Africa generates around 80 to 100 million tons of waste every year. Unfortunately recycling of waste is barely assured, despite the fact that the sector has the potential to become a prosperous one. The amount of garbage produced each year is increasing. For Africa, like what happened in Europe in the 19th century, sustainable and equitable development begins by improving the management of garbage.
The issue of waste management arises even more heavily for African countries: with urban growth, many African cities suffer from dim public infrastructures, particularly unsuitable for garbage collection. For example in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, Congo, the first problem is the lack of appropriate spaces where to dispose the waste, hence big quantity of garbage litters the streets daily. The collective garbage bins are rare, poorly marked, often distant, insufficient and necessarily quickly saturated. It is quite a common situation in many other places, from Nairobi and Dakar to Cairo. In some countries, a new trend has emerged: Exporting the waste to other countries where there are companies more specialized in waste management.
According to the World Bank, more than 50% of waste in Africa is organic, and would therefore be better managed if quickly collected, and turned into compost for example. Nevertheless initiatives are being put in place. If they were better organized, waste collection channels could focus on biodegradable waste, because they are easily recoverable.
In Morocco, in 2014, the Ministry of Environment has added to its agenda, the rehabilitation and closure of landfills, the development of cells for 34 rural centers, and the establishment of landfill and recovery sites of household waste for four other centers, all for a total cost of about 595 million MDH (54 million euros).
In Senegal, the government tries to convince private sector to support the “Senegal zero waste” project. According to Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, Minister of Local Governance, Development and Planning, “the fight against unhealthiness and congestion cannot be won without the commitment and involvement of businesses, regardless of their sectors.” He was speaking at the end of December 2015 in a workshop on this theme. According to APA (African Press Agency), he invited the Senegalese companies to join the “zero waste company” initiative, structured around the following points: sorting in the office to reduce, recycle and convert waste internally; developing public spaces near the headquarters of companies; maintaining and sponsoring a “zero waste area” by funding certain activities. A law was also passed, in April 2015, to prohibit the sale, manufacture, possession and importation of plastic bags. Violators face penalties up to 20 million CFA in fine (30 000 Euro) and two years in prison.
In Dakar, the improvement of sanitation began with a better connection of the sewer system of wastewater. The quality of water discharged into the sea is now verified by the Ministry of Environment. The National Office of Sanitation of Senegal (ONAS) also plays the role of the “police” to control if the industries are properly connected to sewer system.
Twenty-five African countries had adopted such legislation to ban plastic bags, with the pioneer being Rwanda; that country has put in place a total ban on plastic bags in 2008.
Another positive example: in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a campaign to collect and recycle electronic waste, called “E-Waste” has allowed to gather in only three months 60 tons of waste, since last October. Set up by the Ericsson group – Ivory Coast and mobile company MTN, the objective of this project is to develop an environmental awareness in the country. The waste treatment will then be done in Durban, South Africa, and in the Netherlands.
The future seems to be in the use of waste as a resource – for energy generation for instance. This is the principle of circular economy. Those solutions can limit drastically the impact of people on the planet, while enabling the creation of “green” jobs.
To have a completely green economy, recycling and waste management companies in Africa will have to meet this challenge of recovery. This requires of course financial support. A Fund for a Green Economy has been created in 2014 in Central Africa. Local initiatives, from collectivities among other things, could also play a big role in creating dynamic and demanding partnerships for waste management and protection of the urban environment in line with the economic development in Africa.