Officials from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had recently come to Senegal to find a way out of sanitation issues. What are the solutions?
In fact, officials of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation came to Senegal as part of the financing of a pilot project launched six years ago. Technologies are being tested by the Foundation to help us solve sanitation problems on the African continent. Senegal has been chosen as a pilot country for the quality of its human capital, but also for the leadership of the public authorities to make a resolute commitment to solving sanitation problems.
We must have an innovative approach if we want to resolve the issues related to sanitation, appropriate responses but also a strong involvement of the private sector are expected. As this is a pilot project in Senegal, from the end of March 2018, we will proceed to a scaling up, that is to say, leave the pilot phase to start with an operational phase that will embrace the entire territory. This is an extremely important project for the future of sanitation in Africa. This project will be replicated in countries such as Mali, Burkina, Ivory Coast and English-speaking countries. The major goal is to address sanitation problems in Africa.
Your advocacy on autonomous sanitation is constant for both Senegal and other countries. What explains this commitment?
In fact this advocacy is in line with the foundations of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation approach. This is to show that with autonomous sanitation, we can find alternative ecological solutions because you do not necessarily throw water. We also promote economic solutions for the populations. That’s the foundation of the Bill Gates project. You know, there are two types of remediation. First, the collective sanitation that is found in Dakar with the pipes or the mains drainage. On the other hand, there is autonomous sanitation where we find the toilets and a sludge treatment plant. This sludge is used for income-generating activities related to energy, water production, fertilizer, etc. This is the principle of autonomous sanitation. It is better suited to Africa because collective sanitation is very expensive. If we take the example of ONAS, we have a set of books but we struggle to provide maintenance and upkeep. You also have very distant cities where there are not many populations. It would therefore be suicidal to do collective sanitation in this context. So you need autonomous sanitation.But you have to have a quality service for the system to work. It would therefore be suicidal to do collective sanitation in this context. So you need autonomous sanitation. But you have to have a quality service for the system to work. It would therefore be suicidal to do collective sanitation in this context. So you need autonomous sanitation. But you have to have a quality service for the system to work.
This is where the private sector can and should be. We need to agree that collective sanitation is not necessarily a panacea. We must also overcome resistance because autonomous sanitation is not a by-product even less a degrading product. The urgency is to stay in phase with a good quality of service to ensure good self-cleaning.
What is the current situation of sanitation in Africa?
Listen, sanitation is considered the poor relation of public policy. This is the sector where there is the least investment. As a result, no African country has achieved sustainable development goals in this sub-sector. Fortunately our governments are providing a lot of effort to turn the tide. We have also seen disparate levels of progress in Africa in this area. For example, it is assumed that Senegal is a fairly advanced country despite significant gaps noted here and there. On the other hand, in many African countries there is not much. What explains this di ff erence is that there are not enough fnancements and we often resort to solutions that are not suitable. We all think that we must make the collective while we do not necessarily have the means. In Senegal for example, we are still in the collective and we still face slippages such as theft of sewers, illegal connections, poor wastewater management. It is difficult to move forward on the indicators.
If in Africa, we put half of the collective sanitation investments in the autonomous sanitation, we would have reached the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But it is not too late and the public authorities have understood the need to change the paradigm. We are at a very important turning point that should lead to better access to sanitation in Africa.
Finally, what is the added value of sanitation still considered somewhere as a luxury in Africa?
First of all, good sanitation saves resources on health-related expenses. If you spend very little in sanitation, you will spend a hundred times more in a few years for health care populations. We can not talk about public health without talking about an adequate and functional sanitation system. We must focus on appropriate sanitation. Unfortunately our countries have so many challenges (security, health, education, hydraulics, etc.) but there is a direct correlation between health and what we do. Senegal has understood this because over the last three years, the level of investment is more than 200 billion FCFA. But the gap is still huge because the demand is very strong. In this vein,In addition to sanitation, you are interested in development issues that are shaking the continent.
What appreciations do you make of the major trends of the economies in Africa?
Africa faces enormous challenges. I think that the challenge of the birth rate remains our first concern. We can not continue like this without solving the problems of the population. The second challenge is related to industrialization, the creation of added value. When we look at our countries, we are talking about growth rates of 7 to 8%, with a few exceptions with a strong predominance of the exploitation of raw materials. See, countries like Chad or Angola are in trouble because the price of a barrel of oil has dropped. We actually have artificial growths.
In addition to the control of demographic issues, our continent must turn resolutely towards the structural transformation of our industries. It’s about finding ways to transform products to create value and jobs. This assumes prerequisites. First you need a market. With the opening of borders born of recent agreements, developed countries can be gateways as they are now for China. Secondly, an attractive legal environment is needed to allow foreign investors to avoid apprehension. We are in a highly competitive and ruthless international environment; we must work to prevent investors from investing in Asia rather than Africa.
We must also invest more in education and training for human capital to cope with the many challenges that challenge us. To think that France, China, India or Turkey will develop Africa is to be wrong. We must avoid finding scapegoats to explain our situation. China has lived worse with Japanese colonization but has turned the page to work, focus on the present and the future.
by Albert SAVANA