Growing population which translates into higher consumption of commodities that generate either more solid or liquid waste, poses a huge waste management challenge that needs advanced technologies to address, experts have said.
The experts were yesterday addressing a news conference ahead of the Africa Engineering Conference, due September 25 to 29 in Kigali.
The forum will be held simultaneously with the fourth United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Africa Engineering Week 2017, under the theme, "Effective Waste Management in Africa."
The forum is expected to draw attention to the current diverse challenges facing waste management in Africa and to consider the prospects for adequate, reliable and sustainable development of this critical sector of human existence and well-being.
"As population and urbanisation grow, if waste is not well managed, it can cause serious health risks," said Papias Kazawadi, the president of Institution of Engineers of Rwanda.
"About 20 years ago, people had enough space to discard or dispose of waste, but with rapid population growth, the space has narrowed, and the management of waste cannot be handled effectively by an individual, rather collectively through concerted efforts," he noted.
Rwanda's population is projected to increase from 10.5 million in 2012 to between 15.4 million and 16.9 million by 2032, as per the Fourth Population and Housing Census 2012.
Africa's population is estimated at over 1.25 billion in 2017, and is projected to grow to over 2. 52 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects Report for 2017.
Kazawadi said the third conference, held in Nigeria, expressed concern that cities in Africa were being constructed without strategic planning, as factories or industries were being constructed anywhere without impact assessment or proper waste management solutions.
The Housing and Urbanisation Division Manager at the Ministry of Infrastructure, Eddy Kyazze, said that in line with making use of waste, there are people who make briquettes from biodegradable waste, while others make manure to fertilise crops.
He said there are investors in waste recycling, such as those making hygienic papers (napkins) from used papers in offices.
Going by the figures from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), he said, the country has not yet reached a satisfactory level in terms of waste management, it is progressing.
About 36 per cent of Rwandans use waste collection and disposal services, Kyazze said. About 30 per cent dispose of waste in nearby bushes, 29.5 per cent throw them in fields, while about 0.2 per cent burn or throw them in flowing water.
"A developing country like Rwanda has more organic (biodegradable waste such as remains of the crops or biomass) than non-degradable waste (such as electronic waste). We want to learn more from how we can further treat waste, both degradable and nondegradable. Rwanda will learn best practices from some countries that are doing well," Kyazze said.
The Director-General for Urban Development at the City of Kigali, Alphonse Nkurunziza, said waste management is a major issue in the city.
The conference is expected to attract about 1,000 delegates, providing an opportunity for exchange of ideas among the engineering fraternity in Africa and beyond.