The future of waste in Accra

Born and raised in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, our Project Accountant Francis Owusu knows about the need for Safi Sana’s work first-hand. Here, he gives us his perspective of Safi’s work in Accra, and how he plans to contribute to it.

I’m proud to be Ghanaian, and to have been raised and educated here in Accra, one of the great cities of Africa. It’s one of the most peaceful and stable African capitals, and people here are very friendly and hospitable – everybody you meet on the street is ready to lend a hand. It’s now also becoming very cosmopolitan. People want to do business in Accra – it’s a great place to be.

Accra used to have a small population, but over time it has expanded massively. The latest figures show that we have around 2.4 million inhabitants, but that number is projected to rise even further to 3.3 million in 2030. Where waste is concerned, this is causing a serious problem – we are dealing with more waste than ever, but we don’t really know how to handle it. Often, it gets dumped on the wayside or in gutters. The rainy seasons are dreadful for us – our gutters overflow and our neighbourhoods become flooded with debris and waste, causing major disruption to our whole system. Last week we lost around ten lives, and that was just in Accra alone. With more and more people now migrating here, the city and municipal authorities are struggling more than ever to deal with this situation. There are only a few companies here that manage waste, and the technology to manage it effectively hasn’t been rolled out on a full scale yet. What is clear, though, is that there are great opportunities to do something about it.

The rainy seasons are dreadful for us – our gutters overflow and our neighbourhoods become flooded with debris and waste, causing major disruption to our whole system.

I started working with Safi Sana in February 2018. What really struck me about the organization was their hands-on approach in tackling the problem of waste management in this part of the world, and the way they link that with renewable energy. It’s a brilliant concept. I’ve spent most of my professional life working in the service and manufacturing industries, working with international organisations, as well as working for my own consultancy firm, designing and implementing accountancy systems and dealing with tax advisory services for small and medium-sized businesses.

The waste management and renewable energy sectors are still relatively new to me, but in the months that I’ve been here, I’ve been really impressed with Safi Sana’s work on community engagement. Safi Sana is really successful in engaging the community in the whole process, from the waste intake to the conversion into compost. At every step of the way, these tasks are done by the people in the community. The local people are really engaged with it, and they see the benefits.

Safi Sana is really successful in engaging the community in the whole process, from the waste intake to the conversion into compost.

Safi Sana is the smallest company I’ve worked for, and that has presented a real opportunity for me to contribute to and shape the work we’re doing. Because it’s a small enterprise – not small in terms of what we can contribute, but in terms of manpower – I’m looking at refining our processes to make sure that they are as efficient as possible. I also keep a very close eye on the legal regimes where we operate, in terms of taxations and regulations. You can be severely punished for overlooking these, so it’s really critical that we pay close attention to them.

In terms of project procurement and financial controls, I’m looking at maximising the financial value of our work – how do we bring as much value as possible to every $1 spent by Safi Sana? We have a small management team who are mostly focused on technical issues, but it’s crucial to have strong financial foundations to back up our work on the ground. Without that, you might be doing good work, but you’re not bringing value. So that’s a big part of my role – managing the numbers, the balance sheet and the cash flow, to provide reliable financial analysis behind our blueprints for donors and funders.

It’s crucial to have strong financial foundations to back up our work on the ground. Without that, you might be doing good work, but you’re not bringing value.

The work that Safi Sana is doing is very different to what I’ve worked on before, and it’s a really exciting project to be part of. Just yesterday I received a call from a company based in Rwanda, who are working on a similar project to us on waste management and renewable energy for the local community. They wanted to come and visit our factory to understand our process. Rwanda is known for being one of the biggest success stories in Africa, so for a Rwandan company to be looking at us, in Ghana, as an example of best practice is really inspiring. The University of Ghana also visits us to see what we do in our factory and our greenhouse, to share knowledge, which is also really inspiring to see.

There are great opportunities that lie ahead in Ghana, not just for Safi Sana, but for the waste-to-resources industry as a whole. Safi Sana is helping the community by providing solutions for toilet waste, and also by turning that waste into other products that will benefit the community. If we continue to grow, and continue to refine our processes and our technology, it’s entirely possible that we could one day supply energy to the whole of Ghana.

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