Partnership for Cleaner Cities; Addressing Improper waste management in ‎Africa

October 6, 2020

Accelerator labs from 11 countries and global support team

UNDP, February 2020‎

UNDP Joint Blog by four Accelerator Labs | Ghana (Seth Akumani and Fatima Farouta), Tanzania (Peter Nyanda and Ghati Horombe), Libya (Osama Mansour and Ayad Babaa), and Malawi (Wasili Mfungwe)

The Accelerator Labs in Ghana, Libya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vietnam, Paraguay, Laos, and Ukraine joined the Collective Intelligence Design Studio (CIDS) in Istanbul this year. The initiative organized by UNDP and Nesta, Innovation Foundation, aims to support UNDP’s Accelerator Labs teams to design and implement a prototype collective intelligence to address issues related to waste management in the 11 countries.

The essence of the collective intelligence (CI) methodology is tapping into a large and diverse number of groups. Empowering people is at the centre of CI protocol using technology and data in the quest to solve complex issues. We start by listening to understand, build knowledge and then react by engaging with new voices to achieve a unique solution. In Africa, we intended to engage with multiple actors involved in solid waste management such as private sector, and community municipalities, using uncommon data and tools like geographic information system (GIS) and crowd-mapping to understand the waste issue.

Many African cities are experiencing rapid urbanization, forcing governments and the private sector to face a host of challenges, such as access to clean water and waste management services for over 200 million slum dwellers (in Sub Saharan Africa). In Ghana, the Accelerator Lab is partnering with Jekora Ventures, a private waste management company, to prototype a tailored waste collection approach in slum settlements. Jekora's GIS mapping of all communities (see below image) provided valuable insights on the hotspots in the zone and which communities need first the support. Building on this data, the team has engaged and crowdsourced ideas from community leaders, vendors, residents, waste collectors, and revenue agents to better understand local dwellers' waste issues.

From these engagements, we discovered some peculiar socio-economic issues such as lack of space for collection equipment, lack of adequate sanitation infrastructure – urinals and toilets - and activities of homeless actors in slum settlements that are making the delivery of waste collection services extra challenging and financially unsustainable. To overcome the above challenges, there is the need to co-create local solutions and tailor them to slum conditions. For example, in the project’s prototyping location, waste needs to be collected more frequently, even twice daily in some cases. Different payment models - e.g. pay per dump and weekly payments - are also necessary to encourage signups by various beneficiaries.

GIS Mapping of Korle Klottey Municipal Assembly in Accra, Ghana

In a country like Libya, where instability remains a substantial challenge, particularly on the municipal levels and the services provided to the citizens, waste management issues are the order of the day. A strategy of solid waste management (SWM) at the municipality level is un-presented, and that becomes a problematic element to any intervention or solutions offered by key players. The existence of a strategy can give us a clear path and how and why to overcome the endless issue of SWM in Libya. A visualization tool, data and updated information about the situation in the streets is needed to build this strategy.

UNDP Libya Accelerator Lab identified the leverage point to support the municipalities by creating a dashboard of SWM that showcases the data of solid waste in the streets. The data is collectively sourced by key stakeholders such as waste collectors, municipalities, NGOs, and more importantly, the citizens who will be empowered to take part in the initiative to keep the cities clean. The Accelerator Lab team in Libya made in-house a prototype of the dashboard, which presents multiple information updated weekly by the stakeholders through a phone App. The App shows the locations of waste, its size and type (see below).

Screenshot from Mobile app to collect the street waste location, type and size developed by Accelerator Lab Libya

The dashboard that showcases the street waste location, type and size.‎

The hypothesis for creating the dashboard is that if it is adopted and used by the municipalities, they would be able to manage resources efficiently with fewer efforts.

The Tanzania Acc Lab designed an experiment to find out whether the use of satellite/drone imagery and open data sources could enhance data in solid waste management and consequently improve future municipal programming. 

To conduct the experiment, the team followed these steps; 1) Creation of a task on the open street map platform to divide the pilot area of Buhongwa ward into several squares for mapping; 2) Use of open imagery sources such as Bing and Maxar; 3) Review and validate mapped images by a GIS expert; 4) Upload data on the OpenStreetMap platform 5) Use ODK collect App to conduct a survey to understand community behaviours and perceptions related to solid waste management.

The outcome of this exercise will help the city to; 1) attract long and short term investments in its diverse resource endowments- and most importantly, in this case, pulling investors in circularity business and; 2) Enable the city council to scale out the project to other wards for the purposes of improving its  SWM service delivery and potentially reach its goal of becoming a smart city in the near future.  For more information check out this blog.

Malawi Acclab team engaged a diverse range of stakeholders to understand the key drivers of an unmanaged waste challenge given that waste collection by the municipal council is as low as 12%.  The key take-out was that the drivers of the problem were lack of awareness of proper management of waste for households, lack of waste management innovations, lack of collaboration among stakeholders in the eco-system (especially private waste collectors and municipal council) and lack of financing.  Initially, there was a hypothesis that the city council may need support in changing by-laws to improve operations, but the team learned that it is easy to update bylaws.  The team learnt that some households were able to self-regulate.   

The Lab employed several techniques in the Collective Intelligence Playbook, including organizing a virtual mapathon in liaison with a local tech hub (mHub), Government’s Surveys Department and a group of volunteer mappers who worked from their various homes.  The principal aim of the exercise was to identify the various resources available in Area 25 that are playing a role in generating and distributing waste. 15 volunteers trained in mapping and updated and clearly labelled map with over 1,000 structures mapped using an open access online map, OpenStreetMap.

Given the COVID-19  related restrictions, the Lab employed Online Community Engagement technique using survey monkey and learned that most of the waste is not separated (67%) and is not made available to recyclers (44%) due to use of rubbish pits and burning. Households disposing of waste outside their homes are relying more on private waste collectors than city and district councils. The team concluded that there is a huge opportunity in promoting recycling initiatives which require collaboration between households, private waste collectors and city and district councils to be effective.

Reflections of the four African countries

The GIS, satellite images, street mapping and tapping into a new data have all injected into SWM project in Ghana, Libya, Tanzania, and Malawi - working with diverse/uncommon actors and empowering people to achieve something unique and different.

During the journey in designing and building the collective inelegance projects, the four Labs in Africa noted that empowering citizens by being an active part in the projects is one of the most valuable/powerful pillars in our intervention. However, yet, how the engagement by citizens can be sustained? this is the challenge.

The next stage of the projects is to assess what works and what doesn’t in case the prototype is workable, we can then scale up to create an impact – if doesn’t, then perhaps some adjustments could require making it works. We will find out soon.


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