Monday, October 05, 2009

Ghana Politics 101: Political Power must come with control of Public Toilets!

About 10 years ago there was an email making the rounds that described the characteristics of people from different African countries. According to the email , "Ghanaians think they invented politics". Okay, so maybe we didn't actually invent politics but in recent time we have shown that we know a thing or two about how to do democracy! Anyway, I do think we have a number of valuable political lessons to share with Africa and the rest of the world so let me welcome you to the first installment of my online course: "Introduction to Ghanaian Politics 101"

Lecture 1: Political Power must come with control of Public Toilets!
Public Toilet in Accra

After President J.E.A. Mills was sworn into office on 7 January 2009, one of the first things that happened was that hordes of his party supporters stormed public toilets all over the country to seize control of their operation. Likewise, after President J.A. Kufuor was sworn into office on 7 January 2001, one of the first things that happened was that hordes of his party supporters stormed public toilets all over the country to seize control of their operation. Many Ghanaians were shocked and some pontificated on how ludicrous it was to grab toilets. I beg to differ. I have come to realise that there is real wealth in every flush.

With the help of two associates, I present to you the Toilet Revenue Generating Model for Economic Empowerment:
  • So lets say we are 4 men belonging to the ruling party in government. Following an election we have managed to seize control of a public toilet complex with 20 water closets (WCs) in the bustling Tema Station area right in Accra Central.
  • Let's say everyday our toilet facility has an average of 2000 visits from people 1. living in the area, 2. transiting through Tema station and 3. visitors to Tema Station Market /Makola Market.
  • Suppose we charge 20p (Ghana pesewas) per visit to our facility. This would mean that we should expect a total daily revenue of GHC 400.00.
  • However, we must subtract the various daily operational costs associated with running the facility.
  • Water
Water Tanker in Accra

*Each flush will take between 1.6 gallons of water (for new toilet models) and 4 gallons (for older models). So we can strike an average of 2.8 gallons per flush
*Therefore, one visit will require 3 gallons of water (2.8 gallons to flush + 0.2 gallons to wash hands)
*2000 people per day will require a total of 6000 gallons to flush and wash their hands.
*One water tanker carrying 3000 gallons currently costs around GHC70.00. So we are looking at a total daily water consumption cost of GHC 140.00.

*Subtract GHC 140.00 from our projected daily revenue for water

  • Toilet Paper:
*One 2-ply toilet roll costs around 50p (maximum). If you have ever frequented a public toilet you will know that they are not generous with the amount of toilet paper they give you.
*If one roll has 100 sheets and each person gets 5 sheets, each roll could serve 20 people comfortably.

*Therefore 100 rolls would be required per day and we are now looking at a total daily toilet roll expenditure of GHC 50.00.

NB: There is also the free old newspaper option but we will not consider that for this model.

*Subtract GHC 50.00 from our projected daily revenue for toilet paper

  • Toilet Cleaners:
*Lets say we employ 2 workers to maintain our toilets. Each day we pay each worker GHC 5.00
*Subtract GHC 10.00 from our projected daily revenue for salaries

  • Toilet Cleaning supplies.
*Daily we spent about GHC3.00 on soap and all other cleaning supplies
*Subtract GHC 3.00 from our projected daily revenue for toilet cleaning supplies

  • Total Operational costs to subtract per day = GHC 203.00
  • Total projected daily profit = GHC 197.00
  • Average total monthly revenue = GHC 197.00 X 30.5 days = GHC 6008.50
  • Divide monthly revenue by 4 men. Thus, each person controlling the public toilet is looking at a cool GHC 1502.00 per month (approximately $1036.00 at the current exchange rate). This is tax-free money and more than most people in Ghana make per annum
  • FAVORABLE FACTORS: Consider a popular rice seller operating in the station who does not wash her hands and infests her food with enteric bacteria causing an outbreak of diarrhoeal disease in the area. The outbreak could result in an average of 4000 visits to the toilet facility and thus increase revenue and increase the projected profit margin!
ABOVE: E-coli Bacteria
Source: NIAID

Just think about how this model is replicated all over the country. The take-home message is that toilet facility operation is a undeniable revenue earner for the members of ANY party in power. It can go a long way to appease (some) party grass-root members/cadres/foot soldiers.
So next time you declare that it is completely ridiculous to seize toilets, think again.

HOMEWORK/ASSIGNMENT: Please discuss why electricity costs were not factored or considered in the Toilet Revenue Generating Model. This is despite the fact that the toilet facility is likely to be bathed in electricity light 24/7/365!


Maya Mame said...

Abena, this is genius! I am mentally building my own public toilet as we speak. And considering the fact that many won't wash their hands (lower water costs) AND this may benefit the business in terms of runny tummies, there may even be more money coming in.

As for the homework, I'm working on it. Solar panels? Illegal connections?

Fantastic writing!

Abena said...

*LOL* Thanks Maya! In fact. My office-mates and I are hatching a plan to quit our jobs and take over a toilet in Accra Central (with the help of macho men of course). It just seems more profitable at the moment. We may even advocate NO handwashing to maximize on profits!
BTW; You get an A+ on the homework assignment. The A is for identifying the correct answer (illegal connections) while the + is especially for adding a creative dimension to move our nation forward (solar panels). Excellent work!

B.O.N.T.I said...

lol!!! @Abena to be able to get a hold of a toilet facility you have to be a grass root memeber of the party first.

Abby if you wanna maximize profit you have to make sure the place is always clean and if possible an aid to make the transition go smoothly. ie: magazines, a fan and if possible a mini Tv

Abena said...

*LOL* Bonti, I like that idea. Fans, magazines, small TVs in each stall so you can continue with a Chelsea versus MAN U match if it was on! A really nice toilet facility would also require higher maintenance costs.
We are even thinking that once we have built up some revenue we could advertise in the Daily Graphic or on TV.
Yet you do point out something very pertinent: If we are not grass-root party members then there may have a problem acquiring and keeping the toilet facility.

Edward of PathGhana said...

I think this should rather be an ECON 101 lecture...!

Anonymous said...

Abena- this is one of the best reads ever on your blog- IMO. Loved it! Brilliant!

Maame Fante said...

As usual Abena, you have delighted me to no end. This is a very well written piece. I can't think of anything you may have left out. I love the way you systematically broke it all down lol. I wonder how much time you spent with your office-mates discussing this. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall for it.

How bout you build a public toilet? That way you don't need a political alliance? Think of yourself as your own Zoom Lion. You could save water if you do your own thing. Two buttons on the WC; one for number one and another for number 2 (and label them as such) the water from number ones could be recycled and used to flush number twos. Or something like that.

Anyways, I love what you're doing. Keep up the good work. XOXO

Abena said...

@Edward: Hehehe! Well, I barely made it thru Econ 101 so I take that as a compliment.

@Anonymous: thank you, thank you!

@Maame Fante: Thanks! Building a public toilet would be out of the question because of a number of issues. The first being land for the project in Accra would be almost impossible to acquire. I do like the recycling idea though!

Maxine said...

wow, that's absolutely incredible!...Maybe I should consider that business venture after all!

Abena said...

*LOL* Maxine; it is actually looking like a pretty profitable business model!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Oh you are really good. The other time I was estimating something close to this with my boss. I am glad to read it perfectly from here. I would tell him. Yours is so true. Now I understand. I think I have to join a party and go for this grabbing would do me a lot of financial good, don't you think so?

Okay to the home work. Because it belongs to the government (or supposedly so). Or perhaps they would connect from the nearest streetlight making us the users payable. Or...

Abena said...

@Nana F-A: *LOL* Maybe we should team up and go seize one to operate! Party card and history of party groundwork are essential though. You get an A+ on the homework assignment because you have introduced two dimensions.
A. Essentially whatever belongs to the government is likely to have electricity even if the profits generated are not going back to the government
B. Illegal connections; the ultimate in cheating the system and ourselves.

Nana said...

Ei Abena! I admire the way you broke down the Finanical Information, very impressive and easy to understand even for those of use who are math phobics

Abena said...

@Nana, *lol* Thanks! In fact, could add contingency costs and findings from other countries and in no time I could publish it as a paper. Okay, was not being serious but mmmm you never know!