When Edwin Broni-Mensah was 24, his main priority was to get rock-hard abs by his 25th birthday. A mathematics PhD student, he settled on a suitably data-driven exercise regimen known as P90X. The programme called for a strict exercise and nutrition plan that had him drinking five litres of water every day.
More than twice the price of petrol and 300 times the cost of tap, that much bottled water wasn’t an option. But away from home, finding tap water was hard. “I was often confronted by feelings of embarrassment or awkwardness when I entered cafés asking them to give me a refill,” he recalls. “I also kept encountering cafés refusing to give me tap water unless I purchased something first. What was equally frustrating, with both my parents being from Ghana, was knowing that millions of people have no access to clean water.”
With that, GiveMeTap was born. Edwin was studying at the University of Manchester, where he recruited a network of nearby cafés and restaurants promising to provide free tap water refills—no purchase necessary, no questions asked—to anyone with a stainless steel GiveMeTap reusable bottle. And for every bottle it sold, the social enterprise would use some of the proceeds to give clean drinking water to someone in Africa who needs it.
Thirsty for more
Edwin’s ultimate aim is “to make free water freely available to every human being across the world”, starting with a target to provide one million people with access to clean, safe water by 2018. In its first four years, GiveMeTap has financed boreholes, pumps, sanitation and irrigation projects in Ghana, Namibia and Malawi, bringing water to over 5,000 people.
A network of more than 500 “taps” now stretches from Zurich to San Francisco, with a handy app showing you where to find the nearest one. “The ambition is to have it so that you’ll never be more than 400 meters away from your next water refill,” he does some mental arithmetic: “That’s about four minutes.” What’s more, Edwin reckons his reusable bottles have kept something like 6.5million plastic bottles out of landfill.
And what about his other goal? “I did manage to get a six-pack by 25,” he gloats, but the insight inspired by his quest has proved far more rewarding.