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Opinions of Monday, 25 June 2018

Columnist: Michael Nii Yarboi Annan

Mr. President: Africa’s cleanest city; a charade or a bad commitment?

Michael Nii Yarboi Annan Michael Nii Yarboi Annan

“The commitment I want to make, and for all of us to make, is that by the end of my term in office, Accra will be the cleanest city on the entire African continent. That is the commitment I am making to you.” This was a Commitment by the President of the Republic of Ghana on 23 April 2017 at Mantse Agbonaa in James Town and a call on all of us to be committed to his vision.

At the second State of the Nation Address in February 2018 our President again reiterated his vision to see Accra as the cleanest city in Africa before he leaves office. I am convinced by his determination to make a change, a change that if achieved will be an example for many nations to follow; but I am in doubt if we have the men and women to effect this change and drive his vision.

We have seen and witnessed many Chief Executives of this great city appointed by different government’s. We have lived under their various policies and by-laws to get the city clean, yet we have failed woefully. We have called them incompetent and wicked and in return, they have also called us indisciplined people with the wrong attitude when it comes to sanitation, questioning our attitudes towards sanitation. Perhaps, we cannot keep doing the same things and expect a different results thus, both side need to change, yet what is constant is change; but who will drive this change, who leads the agenda? I am positive without any doubt, I will take a bet with posterity but to say Mr. Leadership must lead the change agenda.

The President’s appointment of Sanitation and Water Resource Minister is also another evidence of his commitment to tackle a challenge that seems impossible to achieve, but if not achieved, his position will be called job-for-the-boys. Thus, that Ministry has no option but to succeed before the President leaves office.

The System – Local Government

Ghana is blessed with one of the best local government structures except that appointment of the District Chief Executive is by the President. Which in my view is the fault line we are yet to provide a lasting solution.

The Presiding member can be equated to the Speaker of Parliament, while the Assembly Members are the representative of the people thus be equated to Members of Parliament. The Chief Executive is therefore the President of the District as the President of the Republic is to Ghana.

The Local Government structure is at the front of this agenda to get the City Clean as promised by the President. They have vast revenue sources from Foreign Government, General Government Units and Internally Generated Funds (IGF); equally they have various expenditure lines to pay for goods and services for which waste management contractors are paid for the collection of solid waste in Accra.

With a focus on the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) in the 2017 Composite Budget, indicates as their vision “A new Accra, clean and environmentally sound”, which fused into the President’s vision perfectly. It’s very interesting to note that in that same budget, collection of solid waste was never part of the Assembly’s key challenges, rather lack of engineering landfill was strongly featured as a key challenge.

At this point, I am able to conclude that the collection of solid waste is not a challenge but the handling of solid waste collected is where the challenge is. In fact, to buttress my conclusion about the AMA, it indicates that as part of its achievements in 2016 – there was an increased of Waste Management Contractors from nine (9) to fifteen (15) and an increased collection of waste from 75% to 80%.

The Landfill Challenge

In times of crisis and challenges to a people, the only incentive to overcome is to emerge a new thinking. That new thinking cannot be landfill but something more sustainable in the long-term that can be well managed. Morden Landfills are designed to received specific kind of waste and must protect the environment from contaminants, which may be present in solid waste disposed. There are several types of landfills, which includes Municipal Solid Waste Landfill, Industrial Waste Landfill and Hazardous Waste Landfill, each with its own purpose.

The question is which type are we operating in Accra and for what purpose? Landfills have failed in the more modernized western countries and the only sustainable thinking around the globe, which our District Assemblies and its Chief Executives must know and work towards is the Integrated Sustainable (Solid) Waste Management (ISWM)

We dream a cleaner city, we dream being the cleanest in Africa but our thinking and actions points to the dirtiest city in Africa. According to the UN-Habitat (2010), any improvement in Sustainable Waste Management system of a city should answer all the following key aspects of the physical and governance system: public health, proper collection, safe disposal, resource management, recycling, prevention and above all financial sustainability.

Waste Prevention – Reuse & Recycle – Energy Recovery – Landfill

The above process flow is what should be the thinking of the city authorities and not the opposite direction. I cannot point to one, just one waste prevention policy of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, no proper collection mechanisms in place yet we dream a clean city. This can only be described as a charade. In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the Accra Metropolitan Assembly paid compensation to its employees of GHS20,048,813.60, GHS29,483,874.63 and GHS24,337,364.67 (October 2016) respectively. I dare ask for what? If this is the results we are left with.

Leadership of Clean City

New York was filled with rape, killings, gang wars, car theft name it; crime rate was so high but it took leadership of Rudy Giuliani as Mayor for crime rate to be reduces by 56%. Bold policies were laid down, the authorities changed mindset of its people and thug-life was treated as disorder. These are just a few of the policies implemented by the city’s leadership.

Lebanon, almost the size of Accra with similar population had eight-months of solid waste crisis after the closure of its main landfill, amidst protest and shootings; the crisis propelled them to a new sustainable practise. This was achieved by ending monopoly, opening doors for small-scale actors, while each municipality created its own sorting site and recycle mechanism and secured access to landfill for residual waste. Corruption in that sector was dealt with head-on with a strong monitoring system to ensure the new system won’t fail like the previous system did.

It’s about leadership not the attitude of the people, it’s about proper engineering not the wearing of polish cotton, it’s about critical thinking not the long speeches and it’s time to do it.

We cannot fail this generation once more


Michael Nii Yarboi Annan

(Managing Consultant)

ObjectConsult Limited