Ghana Water Company Ltd – Water for Homes and Businesses
Ghana Water Company Ltd is showing how, when given the freedom to act, it can keep homes and businesses hydrated.
Ghana Water Company is a limited liability company, 100% owned by the country’s government. Originally founded as a corporation in 1965, in 1999 Ghana Water Company became registered as a limited liability company as part of Ghana’s economic recovery efforts.
“Serving approximately 15 operational regions across Ghana through its 100 operational districts, Ghana Water Company has been set up to provide potable water to every part of Ghana. The company services a vital role, not only in providing water to citizens but also to Ghana’s businesses.
“We have two kinds of water providers, Ghana Water Company Ltd, and then there’s Community Water for the smaller towns. Most industries depend on us because they’re based in the urban centres of Ghana,” explains Dr Clifford Braimah, Managing Director of Ghana Water Company Ltd. “Our uniqueness is in the stability of our supply. It is all undertaken by the company. We extract the water from the raw source, treat it, transmit it and distribute it. These are separate business units and you can have different businesses handling each step, but we combined all three activities.”
As a limited liability company, Ghana Water Company Ltd remains wholly owned by the government, which owns 100% of its shares, but the way it does business has changed forever.
“Ghana Water Company Ltd is a very old company,” Braimah says. “This meant that shifting from being a corporation to a limited company was a challenge. We still had all the same structures and the same human beings in place. So, we were running a limited liability company with the mentality of a government subsidised corporation.”
Changing that mindset over the last twenty years has been an enormous undertaking.
“We worked to provide accountability and transparency, which has become the hallmark of our approach,” Braimah says. “If staff can see the numbers we churn out they see the losses and appreciate the better this company does, the more we all benefit. And that’s the direction we took. The justification for salary increases is connected to our activity and accomplishments. Through that, they started thinking there was a way around our problems. So, revenues have been increasing and we’ve seen very good levels of improvement,” Braimah says.
While the shift to becoming a limited liability has been a challenge, it is far from the only challenge Ghana Water Company Ltd faces.
“We are dealing with challenges such as weak infrastructure due to lack of investment, running pipelines over 50 years old, low efficiencies, and increasing leakages,” Braimah points out. We have challenges not because we don’t know what to do but because on the ground circumstances haven’t allowed us to do it.”
As well as transforming from a Corporation to a Limited company, Ghana Water Company Ltd has also seen its role evolve from simply supplying water to tracing where it goes as it is distributed. The company needs to determine how much water volume goes into any area so that it can identify and reduce losses. Some of these challenges include weak infrastructure, which can lead to Ghana Water Company Ltd receiving low tariffs because the water meter that determines that tariff won’t take into account lost water.
Braimah has pushed hard to improve that situation.
“We tried in 2018 to go beyond our limits, to spend a lot more into improving infrastructure,” he recalls. “That was a risk I took because we wanted to move the company forward. A lot of new pipe lays have been carried out. If you look at 2018-2019 the improvement is high. We brought in new vehicles, as many as we can bring in, and our people have benefited directly. With that motivation, we’re on track now to do a lot more.”
This has been made possible thanks to the superb team that Ghana Water Company Ltd has built. With 5,100 members of staff and excellent relationships with local academic establishments, bringing in people with the right qualifications has not been a problem. When it comes to skills, however, the company works to develop its own practical skills pool.
“When it comes to practical skills we retrain people, give them direction,” Braimah says. “Where there are knowledge gaps we try to find a way of filling them in with external trainers. We’re introducing staff to the new business direction and the attitudes we want. From March we started visiting each district and it is making a huge difference with our lower-level staff.”
Freedom to Grow
Having undergone a period of transformation and investment, Braimah is thrilled for the next phase of the Ghana Water Company Ltd story.
“The future is bright. I’m excited to be part of it,” he says. “We tried to maximise the little that we had to make a huge difference. We recently got approval for a concept to take water from the domestic pipelines to the industrial ones.”
The plan is that the domestic water supply Ghana Water Company Ltd provides is not actually being fully utilised around the clock. Braimah argues that the industrial water supply can be distributed and stored during that downtime.
“Between 10 pm and 4 am everyone is sleeping. So, if you have limited resources of water you can store that during the night, and then at 5 am you turn on the domestic supply and the industry will have also provided more tariffs with the same volume,” Braimah explains.
Ideas like this are part of Ghana Water Company Ltd’s drive to take advantage of its independence and push for new opportunities.
“In the past, in Ghana and other developing companies, water performs well if not for political interference. To make the company strong we need to work with the public through explanation, selling ourselves on a commercial level that people have come to understand,” Braimah insists. “Someone is supposed to be accountable, so to achieve that water companies need a free hand to do what they need to do. I’ve been given a free hand to operate Ghana Water Company Ltd and bring about progress. We have the freedom to take positions and push for positive change. I want to prove that given the right opportunity the company can be run profitably and efficiently. By next year we’ll have set the company on a new trajectory.”