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National Sanitation Discourse: Report on IMANI’s National Sanitation Forum held on 20th March 2018

For the past 20 years, Ghana has wrestled with and continuously failed at sanitation and waste management.


The famous Indian activist, Mahatma Ghandi, is well- known for his many wise sayings. One of these include a less popular yet powerful quote on sanitation, which he uses to urge his fellow people to “improve hygiene and cleanliness in the country”[1]. This was around a time when he was “leading a non-violent movement for India’s independence from the British in 1947”. Ghandi simply stated that “Sanitation is more important that political independence”[2]. Indeed, this was and still is a heavy statement, and strongly coveys the importance and need for good sanitation to be practiced within a country. It is detrimental to the development of a healthy and strong, productive populace.

For the past 20 years, Ghana has wrestled with and continuously failed at sanitation and waste management. This has led to a series of national mobilisations led by former Presidents who have ordered the cleaning of gutters and roads, all in an attempt to improve sanitation in Ghana. Unfortunately, none of these efforts have worked. Accordingly, Ghana remains on the list of countries that practice poor sanitation (such as open defecation and polluted water bodies) leading to a high number of deaths due to cholera, chronic diarrhoea and other public health problems. This has further affected the rating of its capital city, Accra, which is now cited as a relatively dirty city in many global rankings, with associated endemic health problems.

Event Report

IMANI Center for Policy and Education organised a National Sanitation Forum on the 20th of March, 2018 at the British Council in Accra, Ghana with the theme: “Ghana’s sanitation has failed. Why and how do we get it right?  This historic and timely event successfully brought together key stakeholders in the sanitation industry including the Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources, Hon. Joseph Kowe Adda; the Mayor for Accra Metropolitan Assembly, Mr. Mohammed Adjei Sowah; a representative of the private waste management companies, Mr. Joseph Siaw Agyapong and an investigative journalist who has written extensively on sanitation in Ghana, Mr. Manasseh Azure Awuni.

The event started at 10:00 am with welcome remarks given by Mr. Franklin Cudjoe, Founding President and CEO of Imani Center for Policy and Education. According to Mr. Cudjoe, sanitation is an important area in Ghana that needs to be urgently addressed. He therefore called upon the government to pay critical attention to the sanitation issues in the country. Mr. Cudjoe then introduced the Keynote Speaker, Mr. Casely Ato Coleman as an IMANI Fellow who has over decades of experience in leadership, human resources and organizational development from the international development, profit and public sector. I

Mr. Ato Coleman began by stating that Ghana has failed as a country when it comes to issues of sanitation. According to him, efforts to solve sanitation problems in Ghana have failed in the past years primarily due to weak systems and institutions in the country. He referred to the UNDP 2012 Report on Economic Impact of Poor Sanitation in Ghana which highlighted that Ghana loses an alarming $79 million, with approximately 19,000 Ghanaians dying every year from diarrhoea as a result of poor sanitation. Mr. Coleman’s presentation adopted the systems wide organizational design approach which examined 5 main elements. These are: Values, Behaviour, Data, Knowledge Management and Operational Excellence. He added that a very weak organizational model can also account for some of the poor decision making taking place with respect to waste management in Ghana.

To conclude, Mr. Coleman recommended that there must be some clarity on separation of roles, checks and balances between the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development; the Community Water and Sanitation Agency; the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies; and the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, in order to efficiently co-ordinate efforts, expertise and resources. Mr. Coleman then encouraged the audience, stating that the war against filth in Ghana can be won, if the country endeavours to adopt the systems wide organizational design. He urged government, the private sector and citizens to be disciplined in order to create a ‘Ghana beyond borla[3]’. The full presentation can be accessed at: https://imaniafrica.org/2018/03/23/ghanas-sanitation-policy-strategy-failed-winning-war-waste-filth/

The next phase of the event witnessed a panel discussion that was moderated by Mr. Kofi Bentil (Senior Vice President of Imani). Mr Bentil initiated the discussion by probing the Minister of Sanitation on what its major mandate was. In the Minister’s response, he mentioned that the major mandate of the Ministry is to provide strategic direction to policies aimed at solving sanitation issues. He added that the ministry cannot control the local authorities since their mandate is limited to local administration. As such, the ministry is limited to giving strategic direction to the district assemblies on how to eradicate sanitation in their various districts. The Mayor for the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Mr. Mohammed Adjei Sowah in his initial submissions indicated that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly is an autonomous body and not under the Ministry of Sanitation. Hon. Adda then confirmed that his Ministry can give direction on strategies and systems to adopt to solve the sanitation in the country but they cannot interfere in each other’s activities. He further mentioned that government has plans of procuring equipment for waste management companies. Hon. Adda’s presentation can be found at: https://youtu.be/AY_P15MSq3Q

According to Mr. Adjei Sowah, the Assembly has worked assiduously to address the liquid waste problem of Accra with the construction three liquid waste plants at Lavenda Hill. He also mentioned that in the next few months, the assembly will launch the Accra beautification project by which AMA intends to bring on board a number of interventions to improve the sanitation condition in Accra. Mr. Sowah’s presentation can be found at:

Mr. Manasseh Azure Awuni in his presentation stated that the problem of sanitation in Ghana is due to the monopoly and corruption problem as well as the weak enforcement of laws. He indicated his belief in the ability of the District Assemblies to help in waste management compared to the pseudo-monopoly around the issuing of government contracts to one company, Zoomlion, which is a subsidiary of the Jospong Group of Companies. Mr. Azure was confident that the monopoly still exists in the sanitation sector and thus, must be eliminated to allow other companies and the private sector to help in cleaning the country. He provided an example of a landfill site he visited at Kumasi in the Ashanti Region which has been well managed by another private company. He believes if the monopoly is removed, other companies can step in and help to manage waste effectively. Mr. Azure finally recommended that there is a need for a campaign towards changing the attitude and mentality of the public on waste management. Mr. Azure’s presentation can be assessed at: https://youtu.be/jD_hW__ZLKo

The moderator, Mr. Kofi Bentil, gave Mr. Joseph Siaw Adjepong the floor to make his submissions, with which he began with the fact that the private sector has done their best to manage waste in Ghana and as such, should be commended. He added that there is a problem of sanitation in Ghana also pointing to the non-enforcement of laws, as a major reason why. He went on to state that the private sector has all the infrastructure needed to manage waste in Ghana and gave an example of Zoomlion, a waste management company that has introduced a compost plant in Ghana which turns rubbish into fertilizers. He revealed that Zoomlion alone had invested $40 million in a waste processing and cycling plant at Adjen Kotoku in the Ga West municipality and further plans to expand the 600 metric tonne waste treatment facility to a 2800 metric tonne capacity treatment plant.  He pleaded for the government’s support to help the private sector in managing waste in Ghana since they have all the necessary infrastructure to handle issues related to local waste management. Mr. Agyapong stressed that the country’s Environmental and Sanitation Policy developed in 1999 and revised in 2010, if implemented fully would help address the sanitation issues facing the country.


Interventions by Government

Hon. Adda said the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources discussed the upcoming launch of a national sanitation campaign as one of its flagship programs towards improving sanitation in the country. The campaign, he said, would be targeted at dealing with sanitation woes in the country.  He also mentioned that a 2,000 member strong sanitation brigade would be deployed across the country next month (April 2018) to ensure a clean environment. These sanitation officers will work together with Environmental Health Officers whose efforts have been inadequate in curbing and managing the problems related to sanitation in the country due to their lack of resources and poor capabilities. According to the Minister, the sanitation Brigades would enforce the Sanitation laws in the country to ensure that the various communities would be kept clean.


Engineer Kwabena Agyapong, an expert in waste management made a contribution by stating that, Ghana’s current method of collecting waste which is the landfill process is not the best approach for the country. According to him, landfilling serves as one of the greatest threats to human health in addition to its proven negative impact on the environment. He added that landfilling creates open access to scavenging animals, rodents and other disease vectors, it pollutes soil, groundwater and surface water as well as produces gases that contribute significantly to global warming. He suggested the anaerobic digestion (AD) and to a lesser extent incineration (Combined Heat and Power, CHP) may be the more appropriate and promising alternatives. By adopting this model, nutrients are recovered and recycled into the renewable energy which is produced.

The full video for the event can be assessed on IMANI’s YouTube Page at:  https://youtu.be/EO6QVU-1-_c


The event was recorded live on JOY FM and Metro TV. Our live media broadcast reached over half of Ghana’s population through radio and live Television broadcast. The event was reported by Ghana’s two of Ghana’s biggest state-owned newspapers, The Daily Graphic and The Ghanaian Times.  Additionally, the event was attended by 35 other media houses, 360 people including diplomats from the American, Netherlands, Denmark, Chinese, British and Nigeria embassies.  Kindly see below some media links.













Social Media                               


IMANI had a very vibrant and active social media team. The team created an events page on Facebook labelled “Ghana Sanitation Forum”. IMANI also conducted polls on social media a week before the event to get the public interested in the topic. Kindly see the questions and responses from the polls below in the appendix. The event was live on Facebook which reached over 202 views.



The event was also live on twitter trending with the hashtag #cleartheborla which means clear the rubbish on our streets. IMANI’s hashtag trended on twitter on the day of the event and happened to be among the top tweets for the day with 1,912 tweets.


Emergent Activity from the Sanitation Event

  1. There is the need to involve a multi-stakeholder approach in the sanitation debate. While there has been considerable work done by the private sector, they have not been equipped enough to handle the problems of sanitation.
  2. While Zoomlion Ghana limited has been assisted extensively through PPP arrangements, similar arrangements have not been available to other private companies. This means that the lion’s share of assistance has been going to only one company, creating what looks like a pseudo-monopoly. This has served to discredit the incorruptibility of Zoomlion and has served to make it look like a conduit for funds to be funnelled for corruption since it is the sole benchmark for waste-related activity in the private sector.
  3. The extension of assistance to other players like Jakora and J Stanley Owusu, will serve to broaden the strength of ESPA as a composite and not be seen as the instrument of only one company.
  4. Also emerging will be the need to look beyond landfills as the sole method of effective waste disposal. Innovation should be encouraged as it creates more opportunities for the industry and serves to ensure that other players are also encouraged to utilize funding and investment opportunities that are emergent in the field, serving as a case study in Africa for better waste management.
  5. Perhaps, a far better way to exploit the narrative of “one bin to a house” will have to involve, especially in the urban areas, an important aspect of introducing waste separation, where organic waste, plastic waste and other categories could be disposed separately, much like the recycling approach that is adopted in more developed countries. This will ensure that bins that have been made available will be absorbed more effectively and lead to better options which will prevent our landfills from being exhausted immediately.
  6. It is recommended that data related to trucks usage of landfills be made public to ensure that people know that there is waste disposal actually going on. It would be very imperative that there should be a public register of the number of trucks disposing their tonnage of waste at Kpone and other landfills for it to be established as to whether they are efficient or not. This should also be the same for the composting plant at Adjen Kotoku to further deepen the credibility associated to such initiatives.
  7. It is important also that credence be given to the work of other private sector players as it collectively gives the right impression to the general public of activities that are being done to effectively manage the waste situation.
  8. There should be an active lobby by social and civil society to ensure that bins procured are used by the assemblies. Insofar as they have been procured, permission from the courts should be obtained to ensure that while the case is still going on in court, there would be the utilization of the bins in the interim
  9. The problem of access to bins in the more tightly and less navigable urban areas should not be ignored. These issues are more pervasive in areas like Nima, Ashaiman and other shanty enclaves of the city of Accra and other Ghanaian cities. If this means getting mini-bins or smaller size bins, these should be effectively utilized for temporary larger units, for which PPPs could be arranged for, since the biggest bins are not a one-size-fits-all solution.
  10. Linked heavily to this is the activity of the waste tricycles, popularly called Abobo Yaa. These do not operate along the most optimal lines since they are also responsible for breakdowns as well as streaking waste across the streets. Standards should be set for their operation and jurisdictional limits. These jurisdictional limits mean that they should only be allowed in certain zones, from which they are obligated to dump their refuse in transit centers. These transit centers should be bid for via the municipal and district assemblies, where they could be handled either via BO or BOT or PPP arrangements, whichever procurement methodology being transparent and clear enough to prevent reports of impropriety.
  11. IMANI needs to champion a public sanitation outreach through the Ghana Sanitation Forum to further expose the needs of the sector and the opportunities it could create in terms of job prospects, funding and its potential to industry. In so doing, a closed session with the AMA, and other metropolitan and municipal authorities in the Greater Accra area should be done. This should be done together with all waste stakeholders to establish competitive ground rules which will allow for more harmony and singularity of thought in the waste environment. Proposals should be made and resolutions that should establish a set of demands for government and state actors. This would be to trigger better aspects of the sanitation policy to be implemented and hold the state actors to their words.
  12. A culmination of activity therefore with a major summit should be public facing and showcase the full strength of the industry among the nation. It is recommended that this take place around June or July and should result in some landmark transformative decisions around sanitation. Strategically, IMANI has to position itself as the fulcrum around which all the transformative work began.
  13. The issue of the “polluter pays” policy should be reinterpreted to look at proactive measures to waste disposal. The banning of plastic bags is only just a cosmetic solution. There should be a policy around the disposal of plastic receptacles such as PET bottles, etc. In this direction, it is believed that PET bottle vendors, from the biggest companies like Voltic, Coca Cola, Accra Breweries (SabMiller), Guinness Ghana, Special Ice, etc should have a special contribution towards the payment and placement of bins in strategic areas, linking their work to private waste companies to help curb the menace of waste plastic, which breaks down into dangerous microplastics that affect our waterbodies.
  14. This issue in 13 above should be coagulated into a well-researched mini-policy document that IMANI should begin to look at championing as the blueprint towards environmentally sound, industrially friendly waste disposal which will change the narrative and sound out serious, practical action points that will begin to transform our plastic waste related activity.
  15. Beyond this, the issue of e-waste needs to begin tackling. It is an emergent point in the debate on sanitation but has been largely ignored since it hasn’t reared its head beyond the latent danger it proposes. The segregation of waste especially at communal sites should begin to look at this issue as it is a big problem especially in the urban shanty areas where people scavenge for e-waste. Beyond just taxing e-waste at our point of entry, we need to begin to develop executable solutions around it. Present at the event were quite a few e-waste practitioners, who were keen on offering solutions.
  16. The next IMANI event on sanitation should be a national sanitation fair, which will allow for full scale exhibitions by innovators and participants on their abilities to tackle the activity of waste disposal effectively, with very clear solution-based activities. At this event, the issues related to the benefits of the national bin policy should be clear, and the theme from now on the sanitation desk at IMANI should be directed clearly at making this a very necessary ideal.
  17. A proposal on this should earnestly begin to trigger what will be required by all stakeholders as IMANI’s paramount contribution to a sustainable Sanitation-As-An-Industry model that would be a template that any serious government can model around to begin to solve its own sanitation programmes. It not only adds credence to IMANI as the major trigger in this issue but sets us apart in terms of strategic narratives on the matter, further cementing this as some of our landmark activities in the 2018 operational year.

[1] Malhotra, A. (2015). 5 Things Mahatma Gandhi Said About Sanitation. WSJ. Available at: https://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2015/10/01/5-things-mahatma-gandhi-said-about-sanitation/ [Accessed 7 May 2018].

[2] Ibid

[3] A local name used to refer to rubbish or trash.


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