On the International Solid Waste Association World Congress

Dr. Araya Asfaw Executive Director

This year’s International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) World Congress was held in the beautiful city of Novi Sad, Siberia from 19th to 21st September. During the congress, more than 1,300 participants from 72 countries discussed the challenges of cities all over the world in managing solid waste. Representatives from Ethiopia and South Africa were among the participants of the congress. At the congress, Addis Ababa’s solid waste management programme was showcased as part of its long-term strategy and commitment to make the city inclusive, sustainable, and resilient in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Addis Ababa, like most cities in the developing world, is experiencing tremendous pressure from migration. Although the current estimated population of Addis Ababa is three and half million, there are those who believe that this number is likely close to five million. Three or four decades ago, during the time of Emperor Haile Selassie and the Derg regime, the population was about half a million. This indicates that the population of Addis Ababa has grown by ten folds within few decades. In the coming decades, it is likely to double and soon join the ranks of our world’s megacities. One major contributing factor for such a boom is the high population growth the country is experiencing as a whole.

Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa with a population close to a hundred million, based on World Bank figures. In the last fifty years, ten million people, more than the population of New York City or Sweden, have been added every ten years, on average. This trend will continue for decades before stabilizing since more than 40% of the population is below the age of 14, and more than 50% is between the ages of 15 and 64. Currently, over 80 % of the population resides in rural areas, but half of the population is expected to migrate to cities in the coming decades. If the economy continues to grow at the rate of 6-10%, Addis Ababa and other emerging cities in Ethiopia will experience heavy migration.

With the increasing number of rural-to-urban migrants, municipal solid waste management is one of the major challenges of cities. Assuming the current per capita waste generation of 0.5 kilograms per day remains constant, the city will produce five thousand metric tonnes of waste per day in ten years’ time. If such a huge amount of waste is not managed properly, Addis Ababa will fail to be a sustainable city. The good news is Addis Ababa happens to be one of the few cities in the developing world with a long term strategy for addressing the issue. The landfill at Sendafa, which was built through the financial and technical support of the Government of France, will help to address the solid waste challenges in the decades ahead provided that it is managed properly. During the ISWA World Congress, many NGOs, knowledge institutions, ISWA, Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the University of Texas in Arlington expressed their willingness to support Addis Ababa’s on-going initiatives. If the city continues its efforts and fosters better partnerships with a variety of stakeholders, including international and indigenous NGOs, the private sector, knowledge institutions and others, I am convinced the municipal solid waste management programme will register great success

Araya Asfaw, PhD
Executive Director
Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre & Network
Addis Ababa University

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