Mondial also promotes climate smart sanitation technologies such Fossa Alterna, Double Leach Pit and Lined VIP.


Engaging with the formal financial sector must have been challenging at times. What has the response been like?

When we first started working on financial inclusion in 2012, banks were shunning away. They perceived it as a high-risk venture with uncertain profitability. Together with WASTE, we worked hard to create a guarantee fund to mitigate the risks. We then started our first collaboration with a financial institution called Hofokam Limited. With them and our partners at Caritas Fort Portal-HEWASA, we created and marketed our first sanitation loan product, achieving an impressive 98% recovery rate. The sole default was due to the borrower sadly passing away. This successful model catalyzed further collaborations, expanding our network to nine financial institutions that now offer loans to households to construct toilets and to businesses to buy supplies, effectively supporting the entire sanitation ecosystem.

The program’s success has been such that we now encounter a different challenge: a liquidity problem, as these institutions struggle to meet the surging demand. We’re optimistic that the introduction of the SWIFT Fund will address these liquidity issues


Pamela Kabasinguzi (right) presenting the FINISH Mondial approach at Stockholm World Water Week 2023

It sounds like households are really getting behind the idea of investing in their own sanitation, but has convincing people always been straightforward?

No, of course not. Initially, the concept of a market-driven approach was quite new, especially when other organisations were offering free or subsidised sanitation services. Understandably, many people were hesitant to pay for something they could potentially receive at no cost. At FINISH Mondial, we firmly believe in a socially-inclusive market approach to sanitation. Relying on gifts or subsidies is simply unsustainable with 3.4 billion people worldwide still lacking access to safe sanitation. Experience shows that people value and care for what they pay for. And if people can participate and pay for a toilet in amounts attuned to their income, we can provide sanitation for many more people than by building sanitation systems for free. Over time, many more organisations have embraced market-based approaches to sanitation and the government is now setting supportive guidelines. We worked hard on making sanitation as affordable as possible, while keeping high quality standards. The cost per toilet facilitated by FINISH Mondial Uganda has steadily gone down. With time, people realised that we had a good cost-effective technology.


You have worked in the sanitation sector for close to 20 years, starting right after your studies as a social scientist, what are you most proud of?

I’m really proud to see how the whole sanitation ecosystem has evolved in Uganda and how we have contributed to its transformation, as FINISH Mondial, and to see how perceptions have shifted. When I started 20 years ago, we would give toilets for free and people wouldn’t even take them. Nowadays, households are proud of their toilet.

Equally rewarding is our contribution to strengthening the supply chain in sanitation. We’ve created substantial employment opportunities, particularly for masons, and enhanced their technical and entrepreneurial skills through the development of a specialised curriculum in partnership with the government under the Directorate of Industrial Training. This effort is particularly significant given Uganda’s youthful demographic and the pressing need for job creation. These people now help us scale our operations. It’s a win-win: we have qualified people to build sanitation services and at the same time we reduce youth unemployment and increase household income.

I’m also particularly proud of all the work we are doing in gender inclusion. FINISH Mondial Uganda has been a game-changer in the sanitation sector, successfully involving women in the supply side. In Uganda, 47 percent of the masons we train are women. These women now have an independent income, are able to market their skills, some have their own business, this is one of our biggest success stories.


Pamela Kabasinguzi at National Level Validation Meeting for the Sanitation Artisan Curriculum in Uganda

What is one of the most interesting insights you gathered from the field?

One thing I find very interesting and exciting is that building a toilet often leads to other improvements for the households. It might sound odd to have a house, in which the toilet is fancier than the rest of the building. Most people would say it should be the other way around. I don’t think so, starting with a safe toilet is the best way forward. When people build a sanitation system with us, they often use a loan for the first time in their life, this opens other opportunities. The approach is more than just about toilets or loans; it’s about sparking a broader transformation through financial inclusion. In 10 years? We’re looking at households that have it all figured out, showing just how far starting small can take you.


Where do you think or hope that FINISH Mondial Uganda will be in 5 or 10 years?

FINISH Mondial Uganda has grown into a trusted name, thanks to our dedication over the years. We’re now eyeing expansion into more districts and possibly going nationwide. It’s ver

y encouraging when districts where we’re not yet active reach out, eager for us to start our programs there. We even have financial institutions calling us to ask to bring our projects to their regions.

Our next big push is towards enhancing fecal sludge management, tying our sanitation efforts into the broader circular sanitation economy and boosting climate-smart agriculture. Given Uganda’s extensive agricultural sector, using human waste as a resource can significantly aid climate adaptation efforts. We are looking at the technology for safely containing and transforming human waste, and how to bring the costs down to make it affordable. We have a lot of international partners interested in collaborating and learning more about safely managed sanitation. We notably have a great partnership with UNICEF, they are working closely with the government and we hope to scale safely managed sanitation with them.

And of course, we want to continue our work in social inclusion, so we can reach the lowest income quintiles with safe sanitation.

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