We first met Robi in 2018 when he became a research assistant on our project exploring the motivations of plot owners to uptake (or not) property rights in the informal settlements of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In fact, a major aim of the project was to help build capacity with students of Tanzania’s only dedicated land and planning university – Ardhi University – by training them in embedded fieldwork practices and methods as they became our assistants and enumerators. Since that time, we have worked with Ardhi’s students (both current and former) on numerous occasions, and will continue to do so through both research and innovative teaching outreach, which brings together MSc students from Ardhi and the LSE around the issue of planning for sustainable cities. Robi’s project is a prime example of the creativity, innovation and dedication that we have found so inspiring. We wish him every success in bringing this innovative response to the problem of waste management to fruition!
In recent decades, many major Tanzania cities have been growing at an alarming speed, creating several infrastructural issues including the inadequate provision of services such as water, sanitation, sewage disposal and waste collection, and poor and insufficient transport networks. Compounding the negative impacts that such infrastructural deficiencies can have on economic practice and economic growth, inadequate land use planning and a general lack of information, resources and capacities have made it very difficult to proactively plan for, and invest in, better urban development, and to reach worthy aspirations like inclusive growth.
One particular issue that has drawn much attention is waste collection, wherein limited investment in collection services, an absence of planned waste recycling systems, inaccessible roads, and the weak implementation of municipal laws and bylaws governing waste disposal have meant that supply in no way meets demand. That is not to say that local governments and a variety of other actors and institutions have not attempted to increase capacity or to provide finances – especially given the significant impact that a lack of waste collection can have on health outcomes. However, where waste collection services have been implemented, they have all too often suffered the effects of limited scheduling, short-term contracts and inadequate fees and fee-collection rates, making it almost impossible for waste collection firms to survive. Moreover, in some cases, a lack of support and/or financial oversight has resulted in funds being misused or misappropriated.
Waste Management in Tanzania: Practice, Successes and challenges
The spatial expansion of Tanzania’s major cities has been spurred by population growth, which in turn has increased the production of waste of various types from different activities. All of these wastes need to be properly managed for the benefit of city inhabitants in terms of good health, hygiene and sanitation. In order to tackle issues of waste management, it is of paramount importance to address its generation, storage, collection, transport and disposal. Municipal authorities in the cities of Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Mbeya and Arusha have been directly responsible for ensuring waste management, often outsourcing this important task to private service providers. However, to date, and for a variety of reasons, the outsourcing of waste collection and disposal to private operators has not proved very effective. Among the approaches used in waste management, landfill is most popular, accompanied by a minimal level of recycling. These and other approaches need operators to be highly organized in terms of the collection and transportation of wastes. They require a geographical area with an efficient transport network, including passable roads. They rely on the transparent tracking of revenues collected, and the assurance that all stakeholders (including casual laborer) can reap the benefits from the scheme or project. And, at a basic operational level, they demand a fleet of reliable trucks, capable of reaching the most difficult sites without regular breakdown.
Potential role of digitalization on waste management
In Tanzania, there are nearly forty-three million cell phone devices used in the country with approximately 50% of phone subscribers using the internet. This provides a great opportunity for Municipal Institutions and the private sector to utilize this digital and mobile resource to solve some of its social challenges like waste management, sanitation and hygiene. In the case of waste management, a digital system could be used not only to identify the location of where the waste may be collected from (linking the serviced house to the private or municipal provider), but also to manage the whole exercise of waste management – from planning to budgeting to the provision of safety gear. Indeed, a well-designed digital system could ensure that all waste generation points in a selected area are identified and communicated to a range of service providers, making the central coordination of supply to demand much simpler, clearer and efficient.
Our Proposed Solution
Our proposed solution to this issue takes an innovative, green and inclusive approach to waste management, collection and disposal. We propose the implementation of a digital platform that will allow the identification of waste generation points and the management of collection by allocating registered service providers to registered users, thereby ensuring that all collection points are covered as expected. Furthermore, unregistered residents and other potential users like industries and hotels can request waste collection services through the platform. Moreover, the platform will also enable payments to be made for prepaid services and subscription packages, as well as allowing payments back to users and ensuring that government receives its shares of revenues collected.
Our unique value proposition
The fundamental concept behind the platform lies in the fact that low-income populations are highly sensitive to the price of waste collection at the same time as requiring a better service. Importantly, our unique solution takes into consideration the potential value that waste holds and how it can be harnessed through a simple and user-friendly digital system that not only manages waste collection and disposal, but will also leverage income to the community through their participation in waste sorting. Indeed, our solution is designed to ensure all income groups involved in the process – including those on low incomes – benefit somehow.
Our unique value proposition lies in the following features:
- User Friendly : One tap to get a service, flexibility of use offline, and use of simple language.
- Cost effectiveness : Effective route planning, efficient revenue pooling, agglomeration of service providers.
- User benefit : Every sorted bag of waste will enable the owner to earn money.
- Inclusivity : All income groups involved in the process together with other stakeholders are collectively committed to cleaning the city.
The concept completely changes the traditional waste management system as it encourages waste sorting in homes, reminds residents to tap for services, and lowers operational costs through efficient planning and increased coverage.
Piloting the idea/concept: the role of partnerships
Having developed the concept, the proposed next step is piloting the concept through conducting pilot studies in some urban areas of Tanzania. The proposed pilot studies shall be implemented in Tanzanian major cities. The scope of pilot studies including the cities and wards where the pilot will be conducted shall be determined at a later stage. At this moment, the ESRF through Tanzania Urbanization Laboratory is looking for collaborating partners with interest in working this area to join hands in further sharpening of the concept, resource mobilization and implementation of the pilots.
The primary contact person for this initiative is Mr. Robinson Kisyombe whose particulars are indicated below
Mr. Robinson John Kisyombe
Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF),
51 Uporoto Street, Ursino Estate,
P.O.Box 31226, Dar es Salaam.