(ENG story) From poo to profits, sanitation innovation in Africa

(22 October 2019 – Grid-Arendal, Norway) – Africa can only prevent people from dying from wastewater and sanitation challenges if the private sector, which is also affected by the continent’s chronic sanitation gap, plays a greater part. Aiding sanitation innovation in Africa is urgently needed. Those are key conclusions of the inaugural Sanitation and Wastewater Management in Africa Atlas, which is being completed by GRID-Arendal and partners.

Africa’s sanitation challenges don’t just affect local communities. They also strain the economy. According to the 2012 Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa report by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme, 18 African countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia – lost around US$5.5 billion that year because of inadequate sanitation.

GRID-Arendal’s Kristina Thygesen is not at all surprised. “Not having access to proper toilets hampers employees’ productivity, thus companies’ efficiency and ability to contribute to the economy. The time workers are looking for a toilet can be spent learning, working, discussing innovations, and implementing those. “The World Bank report shows that people in Sub-Saharan Africa on average spend up to 2.5 days a year finding a toilet,” she says.

This is where the Sanitation and Wastewater Management in Africa Atlas comes in. As a joint project by GRID-Arendal, the African Development Bank, and the United Nations Environment Programme, the document will serve as the first continental roadmap to showcase the scale of the continent’s wastewater and sanitation challenges as well as related investment opportunities and existing sanitation innovation in Africa. It will be published in December 2019.

One key obstacle we are facing in terms of providing universal access to safe water and sanitation is funding,” says Birguy Lamizana, programme officer at UN Environment’s Global Programme of Action and one of the authors of the atlas. “This is where businesses could come in as partners.”

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