Partner Spotlight: Interview with Randy Welsch of Jibu

This month, the World Food Bank sat down for a chat with Randy Welsch, co-founder of Jibu. Read on to learn more about the mission of this innovative company and our plans to work together in Africa.

In 2010, Randy Welsch and his son Galen both found themselves at turning points. Randy, a former software executive, had just sold his technology company and was working as an NGO contractor to research why so many water projects in emerging markets were failing. Galen, a Peace Corps member at the time, was working water and other projects in Morocco.

Together, the two were discovering many shortcomings within the common and programmatic models of improving access to water.

“I was trying to figure out why so many billions of dollars were being spent on this issue in emerging markets with so little impact,” Randy said. “Back then, impact investing wasn’t really a term, but I thought there has to be a way to merge making money and making a difference. So, my son and I said, ‘Let’s do something together.’ But we recognized that what we did needed to be different, because there were so many unsustainable projects in the water sector.”

Shortly after, the father-son team launched Jibu, a for-profit company that provides clean drinking water in emerging markets through a franchise model that works to capitalize, equip, and grow a network of co-invested business owners who are revolutionizing the way critical resources are leveraged to meet basic needs.

Currently, Jibu operates in 5 countries in Africa with plans to expand to 3 more in 2018. Jibu stores sell affordable, filtered drinking water in sealed bottles in urban areas. Under the Jibu franchise model, each store is locally-owned and operated, with franchise owners given access to Jibu’s larger network of resources. Jibu’s water sells for a fraction of the price of other bottled water competitors, making it affordable to most. By the end of 2017, Jibu had sold 45 million litres of clean drinking water, and they have plans to reach 7 million people with affordable clean drinking water products by 2022.

“For me, working with water is really important. If you don’t have safe water, you’re not going to have good health. The thing that drives me is the fact that I think we are building a new paradigm around how Western resources can be invested in the market to change the game,” Welsch said. “The beauty of the franchise model is it has all the benefit of someone local fully owning a business, but operating under a franchise agreement that ensures that quality control, brand integrity and best business practices are followed in the context of our larger network.  We’re increasing the odds for sustainable growth.”

The World Food Bank recently co-hosted an Impact Investing luncheon with Jibu in Denver, where we filled the room with individuals interested in learning how private investments can make a big difference in public health issues in emerging markets.

In 2018, we plan to deepen our relationship with Jibu, particularly in Ethiopia where we are exploring how franchising opportunities will allow us greater channels for the distribution of healthy foods, like fortified cereals.

Stay tuned for more information about this exciting collaboration, and please visit Jibu’s website to learn more about their important work.