Solid Waste Management in Africa: Governance Failure or Development Opportunity?

Feb 16, 2021, 11:59 AM

 Waste management is a social, economic, and environmental problem facing all African countries. If the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development is to be achieved, sustainable waste management approaches must be an environmental and public health imperative deserving political priority.

Current reasons for the poor management of waste in Africa, include, amongst others, weak organizational structures; lack of appropriate skills; inadequate budgets; weak legislation; lack of enforcement; low public awareness; corruption, conflict; political instability; and lack of political will. At the heart of the problem, is a failure in governance.

However, through these gaps, many social and technological innovations have emerged.

Innovations that recognize the opportunity that waste provides as a secondary resource. Diverting waste away from dumpsites and landfills towards reuse, recycling and recovery can improve the livelihoods of thousands of informal waste reclaimers, while also creating new jobs and business opportunities for the continent. Reintroducing secondary resources such as polymer, fiber, metals and nutrients back into local value chains has the potential to strengthen manufacturing economies and reduce the economic burden on product imports.

Bringing waste under control in Africa and unlocking the opportunities that “waste” provides as “resource” will require immediate intervention by government, business and civil society.

Africa is facing a growing waste management crisis. While the volumes of waste generated in Africa are relatively small, compared to developed regions, the mismanagement of waste in Africa is already impacting human and environmental health.

However, Africa is set to undergo a major social and economic transformation over the coming century as its population explodes, cities urbanize and consumer purchasing habits change. This is expected to lead to exponential growth in waste generation, which will put considerable strain on already constrained public and private sector waste services and infrastructure, and further exacerbate the current state of waste management.

A Guest Editorial

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