Africa is one of the fastest urbanising regions in the world, and it is widely accepted that the rapid urbanisation of its burgeoning big cities will play a vital role in the continent's continued growth and development. But, are we thinking far enough ahead to plan for the resources that will be consumed, and the waste generated by this ongoing development, as well as the rapidly growing populous of city dwellers? The short answer is no. Kate Stubbs, director: business development and marketing at Interwaste The Katowice Climate Change Conference is currently underway in Katowice, Slaskie, Poland (2-14 December 2018). This event aims to elevate market awareness and attention - for desired actionable outcomes - on a host of critical priorities related to climate action but also aspirational Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) centred on decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), and responsible consumption and production (SDG 12).
I believe these three SDGs are unendingly interdependent, particularly for rapidly emerging and urbanising economies in Africa, and here below I’ve shared my thoughts on how targeting these SDGs simultaneously – with a long-term strategic vision – will help nations in Africa re-imagine waste as an opportunity to meaningfully contribute towards a resilient and sustainable future.
Imagining Africa’s growth to 2050
The UN has estimated that the global population will near 11.3 billion by 2060. Populations in Africa are expected to experience just as much exponential growth – and the collective count for the continent is predicted to reach over 2.5 billion by 2050, which remarkably will represent about 26% of the world's total population by that time.
Of course, these figures present immense opportunities for investors and businesses – as it means that Africa currently hosts the fastest growing consumer market in the world. However, it also alludes to a very serious challenge that threatens the future resilience and sustainability of cities and urban nodes, especially in developing regions in Africa, if we don’t change our attitudes to what we consider resources versus waste.
In fact, according to the World Bank, in 2016 the world’s cities generated 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste, which based on the population figure at the time roughly equated to 0.74kg per person per day. While this may seem like a ‘manageable amount’, in reality, it’s not. Many of the world’s developed and emerging nations, alike, are finding that their landfills are already over-capacitated, and therefore to continue to maintain healthy air and ground contamination quality levels, they are having to look at implementing drastic changes wherever possible to divert waste from landfill.
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