Sub-Saharan Africa


Water & Sanitation

Type of Investment


Investment Stage
Length of Investment


Investment Overview

Isle Utilities piloted a technology innovation platform that brought together promising water technology innovations with Africa’s largest water utilities to solve common delivery challenges.


The Development Challenge

According to UN data, more than 2 billion people globally are still without access to safely managed drinking water services, and 1.7 billion people use a source of water that is contaminated with faeces. Additionally, more than 80% of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal. While improvements have been made in the last two decades, clean water access for all remains a critical issue as well as a priority UN Sustainable Development Goal.


The Innovation

Isle Utilities aim was to introduce transformative water technologies to the provision of water utilities by introducing a market linkage innovation, called Technology Approval Group (TAG), in Africa for water utilities, technology providers, and regulators to convene. In the medium term, the goal was for water utilities to adopt some of these technologies, and use them to deliver wide scale impact to beneficiaries in Africa, many of whom live on less than PPP$5/day. In the longer term, the technology innovation platform model aimed to drive lasting impact to millions. While this unique, sector specific market linkage innovation had largely been tested in the developed world (besides a pilot in Brazil a few years ago), Isle Utilities sought to pilot the TAG model in Africa.


Our Investment

GIF’s grant of USD178K covered the service fee for Isle Utilities to pilot the TAG model in Africa, called Water Innovation Platform Africa (WIPA), including financing for an initial scoping piece of work to identify relevant water technology providers and water utility customers, managing two WIPA meetings, and a limited amount of post-WIPA follow up support. This pilot tested the TAG model within the African context – the ability to gather the right mix of organisations, the willingness to pay by delegates of these meetings, and the piloting of showcased technologies by water utilities following the TAG meetings. This pilot was co-funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).


Progress to date

Isle Utilities tested the TAG model in Africa across three phases. In Phase 1, Isle Utilities made strong connections with key water utilities through conference and workshops, including a Memorandum of Understanding with the Africa Water Association, a professional association of non-profit organizations, research institutions, water utilities, and private sector entities working on water and sanitation. This shed light on key priorities of African water utility companies as well as demonstrating appetite for innovation including better mechanisms to evaluate and select new technologies. In Phase 2, Isle Utilities evaluated, shortlisted and supported WIPA members to select priority technologies that met water utilities’ needs to directly present to them in two meetings. Shortlisted technologies were wide ranging such as on-site chlorine generation, high performance filter media to replace sand, and leak detection to smart, or prepaid water meters. Building on this in Phase 3, Isle utilities worked with water utilities and private sector partners to develop the interest from WIPA meetings into trials. 15 potential trial opportunities were identified with several Sub-Saharan African water utilities. One such trial, for example, saw installation of an on-site chlorination technology with a West African water utility company. Learning from the pilot showed demand for a platform like WIPA, but also highlighted challenges with long trial timescales and limited capital for such proof of concept trials.


TAG Africa in numbers

Over 2 billion

People without access to safely managed drinking water services

USD 178K

GIF grant