Progress on a roll in Kenya


If you’re working in global development and you have just been tasked with increasing toilet usage and improving personal hygiene in East or Central African slums, your new best friend might be one who is deeply motivated to advance your cause: the local toilet paper company.

Family-owned Chandaria Industries Limited (CIL) is the leading tissue, paper, and hygiene products manufacturer in East and Central Africa, according to the African Business Review. Besides fronting some of the cost of water and sewage infrastructure in the Ruaraka neighborhood of Nairobi where CIL’s headquarters is located, Chandaria Group companies have also fought for provision of decent water and sewage infrastructure for all, with an eye toward market expansion for CIL-produced goods, according to the company website.

CIL sells to both institutional end-users such as large companies, wholesale distributors, and retailers, as well as to individual end-users; so the company has the marketing and distribution flexibility to participate in a hybrid value chain on the scale of an NGO project or social business looking to increase toilet usage and improve personal hygiene in slum communities. But that’s not the only reason why CIL can be a global development worker’s best friend.

CIL uses 100 percent recycled materials in manufacturing toilet paper, and the very process by which CIL procures recycled paper is a prime example of building mutual value at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Kenya’s informal sector, also known as the Jua Kali sector, is large and growing. Waste collection is one market where Jua Kali firms and households have staked a major foothold. Thanks to a vast Jua Kali supplier network, CIL’s daily operations contribute to environmental sustainability while expanding economic opportunities for Kenya’s poor. As CIL Director Darshan Chandaria told the African Business Review:

We take what people deem garbage and transform it into national wealth. We don’t cut down a single tree for our operations and buy waste paper from all over Kenya. We collect this waste paper from waste paper collectors working in the informal sector which means that we, indirectly, support more than 5,000 families,” said Darshan.

Whether your goals are in public health, environmental sustainability, or economic empowerment of the poor, companies like CIL can be your best friend. You can even find a list of such companies on the Kenya Association of Manufacturers’ (KAM) website. CIL is a KAM member, and in that role also supports local advocacy for better business institutions that would help advance any and all social goals by strengthening and cultivating businesses like CIL and other KAM members.

There can be so much more to a roll of toilet paper than what you can feel. In the end it’s not just about better outcomes, such as increased toilet usage and improved personal hygiene; it’s also about the process that delivers the goods and services to make such outcomes possible. Local companies and organizations are keen on contributing to that process because they care; because it is to their own or their members’ benefit; and because they are uniquely positioned to do so.