13 July 2021

Maintenance services for rural water pumps

“We contribute to providing sustainable, lifelong water access to underserved rural communities through innovative software and hardware components” (Alponcina Kanyeto, MSABI)

The MSABI Case

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Under the brand Pump for Life, MSABI maintains and repairs pump­operated wells in remote areas of Tanzania for a premium that can be paid through mobile money transfer services. A surveillance-based response system monitors water point distribution, functionality and spare part usage. Services are delivered through a decentralised network of mechanics to maximise operational efficiency.


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Sustainability and reliability of water access is one of the major challenges in the water sector. Despite a quadrupling of funding for water and sanitation since 2002, 53% of Tanzania’s population does not have access to clean water. It has been estimated that 30-50% of water points in certain regions of the country are broken and abandoned. Attempts to increase the coverage and sustainability of water infrastructure have been undermined by top-down delivery and management models, use of expensive foreign technologies and a lack of skilled mechanics at the community level. In such an environment, repair and rehabilitation are not only cheaper than creating new water points but also more ecological and protective of water resources.


Users of MSABI Water Points. Source: MSABI

Entrepreneurial Approach and Innovation

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MSABI developed an integrated solution to provide sustainable, reliable and lifelong water access. MSABI is validating and regionally scaling the programme “Pump for Life”, a subscription-based system for water point maintenance and repair. Customers receive proactive (monthly) maintenance and reactive repair services in exchange for a monthly or annual subscription premium. The premium can be paid through mobile phone money transfer services, making it accessible to people in remote areas with no access to conventional banking.

A decentralised network of private-sector mechanics, who are situated in hub locations to maximise operational efficiency, maintain and repair the water points. A key element of Pump for Life’s operations is its advanced surveillance-response system. Based on locally available information and communication technology, it monitors premium payments, the distribution and functionality of water points, spare part usage and water point history. MSABI draws on elements of modern subscription and data-driven systems from other sectors, an approach which is expected to be a game changer in guaranteeing water access reliability relative to conventional systems.

MSABI Business Model

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Pump for Life went through a significant transformation since it successfully applied for the ReSource Award. The programme was restructured from a charitable into a for-profit model and became the largest programme within MSABI, the umbrella organisation. In 2020, the Pump for Life network comprised 16 decentralised mechanics and 175 service subscribers, paying on average a monthly premium of USD 5–15, thereby assuring access to safe drinking water for 36,800 beneficiaries. 100% of water points subscribed to the system are functional and, if defective, can be repaired within 24 hours. After validation of the new business concept, Pump for Life is ready to scale and expand into other East African regions that face similar challenges.

Success factors

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There is a number of factors contributing to businesses long-term success. This business case has been honoured by the International ReSource Award program mainly due to the following success factors: 

Leadership Skills Important leadership skills are MSABI particularly stands out for the strong leadership skills and decisiveness of project leader Alphoncina Kanyeto. 
Stakeholder management competences Important Stakeholder management competences are:  MSABI is known for its networking skills as well as its close and personal contact to users and local authorities. 
Access to markets   MSABI is based in Ifakara where it is positioned closely to the markets and working with local staff. 

Apart from the success factors mentioned above, this start-up has been recognized by the Swiss Re Foundation because of its planning and review expertise and technical operation skills. 

How MSABI is innovating its Business Model

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One of the innovative aspects about MSABI is that the company is reducing investments into new infrastructure and instead makes money from ensuring the use of existing infrastructure. Check out the Innovation Strategy "​​​Maintenance Mastery" and find out more! 

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