Cicero Impact Capital seeks to provide the greatest impact for the greatest number of people possible. We do this by accelerating the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who provide access to essential products & services. A crucial way we accomplish this vision is by investing in high-growth and innovative water packaging manufacturers and distributors in Ghana.
In Ghana, over 10 million people lack access to safe water. About two thirds of these people are in rural areas and the remainder are in lower-income, urban neighborhoods. Major improvements have been made in the last few decades at expanding safe water access, but that growth is slowing. Rapid expansion of urban areas has led to the decline in growth as piped water lacks the resources to expand to new areas and also maintain current infrastructure. Across the country, approximately 29% of all rural and peri-urban hand pumps are broken, and an additional 49% are only partially functioning. This and other problems leave 75% of residents in Accra without access to consistent, piped, water. This disproportionately affects the 29% of Ghana’s urban population who live beneath the poverty line and are left without affordable alternatives for clean water.
Lack of access to clean water contributes to 70% of total diseases in the country including typhoid, dysentery, cholera, diarrhea, malaria, and malnutrition. Approximately 19,000 Ghanaians, including 5,100 children under-five, die each year from diarrhea; nearly 90 percent of those deaths are directly attributed to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Current solutions to provide clean water – water bottles, personal purifiers, and piped water from utility providers – are prohibitively expensive for low-income residents and are insufficient to meet the demand of the rapidly expanding urban population. Water sachets are key to providing low-income Ghanaians access to clean water because they are both more affordable and more scalable than current solutions. Water sachets are 90% less expensive than water bottles and require less infrastructure than piped water from utility providers. Entrepreneurs can start a water sachet company with only a few thousand US dollars.  This low barrier to entry is allowing for high job growth in the water packaging industry and quick expansion of SMEs. Along with being inexpensive and easily scalable, sachets are becoming an increasingly sustainable option as most manufacturers now use biodegradable bags. All of these reasons have led to water sachet permeation throughout Ghana’s urban environments, and now a majority of Ghanaians rely on sachets as their main source of water.
The water sachet industry is highly favorable for investors. There is an insatiable demand for sachets in Ghana with most companies selling all of the bags manufactured on any given day. The industry is very fragmented, there are only five main players in the market, with over 1,200 other registered water companies. According to the market leader, Voltaic, about 60-70% of the market consists of these small companies. Despite the amount of manufacturers in the industry, sachet fillers are generally not concerned about their competition. Given the steady decrease in prices over the last 20 years from improved production efficiency, the market includes people across almost every socioeconomic.
Cicero Capital provides long-term, social impact through guided needed investments, portfolio unity, and our broad vision.
Our investments will increase the scale of production to reach more Ghanaians in need. Given exceptionally high interest rates from the majority of banks and lenders, there are many SMEs in water packaging that simply cannot afford expansion through debt. Our equity purchases and highly competitive loans open expansion opportunities to target companies, allowing them to grow their impact. This growth is essential to meet the ever-growing demand for clean water. Cicero Capital directs the majority of expansions into peri-urban regions, giving clean water to those who need it most.
Other benefits to people and companies come from the synergy within our water packaging portfolio. The economy of scale among our companies leads to lower costs and prices. Collective bargaining reduces the marginal costs of sachet plastic and other inputs, giving our target companies more money to reinvest or pass on as savings to the consumer. Leveraging the collective strengths of the portfolio companies internally, Cicero Capital directs shared information to improve management, branding, marketing, logistics, and other key practices in all businesses. Under our direction, successes and setbacks in one company lead to improvements in all others. Shared resources and knowledge within our portfolio lead to greater impact in communities and companies.
Cicero Capital also creates social change by giving our portfolio companies a wider impact vision. Our understanding of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals guides many decisions within our companies. By requiring regular reports including metrics on sanitation, wages, worker demographics, and company policies, we assure that steps are being made to influence four of the SDGs within our water sachet portfolio.
The key to providing access to clean water in Ghana is increased investment in small and medium-sized sachet manufacturers. Sachet water is a long-established solution that only lacks capital before it can spread further. With our investments, Cicero Capital expects to oversee the expansion of sachet water across low-income, urban regions, and to also lead price reductions to benefit the very poorest urban residents. In doing so, Cicero Capital anticipates positive changes in the industry and improvements in hundreds of thousands of lives.