“A clean Ghana should be priority for all of us“ – IMANI Ghana

According to IMANI Africa, Ghana’s sanitation has failed. The questions ‘why’ and ‘how we should get it right’ was discussed at a lecture and national discourse on Tuesday, March 20 at the British Council, initiated by the organisation.

Guests in the panel discussion were Mr. Joseph Kofi Adda – Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources, Mr. Mohammed Adjei Sowah – Mayor, Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Mr. Joseph Siaw Agyapong – Chairman, EPSA and Mr. Manasseh Azure Awuni, Investigative Journalist, JOY FM.

The main content of the lecture delivered by Mr Casely Ato Coleman of IMANI, after an introduction by Mr. Kofi Bentil, Senior Vice President and welcome address by Mr. Franklin Cudjoe, Founding President & CEO of IMANI Africa, was his dissatisfaction about the government’s approach to waste disposal and sanitation. Red line of the performance was his incomprehension about the malfunctioning system.

He put up the thesis that Accra was not designed to be clean. He proved this by pointing out the absence of public dustbins as well as the constant aggravating smell because of open drains.

Coleman stressed his position by pointing to the situation in Rwanda. The African country has a clear government policy and significant donor support. In response to poor sustainability of rural water systems and poor service quality, in 2002 local government in the Northern Byumba Province contracted out service provision to the local private sector in a form of public-private partnership.

Support for public-private partnerships became a government policy in 2004 and locally initiated public-private partnerships spread rapidly, covering 25% of rural water systems as of 2007.

Also Mr. Coleman was overly indignant about the appeal to communities to go out and clean up their streets themselves. “Teachers, students … communities should not be in charge to go out and sweep the streets when there are thousands of unemployed people”, he said.

He further stressed, “a clean Ghana should be priority for all of us” and we should build a “Ghana beyond fail”, playing on the President’s slogan.

Even though the panel discussion was meant to give solution in how sanitation in Ghana can be improved, the speakers barely gave those suggestions. First speaker, Joseph Kofi Adda – Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources, was rather talking about what the citizen can do about the issue than what his ministry has achieved or where it has failed.

While he did mention that recycling should become more important and that a “policy correction has to be done by the authorities” his main message was “what should you do”; meaning what each household, and each person is to do.

When asked by the audience why his ministry has not achieved any visible improvement yet? His response was “we are in office for only one year now”, followed by laughter from the audience.

Mohammed Adjei Sowah – Mayor, Accra Assembly, like his precursor, charged citizens of Accra with the responsibility for improvement. His main argument was, every household requires a dustbin otherwise proper disposal cannot be guaranteed. When interrupted by  Coleman about households with dustbin still not receiving regular disposal service, the Mayor excused this with a lack of organistion within the private sector.

Rather he was preoccupied with the President’s wish for a beautiful Accra and his efforts to that effect by financing the building of a new public park for GHS1 million.

Also the following speakers spoke less about solutions than about facts. Mr. Manasseh Azure Awuni, Investigative Journalist for JOY FM told the story of his camera team visiting a disposal station in Kumasi that is fully occupied with trucks waiting hours to dispose the waste.

Mr. Joseph Siaw Agyapong, founder of Zoomlion Ghana, joined the discussion with a PowerPoint presentation about the size of his company’s trucks and tricycle fleet .

His main message was that the private sector is doing well and should be more integrated. He also informally suggested the possibility of providing two thousand dustbins at a unit price of US$60, including shipping and installing, if given an official order by the ministry. The minister did not comment on this offer.

Whereas none of the speakers made a clear suggestion on solutions, there was consensus that solving the problem of sanitation and waste disposal in Ghana requires collaboration from all sides. Authorities are duty bound to provide financial resources and officially contract private companies like Zoomlion for the disposal. Also public dustbins must be set up. The citizens must be educated on themes of proper waste disposal, recycling and responsible handling of the environment.

Private companies must offer services at affordable prices, even though they might have a monopoly on the market like Zoomlion.

Citizen must treat their one and only planet with respect and use dustbins, even if the next one might be some distance away.

Writer is an intern with Goldstreet Business

By Sophie Zoe Schreiber