24 May 2018

Africa: Nigeria As the Waste Capital of Africa

opinion

According to the United Nations in its "World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables" publication, Nigeria has a population of 182.2 million people making it the most populous country in Africa. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) world factbook puts the total area which Nigeria covers geographically at 923,768 sq. km.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank 2012 Urban Development Series publication stated that waste generation is approximately 62 million tonnes a year with each person generating an average of 0.65 kg/day. By 2025, the report projected that urban waste generation in the region will be 161.27 million tonnes annually. Going by this report and Nigeria's population, the country generates 43.2 million tonnes of waste annually and by 2025 with a population of 233.5 million (according to populationpyramid.net figure), Nigeria will be generating an estimated 72.46 million tonnes of waste annually at a projected rate of 0.85 kg of waste/capita/day.

This means that Nigeria annual waste generation will almost equal her crude oil production which currently stands at approximately 89.63 million tonnes per year. Also, at an estimated annual waste generation figure of 72.46 million tonnes, Nigeria will be generating about one-fourth of the total waste that will be produced in the whole of Africa. This is scary and if proper attention is not paid to this enormous challenge, Nigeria might become the "waste capital of Africa."

Nonetheless, this challenge can be turned into a blessing because waste is a resource in disguise. If its potential is properly tapped, waste management can create employment, enable power generation, and contribute to economic diversification which Nigeria is direly in need of. There is no doubt that this is achievable because we have examples of countries already utilising their waste judiciously. Few examples of such countries are; China which in Shanghai alone, they turn 50% of the waste generated into power generation electrifying 100,000 homes; Incheon, South Korea where in its Sudokwon landfill which receives about 20,000 tonnes of waste daily converts same to electric power, has a water recycling and desalination facility, and has created over 200 jobs.

In fact, the Sudokwon landfill is reported to serve as a model of how waste resources can best be tapped to achieve a positive impact. Other examples are; Los Angeles, California which also produces electric power enough for 70,000 homes in its Puente Hills landfill; Germany whose sophisticated waste processing systems through recycling, composting, and energy generation has already saved the country 20% of the cost of metals and 3% of the cost of energy imports; Austria, though a small country, is doing big things in waste management especially through recycling; Sweden, whose recycling is so revolutionary that the country had to import waste; and Flanders, Belgium which possesses the best waste diversion rate in Europe with 75% of their waste being reused, recycled or composted. What's more is that Flanders per capita waste generation rate is more than twice that of Nigeria at 1.5 kg/day.

Haven cited different examples across the globe, below are some key things the government need to commence the journey to judiciously utilize the free resource presented to the country through waste.

Firstly, attention needs to be paid to building the human resource potential of the country to be able to have the required capacity in conceptualizing fit-for-purpose innovative solution to be deployed in tackling and solving the waste challenge. While knowledge exchange/transfer through international public private partnership is a possible way in providing waste management solution, it is not sustainable for the country especially because there is already an unemployment problem in Nigeria. Hence, funding the training of interested and passionate individuals in waste management is a better way in tackling the waste challenge.

The Federal Government through the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) of the Ministry of Communication currently sponsor student abroad to study oil and gas as well as information technology related subjects in the hope of boosting manpower in both sectors of the economy, same approach need to be extended to the issue of waste management and this can be handled through the Federal Ministry of Environment. This should not be contested in my opinion since waste generation is almost at par with crude oil production in Nigeria. Therefore, equal attention need to be paid to waste resource. Needless to say that this is important as there is no university in Nigeria currently offering waste management as a stand-alone course either at undergraduate or postgraduate level. This needs to be looked into as well.

Secondly, there is an urgent need for a strong National Waste Management Strategy to checkmate the kind of waste that enters the country's waste stream as well as the quantity of waste being produced. To develop an effective national waste strategy, a study should be carried out to understand the country's current stream of waste, generation pattern, and existing management approach. This should be championed by the Federal Ministry of Environment in conjunction with State and Local Government waste management authorities as the case may be.

Once this is done, each State of the Federation will now key their own individual State Waste Management Plan into that of the Federal Government to achieve a holistic waste management development in Nigeria. By so doing, the government would have also contributed to mitigating the effect of climate change in the country because the methane produced when waste degrades is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas known to many and contributor to global warming).

Finally, the government needs to support existing waste management initiatives either through tax-holiday on major equipment that need to be imported for their work and/or on their operation for a certain period of time. Also, if workable, the government can float a grant for innovative ideas in waste management to jumpstart the growth of the sector. Lastly, the government of Nigeria can raise a delegation of entrepreneurs, industry professionals, academia, and upcoming young waste management enthusiast to visit countries with workable waste management strategy for knowledge sharing and insight.

- Arogundade is a waste management specialist and chief waste eliminator at WasteWatch Africa.

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