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How can waste management drive green growth?

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by Maria Leonor Sales

In Africa, solid waste management is a major developmental challenge with serious consequences for environmental quality, public health, fisheries, agriculture, and sustainable development. Today, most African countries lack the resources, infrastructures, skills and expertise necessary to tackle the amount and complexity of solid waste being produced. Currently, 19 out of the world’s 50 biggest dumpsites are located in Africa. High population growth, urbanization rates, and new consumption pathways will exacerbate waste production, which is projected to exceed 160 million tons by 2025.

Challenges notwithstanding, solid waste could also be an engine for green growth. Recycling, employment and innovative products could create new value chains while addressing social and environmental issues. Recent trends in managing solid waste in developing economies include the following.

Recognizing the role and value of informal waste pickers

According to the International Labour Organization, 15-20 million people work as informal waste pickers worldwide, but only 4 million are employed in the sector. Pursuing a transition to a greener economy and implementing a sustainable waste management system will require workers, operators and businesses to follow safety, health and environmental guidelines, and be part of a recognized waste management economic system. By working directly with waste pickers, (recycling) companies can achieve higher recycling rates and have a guaranteed supply of raw materials. Waste pickers could enjoy higher, more stable income, access to safety measures and health insurance. In Argentina, the incorporation of micro-enterprises and informal waste recycling cooperatives into the municipal solid waste management system has created livelihoods for urban poor.

Promote Public-Private Partnerships in municipal solid waste management

Municipalities are generally responsible for solid waste services, but the private sector has long been involved through outsourcing. Sustainable waste management legislation and policies and the right approach can create successful Public-Private Partnerships. Recent trends in waste PPPs include involving the private sector in treatment and disposal projects to introduce technical innovation into landfill management, recycling, and waste-to-energy projects.

Promote Green Entrepreneurship in the waste sector

Successful green development in Africa requires entrepreneurs because economic transformation and green growth depend on implementing new ideas, creating new business models, and promoting innovation. To increase innovative waste recycling and reuse, governments and development partners must focus on supporting small enterprise development that addresses the increasingly negative impact of waste. As one example, the International Labour Organization successfully implemented a joint program to promote green youth entrepreneurship in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. 


Maria Leonor Sales is a consultant with the African Development Bank’s Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) Coordination Unit. She is responsible to provide support in the overall management of the CIFs, including portfolio management, monitoring progress in implementing projects and programs. She is from Portugal, and has a background in Development Economics.


yusuf obote - Kenya 30/04/2019 13:46
Good management of waste can create more than 20million jobs for youth in AFRICA
There is need for AWARENES
Nkemjika Okeke - Nigeria 30/04/2019 05:15
Very true
Damilola Adesina - Nigeria 04/03/2019 10:53
Thanks for this informative write up. Governments at all levels must partner with private sectors to get this issue sorted. Implementation of extended producers responsibilities will also help. Thinking of a product’s life cycle from cradle to grave right from the production chain will reduce the heaps that we have all around.
Ghislain Irakoze - Rwanda 03/03/2019 19:55
To achieve a zero waste economy, we have to ensure that all stakeholders collaborate to accelerate the transition. At Wastezon, a Tech startup in Rwanda, we are using a mobile app to connect Recycling actors with households to safely collect and dispose solid wastes. Our Target is to create waste-free cities by ensuring that materials are kept in use and Recycling.
Gabriel Oduong - Kenya 03/03/2019 19:02
Quite an eye-opening read. For emerging towns and cities, the floated idea on waste banking is an option worth considering
Chidi Nzeadibe - Nigeria 01/11/2018 08:42
Hello Maria, thanks for your informative write up. I believe that the contribution of the informal sector in municipal solid waste management should not be discountenanced in urban development and environmental policy. I'm willing to share my experience of working with waste pickers in Nigeria with the AfDB. You can see details of my previous work here:
Mariah Kizza - Uganda 16/10/2018 06:37
Your analysis explains well the economic benefit of Waste. One of the recommendations from the Value chain analysis on municipal solid waste management is to create Waste banks to strengthen and expand the existing supply chain for recycled materials by creating collection points in more remote areas, thus reducing transport time and costs for both waste pickers and itinerant waste brokers.
Muhammed JIMOH - Côte d’Ivoire 28/07/2018 07:05
This insightful write-up coincidentally resumes and reflects my thougths on waste management in Africa. I am currently working on a dynamic and ambitious project on waste management with many dimensions : waste sorting-out/collection, recycling, environmental sanitation and protection, poverty alleviation...
While I personally look forward to having more updates on the subject matter, I am absolutely willing to share information and experience.
All stakeholders (governments, organizations, companies, waste producers and pickers,...) must work hand in hand to make it sustainable!
Oyewale Abioye - Nigeria 27/07/2018 07:34
This is a very informative article.

What are the channel to get support from AfDB to execute projects on waste recycling?

I am currently with a group of 5 young Nigerians carrying out an Economic Empowerment project tagged " Recycle for Benefit". This project is being supported by US Embassy in Lagos. At the expiration of this support (by 2019), we intend to scale the initiative to other areas in Lagos State and other coastal communities (states) in Nigeria.

Currently, we plan to lift 50 youth and women out of poverty in Majidun coastal community of Ikorodu, an overcrowded coastal community that depends on the ocean for their livelihood. We do this by creating multiple streams of incomes for them through the sale of products gotten from upcycling and downcycling of plastic products. While empowering them with knowledge on the need to keep the ocean clean and providing them with the necessary skills to develop eco-friendly products for a sustainable environment.

We are in line with the SDG goal 11 as we make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable and SDG 14 as we work to conserve and sustainably use the oceans seas and marine resources
FRANCK MARCELIN EKOUM - Cameroon 24/07/2018 07:25
Au Cameroun, l'entreprise prestataire en charge de la collecte des déchets fait du mieux qu'elle peut mais elle ne reçoit pas un grand soutien de l'État. Dans plusieurs grandes métropoles camerounaises, on retrouve les déchets d'ordures ménagers un peu partout. Moi je pense que la communication sur la gestion des déchets est un vrai défi, la population devrait être formé et informé régulièrement dessus.
Olasunkanmi Mercy - Côte d’Ivoire 19/07/2018 09:17
I believe in youth Empowerment program, yet ,it seems there is a misconception when talking about this.
Kouamé kouman KOBENAN - Côte d’Ivoire 16/07/2018 13:26
Une politique de gestion efficace des déchets produits dans nos cités s'avère être un moyen sûr pour éviter les pollutions environnementales et des ressources en eau. Ce ci reste la base d'un développement durable dans tous les domaine qui permettra de léguer aux générations futures un mieux être. Elle permettra aussi de préserver les différentes ressources des notre planète.
CIZA Philbert - Rwanda 09/07/2018 09:19
Waste management in Africa Still a big challenge. The main root of the problem is not linked to financial issue but the mindset of us African. Let organize and sensitize our community so we should get tangible results. AfDB should now support the actions already owned by communities.
Meless Yves Lathro - Côte d’Ivoire 06/07/2018 07:47
Very good analysis, because the management of solid waste is neglected in Sub-saharan Africa; while good management creates jobs, wealth, and safeguards environment and the health of the population.
Thank you !
Wamola Mwangwa - Tanzania 04/07/2018 02:30
I am from Mbeya,Tanzania.Currently the daily generation of Municipal Solid waste at our city is around 250 tons at 60% collection rate.
Our analysis shows that the waste contains about 60% organic waste which may be used as good source of energy through biomass of gasification.
We are current looking for financial assistance to develop a design of the model that will involve recycling of these waste to produce the electricity energy under PPA. Hope AfDB may have say on this.
Brice Adou - Côte d’Ivoire 03/07/2018 20:21
Very interesting subject. A means for policymakers and entrepreneurs to accelerate our continent transformation. Innovative projects are welcomed because most of the Africa big cities suffer from solid waste and poor people. In practice I suggest to call for projects in order to pick the most feasible and associate young people from rural area.
Very good subject and article.
Suunen Atsuwe - Nigeria 03/07/2018 20:16
We are implementing a project Beat Plastic Pollution Challenge were we facilitate pupils and community members to collect plastics, we pick them up and recycle them
How can AFDB support such ventures to scale it up to more communities? BPP challenge has got alot of buy in from these communities but we have limited resources to meet up with the demand
William Mukulubungo - Zambia 03/07/2018 20:11
Initiative are there but lack funding to be carried out as waste management need huge investment if private sector are to tap in.
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