Global Waters Radio: Establishing a Sustainable Market for Water Purification Tablets in Ghana

“We feed ourselves out of the sale of Aquatabs — so financially, Aquatabs has helped given us a very sustainable job, and we are proud of it.”
An Aquatabs sales representative in Ghana meets with nursing mothers to discuss the many ways properly treated drinking water enhances maternal and child health. Photo Credit: Medentech

Aquatabs are one of the world’s most popular water purification tablets, produced by Medentech, a company specializing in manufacture of disinfection products. Through partners, more than 11 billion liters of water were treated with Aquatabs worldwide in 2016. First introduced to the Ghanaian market roughly 10 years ago by the USAID Ghana Sustainable Change Project, the tablets remain in high demand today — more than 4 million tablets were sold in Ghana alone in 2015, with similar sales figures in 2016.

Ernest Saka Ansong is managing director for Health Top Up Services, a private Ghanaian company that serves as Aquatabs’ official importer. Photo Credit: Health Top Up Services

Why so popular after all these years? First and foremost, affordability — but also a proven ability to bolster community health, and reduce the prevalence of dangerous waterborne illnesses like cholera. In fact, the commercial market for Aquatabs in Ghana has remained robust even though the water purification tablets have periodically been distributed for free to curtail the spread of disease, as was the case during last year’s cholera outbreak. USAID/Ghana helps ensure that such emergency distributions do not skew the market by paying in full for all Aquatabs distributed and prioritizing distribution to the most at-risk populations that might not otherwise be able to afford the water purification tablets.

Meanwhile, the full story of Aquatabs’ success in Ghana cannot be told without acknowledging the community outreach of Aquatabs distributors and vendors across the country. By taking the time to ensure their customers are shown how to use the product correctly, there is less likelihood that households later mistakenly use Aquatabs to treat the wrong volume of water, which can change the taste of the final product.

To gain on-the-ground insights into how water treatment supplies are marketed and distributed to Ghanaian households, Global Waters Radio spoke recently with Aquatabs distributor Ernest Saka Ansong and vendor Asieduwaa Ofori Darko. They share stories of the gradual behavior change they have witnessed in the communities they serve, as more and more households are relying on purification tablets instead of energy-intensive water boiling to ensure the safety of their water supply. Ansong and Darko also share their thoughts about what types of marketing and distribution tactics have proven particularly effective in ensuring Aquatabs reaches as many households as possible that do not enjoy access to a reliable, safe drinking water supply. To listen to the full podcast, please click below.

Aquatabs’ continued success in Ghana provides compelling evidence that the impact of USAID’s point-of-use water treatment interventions can be sustained well beyond the initial project implementation period.

“Our mission is to empower people to adopt improved health behavior to make their lives better,” says Ansong, who hails from Kwahu Mpraeso in Ghana’s Eastern Region. He is the managing director for Health Top Up Services, a private Ghanaian company that serves as Aquatabs’ official importer, and distributes a variety of public health commodities, including water purification tablets. “It is very important to the people of Ghana,” he says, noting his company distributes Aquatabs to households and businesses across seven of Ghana’s 10 regions.

Aquatabs vendor Asieduwaa Ofori Darko. Photo Credit: Health Top Up Services

Key to Health Top Up Services’ success in Ghana has been the role played by Aquatabs vendors such as Darko. “We have 58 active vendors — and still counting,” says Ansong, who counts Darko as one of the company’s most effective salespeople. Hailing from Kurofrom in Ghana’s Ashanti Region, Darko tells Global Waters Radio how affordable water purification tablets are improving public health across Ghana, while also opening the doors to new sustainable livelihoods for vendors and distributors across the country. “I was able to save a lot to help my family,” she says of her income generated by selling Aquatabs. “It also helped me with some funds for my university education for four years.”

By Russell Sticklor

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An Aquatabs distribution event in northern Ghana. Photo Credit: USAID

Global Waters Radio is a podcast series produced by the Water Team at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The series offers listeners insights from USAID officials, development partners, thought leaders and experts from across the water sector as they discuss current USAID water programming and cutting-edge research from around the world. Have a topic you would like to see covered in a future Global Waters Radio podcast? Please contact us at waterteam@usaid.gov, and follow us on Twitter @USAIDWater.