Poor waste management practices including the widespread dumping of wastes in water bodies and uncontrolled dumpsites, aggravates the problems of generally low sanitation levels across the African continent. Urbanisation is on the rise in Africa, and this trend is expected to continue in the future. Of concern is that the infrastructure and land use planning, including for waste management is not coping with the growth of urban areas (around 3.5% annually, highest in the world). This is particularly urgent in the slum areas which constitute a big part of many of the cities and towns in Africa. Waste management infrastructure is largely non-existent in rural areas of Africa. Improvements in infrastructure are urgently needed to combat the high costs of health services, and hence alleviate poverty, and reduce rural-urban migration. The gap between waste management policy and legislation and actual waste management practices is widening, due to ongoing capacity constraints or non-existence of waste management facilities for the different waste streams. Resolving this capacity gap will require major investments and access to technical know-how.
This report argues that the scale of necessary investments for proper sanitation and environmentally sound management of wastes is beyond the capacity of African countries. In addition to implementing relevant agreements/conventions on waste management it should provide specific assistance to establish proper inventories of hazardous and radioactive wastes and sites potentially affected by poor management of such wastes, as a basis for developing and implementing facilities for their management and clean-up of contaminated sites. Assistance is also required for awareness and cultural change programs for integrated waste management.