Naivasha, Kenya, 27 November 2014 - As the African youth population grows steadily and with no employment to match the growth, prudent solid waste management offers a huge opportunity to address the ticking unemployment bomb, a workshop heard on Wednesday.

Participants at the workshop in Naivasha town, to the west of Nairobi were told that rapid urbanisation in Africa was bringing with it the issue of growing solid waste but many countries on the continent did not know what to do with it, leading to pollution with the attendant negative consequences.

The Director of UN-Habitat’s Regional Office for Africa Ms. Axumite Gebre-Egziabher kicked off the pitch for waste management as a way of addressing unemployment.

“Kenya and indeed all of Africa has a huge youth bulge which if not occupied can be a problem. Waste management is one area that can provide unlimited opportunities for these young people. Waste management is easy to undertake because at the end of the day almost every individual can handle waste,” she said.

Titled ‘Towards Harnessing Waste and Developing a Sustainable Waste Management in Urban Kenya’, the three day Expert Group Meeting was organised to explore options for harnessing the above liquid and solid waste management challenges, and address governance gaps in Kenya’s secondary towns.

It has been organised by  UN-Habitat in collaboration with the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development, and the County Government of Kiambu, one of the 47 counties in Kenya.

Waste as a source of Opportunities

According to the Ms. Gebre-Egziabher wastes from various sources were an underutilized resource which if harnessed in the right manner could spin-off great benefits to those concerned. “Although it is often seen as a challenge, the truth is that waste can be a source of numerous opportunities if exploited well,” she said.

Addressing the meeting, the Deputy Governor of Kirinyaga County Mr. Julius Njiri said the nascent devolved units of government were faced with the problem of hazard disposal of solid waste which in many cases led to pollution.

“We must have deliberate and conscious plans to dispose of solid waste and one of the ways of doing this is to motivate waste managers to work even harder,” he said. According to Mr. Njiri, some of the challenges facing sustainable solid waste management included lack of cutting edge technology, lack of education and rigidity on the part of those involved.

In a message read on her behalf, the Principal Secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development Ms. Mariam El Maawy said that whereas the Kenyan government had done a lot towards improving sanitation, the challenge was always there to see to it that waste management is well taken care of.

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