Community Lifestyle Centres
Knowledge File
Frugal and Responsible Innovation in East Africa

In this knowledge file you can read about the Frugal Innovation and Responsible Innovations in Africa project. 
A research project that investigated new design and business model approaches for Dutch companies to improve water and health innovations in Africa, both from an economic and socio-ethical perspective. The project team investigated a new integrative framework including ethical and social elements in the product development cycle, and inclusive business models. The usefulness of the framework is demonstrated by action-learning trajectories of five case studies in Kenya and Uganda.

This project has been made possible in a consortium with African entrepreneurs and three Dutch companies in the Water and Health Top Sectors: Royal Philips and the water companies OASEN and Hatenboer. The project received funding from the three dutch companies and the Responsible Innovation program of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). 

Keywords: Africa, frugal innovation, water innovation, health innovation, health innovation, bottom of the pyramid, entrepreneurship, business model, impact assessment, pove

Stories of Science Frugal Innovation Health & Water

 

Project Description

New design and business model approaches will enable Dutch companies to develop successful frugal water and health innovations in Africa, both from an economic and a socio-ethical perspective.

By collaborating with local entrepreneurs in Africa Dutch companies can develop frugal innovations – simple, affordable and functional versions of existing products – in a profitable manner. Frugal water and health innovations in Africa may potentially combine value capture and societal value creation, therewith creating benefits for both innovators and local users. Output of this project will be a model that includes local, context-specific socio-ethical values in the product development process and new business models which will inform future frugal innovations. The innovations developed in the future may also have potential for European markets.

What is Frugal Innovation?

Frugal innovation is a product development and production strategy that brings relatively sophisticated products, services and systems in a responsible way within the reach of the billions of poorer and emerging new middle class consumers at the Middle and Bottom of the Income Pyramid.

Due to extreme price sensitivity of the large numbers of consumers in the lower-income groups in the global south the turnover can only increase by redesigning products and services in such a way that the end-result matches the demand for affordability and other context-specific product traits.

Frugal Innovations are innovations for resource constrained environments that can be placed on the junction of affordability and ‘good enough quality’, while still having basic functionality. This necessitates the explicit
inclusion of local ethical and social values in the design and production. Co-designing and co-producing with local entrepreneurs is very important. 

Opportunities

A problem for innovation in developing countries is that good, reliable infrastructures for electricity, water, communication and transportation are often lacking. Frugal innovations provide opportunities to skip (leapfrogging) the phase of investing in the ‘heavier’ infrastructures in the developed world.

By for example using the latest communication technology more decentralised, potentially cheaper and more efficient systems are possible which also have potential in European markets.

The challenge is not simply to provide stripped down versions of Western products to poorer consumers, but instead to provide locally better fitting, cheaper alternatives without sacrificing user value. One of the elements to make frugal innovation a success is to make it inclusive, so that it fits into the local, resource constrained environment in developing countries.

Action Learning Cases - Water, Life Sciences and Health

How can Dutch firms, with local entrepreneurs in developing countries as partners, develop frugal products or systems in order to achieve both profits and developmental outcomes?

By studying a number of concrete cases of private partners from the water and health sector, the research team in this project - which includes specialists in ethics, economics, engineering and policy analysis – is developing a new model for frugal innovation. Each case addresses a different building block for the integrative model.The theory behind it originates from (1) socio-technical systems; (2) early engagement in new technologies; (3) entrepreneurship; (4) inclusive business models and local economic development.

Publications

Upcoming Publications

  • R. Howell, KM Sinha, N. Wagner, 2019, Uptake of Water: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Kenya and Rwanda, Under review at Journal of International Development
     
  • H. Hazenberg, 2019, Mapping the Ethics of Private sector-led Development, Business Ethics Quarterly (revise and resubmit).
     
  • Onsongo, E. K. (2019) Strategic Responses during Frugal Innovation at the BOP: The Case of Philips Community Life Centres, under review at Journal of Production Innovation Management
     
  • Onsongo, E. K. and Knorringa, P. (2019) Comparing a frugality and an inclusiveness lens to innovation at the Base of the Pyramid: Differences in philosophy, process and outcome, Revise & Resubmit at Innovation and Development
     
  • Onsongo, E. K., Knorringa, P. and van Beers, C. (2019). Frugal Business Model Innovation in Healthcare: The Case of Philips Community Life Centres, under review at Technovation
     
  • Onsongo, E. K. and Leliveld, A. (2019) The Politics of Co-creating Inclusive Innovation in Primary Health Care, to be submitted in December 2019
     
  • Onsongo, E. K. Strategic Choices for Frugal Innovation in Base of the Pyramid Contexts: An Institutional Approach, to be submitted  in December 2019.

Conferences

  • R. Howell, P. Knorringa, N. Doorn, C. van Beers, 2019, Energy Access and Demand in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Role of Frugal Innovations in Meeting Future Energy Needs, presented at Africalics 2019, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
     
  • R. Howell, KM Sinha, N. Wagner, 2019, Exposing Non-Consumers to the Taste and Experience of Bottled Water: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Two African Countries, Presented at SEEDEC conference 2019, Berkeley, CA
     
  • R. Howell, KM Sinha, N. Wagner, 2019, Exposing Non-Consumers to the Taste and Experience of Bottled Water: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Two African Countries ,Presented at MEIDE conference 2019, Abidjan, Ivory Coast
     
  • R. Howell, KM Sinha, N. Wagner, N. Doorn, C. van Beers, 2018, Adoption of Bottled Water at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Who Adopts First?              , Presented at DRUID conference 2018, Copenhagen Denmark
     
  • Onsongo, E. K., Frugal Business Model Innovation in Healthcare: The Case of Philips Community Life Centres. Presented at the Africalics conference. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 22-24 October 2019.
     
  • Onsongo, E. K., Frugal Business Model Innovation in Healthcare: The Case of Philips Community Life Centres. Presented at the European Academy of Management (EURAM) conference, Lisbon, Portugal. 26-28 June 2019.
     
  • Onsongo, E. K., Comparing a frugality and an inclusiveness lens to innovation at the Base of the Pyramid: Differences in philosophy, process and outcome, Presented at the GLOBELICS conference, Accra, Ghana. 24 – 26 October, 2018.
     
  • Howell, R.B. The Challenge of Bringing Frugal Innovations to Low Income Consumers: The Case of Private Sector Water Delivery in East Africa. Presentation at EADI NORDIC 2017 conference, Bergen, Norway. August 2017
     
  • Onsongo, E.K. Strategic Choices for Frugal Innovation in Primary Healthcare: The Case of Philips in Community Health Services. Presentation at EADI NORDIC 2017 conference, Bergen, Norway. August 2017
     
  • Onsongo, E.K. Strategic Choices for Frugal Innovation in Primary Healthcare: The Case of Philips in Community Health Services. 22nd Annual REPOA Research Workshop, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. March 2017
     
  • Hazenberg, H.G.G., Frugal Innovation and responsible stagnation. Science in Public Conference, Sheffield UK. July 2017.
     
  • Howell, R.B. Frugal Innovations in the Water Sector in Eastern Africa. Institute for Development Studies Research Seminar, University of Nairobi, Kenya. June 2017
     
  • Onsongo, E.K. Strategic Choices for Frugal Innovation in Primary Healthcare: The Case of Philips in Community Health Services. 22nd Annual REPOA Research Workshop, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. March 2017