Exploring the circular economy of urban organic waste in sub-Saharan Africa: opportunities and challenges

Abstract: Globally, there is increasing awareness of the importance of applying circular economy principles to the management of organic waste streams through resource recovery. In the urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa which are going to host a significant part of population growth over the next three decades, this is especially relevant. Circular economy approaches for sanitation and waste management can provide incentives to improve infrastructure and consequently contribute resources for water, energy and food that power urban livelihoods. This thesis is situated at the intersection of the circular economy on one hand and sanitation and waste management systems on the other. It aims to contribute to knowledge about the circular economy by investigating the potential contribution of resource-oriented urban sanitation and waste management towards the implementation of a circular economy in sub-Saharan Africa and the opportunities and challenges thereof.In pursuit of the above aim, the thesis employs a mixed methods approach and is operationalized in two case study locations: Kampala (Uganda) and Naivasha (Kenya). The findings reveal the quantities of resource recovery products like biogas, compost and black soldier fly larvae that can be obtained from the organic waste streams collected in a large city, demonstrate the viability of valorizing dried faecal sludge as a solid fuel for industrial applications, and identify the factors that facilitate or impede the governance capacity to implement circular economy approaches to the management of organic waste streams in urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa. The methods used for quantifying the potential for valorizing organic waste streams and for assessing governance capacity demonstrate approaches that could be applied in other urban contexts with interest in implementing circular economy principles. The discussion highlights some key implications of these findings for sanitation and waste management practices, arguing that it is time for a shift in sub-Saharan Africa from designing sanitation and waste management systems for disposal to designing them for resource recovery.