JM Eagle CEO's Dream of Delivering Clean Water to Rural African Villages Nears Realization

July 2011

Plastic-pipe maker Walter Wang sees progress in three-country tour of Sub-Saharan water infrastructure projects

Walter Wang, president and CEO of JM Eagle, recently concluded a tour of water infrastructure in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya being constructed with hundreds of miles of plastic water pipe his company donated as part of his ongoing efforts to aid impoverished villages in Africa.

Shipping from its plants in late 2009, the donation includes nearly 400 miles of a variety of 2.5- to 6-inch pipes, worth approximately $2 million, going to Kenya, Uganda, Mali, Malawi, Rwanda, Ghana and Tanzania. In addition to the product donation, Wang also provided funds to aid in the engineering and design of the project.

“Water is the essence of life. Every human on this planet should have access to clean water. I believe the single greatest cause of extreme poverty in developing nations is a lack of access to this simple element,” Wang said at a press conference in Nairobi following the four-day tour. “We all deserve to have a future filled with hope. Piping water to these villages, step by step, will eventually lead them out of poverty and sickness and show them a prosperous future. I thank God we are so blessed to be able to do these projects.”

JM Eagle’s latest donation is part of a multi-phased broader initiative, the Millennium Villages Project, launched by Columbia University’s Earth Institute in 2005, which will ultimately provide safer water to more than 125,000 people living in Africa’s most needy communities.

In its initial phase, MVP used more than 70 miles of JM Eagle’s plastic pipe to bring safe water to 67 villages and more than 13,500 people in Potou, Senegal. The Potou project has been in operation since September 2008 with 85 active taps now in use.

Wang, whose Los Angeles-based company is the world’s largest manufacturer of plastic pipe, was joined by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, on the trip to remote villages in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.

"Water is at the core of economic development and human well-being," Sachs said. "With water there can be productive agriculture, good nutrition, sanitation and health. Without it there is only poverty and disease. I am pleased to be able to travel Africa again with my good friend Walter to see the difference our partnership is making to the future of the continent. Thanks to the generosity of private sector leaders like Walter, we are changing that.”

Having toured Senegal at the completion of the first project in February 2009, Wang’s latest visit is his second to Africa to witness first-hand the construction progress at the Millennium Villages his donations support and, more importantly, see the positive effect that a clean, reliable water supply is having on the people of these villages.

“In my first meeting with Jeff we discussed the water crisis in Africa at length. His passion and knowledge of Africa captivated me,” said Wang. “In learning more about the landscape I realized something – Africa is not entirely water deficient, there must be a good water source somewhere – it’s infrastructure deficient. No matter how far it may be, it can be piped to the those in need.”

One in five people in developing countries does not have access to safe drinking water, and 2.2 million people die each year from water-borne illness, 90 percent of them children under the age of 5, according to world-charity organizations.

Walter and his wife, Shirley Wang, founder and chief executive officer of Plastpro Inc., demonstrate a strong commitment to improving our global community through generous philanthropic activities that span the world.

In developing countries, the Wangs have been leading supporters of efforts to bring clean water to communities, believing this is essential in addressing illness and poverty. In 2005, through the Wangs’ initiative, JM Eagle provided plastic pipe and other materials to transport drinking water from a mountain spring to a community of 5,000 people in Honduras, and supported a project to develop water delivery and sanitation systems for needy communities in northern Thailand.

The Wangs have been dedicated supporters of projects that address pressing social and healthcare problems in China, including seed-stage and ongoing support for the China AIDS Initiative, an awareness and prevention program. Through this organization, they have funded public-service announcements that have reached 500 million people to help stop the spread of AIDS in China.