From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

The burden of waste in 21st-century Africa

Maria Cristina Lavagnolo and Valentina Grossule


It is well known that the development of a country rests on the creation of jobs and the distribution of wealth among its population. Today many African countries are facing such an opportunity with enthusiasm, and this is giving a positive impulse to lifestyles and socio-cultural activities. However, as recent history from other parts of the world shows, the downside of this process is the wide-ranging impacts of the increasing demands of water, energy and raw materials to feed the new economy, as well as the huge quantities of waste produced by new activities and new consumers. A further concern is the African population growth. Between 2017 and 2050, 1.3 billion people will be located mainly in urban areas, with an expected waste production of 244 million tonnes by 2025, which, if not properly managed, may negatively affect the environment and dramatically downsize the advantages of economic development. In case of inappropriate waste management, the cost to society exceeds the financial cost per capita by a factor of 5-10. The protection of the environment is an urgent issue in Africa, because of the general lack of attention to the impacts human activities have on natural resources. This paper looks at waste management and at the related threats and challenges that the continent is going to face due to its fast economic growth, with the aim of raising awareness on what may be called ‘fake’ progress.


Africa, waste, pollution, environment, sustainable development



Vai ad inizio pagina keyboard_arrow_up