Business Opportunity: Private Sector Is Fundamental For Sub-Saharan Sanitation

Written by Staff

From In Depth News. Story by Justus Wanzala, IPS.

As sub-Saharan Africa becomes more urbanized, growing volumes of solid and water waste are making compliance with sanitation regulations a major issue.

Stakeholders called for a multi-pronged approach to achieve sustainable urban sanitation at the World Water Week conference held Aug. 28 – Sept. 2 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Obstacles to acceptable sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa include political interference, inadequate institutional and technical capacity and disparities in access and service based on income, gender, location, and social status.

Adequate financing, infrastructure and minimum standards could form the benchmark for sanitation regulation and enforcement in all African cities, said Najib Lukooya, a sanitation expert from Uganda’s Kampala City Council Authority.

Adding to the sanitation challenges in Africa are failure by governments to recognize sanitation as a key development priority. There’s also not enough public engagement and participation in sanitation planning and decision making to ensure inclusive service and access.

WaterAid is an international organisation with the mission of improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in poor communities. WaterAid cites high population densities, transient populations, and differing laws and legal status of slum dwellers as challenges facing cities in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.

The urban poor are being left behind in access to sanitation, WaterAid said in an August 2016 study entitled “A tale of clean cities: insights for planning urban sanitation.”

Obstacles to sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa include poor infrastructure such as water pipes, electricity and sewers and poor quality housing built on the land that no one wants such as steep slopes, according to WaterAid.

Communities should be allowed to “take a lead or be part of the regulatory and enforcement framework through putting in place opportunities for setting local standards and bylaws which work for them,” Lukooya told IDN.

“Let sanitation be everyone’s responsibility and a key agenda at household level,” he said, calling on authorities seek input and provide feedback on sanitation.

A 2015 WaterAid report studied sanitation and hygiene in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda.

Political interference is a key challenge for sanitation, said Guy Norman, head of evaluation and research at Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor. For example, “public toilets are often owned by municipal politicians, and this affects enforcement of sanitation by law because the system has an opportunity for corruption,” Norman said. Citizen monitoring is effective in fighting corruption but this is usually undermined by lack of political will.

Technology and citizen monitoring are necessary for good sanitation, said Meliata Grant from the Institute of Sustainable Futures.

This has worked well in Australia, for example, where CCTV cameras are used to identify people involved in waste dumping. Some local authorities give incentives such as cash tokens to persuade residents to dispose of refuse in the right places.

“A smart approach draws on the various regulatory approaches and combines different instruments to support compliance in the most cost-effective way,” said Grant.

Private sector-led service is fundamental for achieving sanitation goals in sub-Saharan Africa. “Entrepreneurship and business opportunities around sanitation at a local level should be created,” said Lukooya. “This calls for innovative self-financing mechanisms for sanitation.”

Authorities “should … take advantage of the rapid developments in ICT to track progress, monitor performance and aid planning and timely decision-making,” Lukooya said.

Read more at In Depth News.