Nigeria: from an environmental catastrophe to a business opportunity

Lagos, Nigeria’s largest and one of the world’s fastest growing cities is infamous for its unmanaged waste. Photographs of Lagos' uncollected waste are well known and widely criticised in the local press. Poor waste management is an environmental challenge across the country in both cities and rural areas, leading to what some call an inevitable environmental catastrophe.

From environmental catastrophe to a business opportunity

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with a population of around 201 million people (UN, 2019) of whom 44 % are under 15 (UN, 2016). While rapid population growth clearly implies a growing demand for food and water, increasing poor waste management has accelerated soil and water degradation, putting pressure on what safe or productive resources remain. Waste management consumes from 20- 50 % of highly constrained municipal operational budgets. A ‘vicious cycle’ has evolved whereby municipal councils’ costly but superficial solutions are outscaled by rapidly growing industrial and domestic populations who continue to exacerbate the growing problem.

In 2017, the incoming national government opted to change gear. It realised that waste management is a severe problem and that a myriad of opportunities are available to develop solutions, including ad-hoc policies and strategies both at the national and federal level, involving all levels of the population. Climate change tools and solutions also have the capacity to estimate the impact of unmanaged waste on citizens’ well-being.

The waste-management sector is particularly well geared to private sector activity and, thanks to support from the GCCA+, solving Nigeria’s waste-management problem is being seen through the lens of new business opportunities to invest in and to attract potential international investors. Furthermore, there is recognition that proper waste management generates significant collateral opportunities, such as using treated waste water and sludge for biogas, irrigation and aquaculture.

To tackle the waste-management situation, three areas (Abuja in the centre of Nigeria, Kano in the north and Ogun in the south) located in geographically and strategically distinct regions have been identified to build pilots. GCCA+ support is focused on supporting the Federal Ministry of Environment to frame the problem, establish precise baselines for greenhouse gas emissions, and develop enabling policies to catalyse new business opportunities to manage waste and generate emission reductions locally and nationally.

To achieve this outcome, GCCA+ training and socialisation programmes will support efforts by the ministry and the federal administration to work with civil society (through formal representation in policy formulation) and the local citizens (i.e. women and youth included) already operating in the sector. GCCA+ is also supporting efforts to measure, report on and verify progress to ensure that Nigeria can take full credit for its actions in the context of global climate change negotiations.

Links: GCCA+ Review of Climate Issues: “The mitigation effect”