“The commitment I want to make, and for all of us to make, is that by the end of my term in office, Accra will be the cleanest city on the entire African continent. That is the commitment I am making to you.”
These were the words of President Akufo-Addo when the President of the Ngleshie Alata Traditional Council, Oblempong Nii Kojo Ababio V, together with the Chiefs and People of Jamestown, enstooled him as a Chief of Jamestown, with the stool name "Nii Kwaku Ablade Okogyeaman.”
It is exactly two years when President Akufo-Addo made that emphatic declaration on April 23, 2017, to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa at the end of his term in office.
This declaration came on the heels of the deteriorating sanitation challenge in the country that had left the city of Accra suffocating with filth.
Two years down the line, the big questions that beg for answers are: how far have we come as a country in making Accra the cleanest city in Africa?: “Can we beat our chest and say yes, we are on course to rid our city of filth?,” “Are we losing or winning the fight against filth?”
Following that ambitious target, the newly created Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources (MSWR) was charged with the mandate to provide policy direction and lead the way to rid the country of filth.
In 2018, the government allocated GH¢200,000 to the MSWR to roll out initiatives that would help to tackle the sanitation challenge head-on.
On March 9, 2018, former sector minister, Mr Joseph Adda, gave a strong indication that at the policy level, the ministry was finalising processes for the creation of a national sanitation fund and a national sanitation authority to facilitate efforts to rid the country of filth.
He also said plans were advanced to recruit sanitation brigades and marshals in the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) in an effort to decentralise the battle against filth in the country.
The minister was speaking at a sanitation forum organised by the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) to rally support by stakeholders to wage a relentless fight against filth.
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (A.M.A.) also rolled out a number of initiatives, including a door-to-door and communal collection service of waste for households and communities to rid the city of filth.
In collaboration with environmental service providers such as Zoomlion Ghana Limited and Jekorah Ventures, the use of motorised tricycles and trucks for collecting refuse from one point to the other until it gets to the final destination at landfill sites has become the order of the day.
The A.M.A. has also carried out decongestion exercises in major areas of the city and set up sanitation courts at strategic locations to put the fear of God in sanitation offenders.
The current picture
Although some efforts had been made to tackle the waste management challenges, it is crystal clear that making Accra attain the status of “cleanest city in Africa” remains a tall order if not a mirage.
On daily basis, the newspaper spaces, the screens of televisions, and the airwaves are replete with reports of filth that has engulfed the city.
While the gutters are still pregnant with tons of plastics and other waste materials, the shoulders of roads that lead to many parts of the city have yielded to the nuisance posed by piles of rubbish that remain uncollected for days.
Anytime it rains, the choked gutters and drains vomit tonnes of plastic waste and paint an ugly but real picture of the dire sanitation situation in the country.
A visit to some parts of Accra still brings to the fore the harsh reality of a city that is bowing its head in shame and confessing to losing its aesthetic value to the filth that has engulfed it.
The doubting Thomases only need to try a walk through town to buy yams from the Old Fadama slum, or foodstuff from notable markets such as Agbogbloshie, London Market at James Town, Abossey Okai, CMB, Mallam Atta, Kaneshie, and Tema Station.
They may as well visit slum communities such as Nima, Zongo, Ashaiman, and Chorkor and appreciate the reality on the ground.
The premises of many business entities are also inundated with filth. For instance, the premises of the string of companies that line up the route from Graphic Road that links the Agbogbloshie-Abossey Okai Road including Glostal Aluminium Systems, Japan Motors, Somochem Ghana Limited, Foton, are so filthy and leaves so much to be desired.
I do not need to tell you about the nasty scenes at our beaches that were supposed to be a place to relieve boredom and stress.
If revellers are not greeted with tonnes of plastic waste that have been thrown up by the sea, they will definitely be welcomed by the offensive stench emanating from human waste resulting from open defecation.
Being the capital city, Accra is always in the eye of the world and the poor sanitation paints a bad picture of the country.
If the President’s declaration to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa will be a reality in the near future, then there is the need for a massive overhaul in the way things are done from the policy-making level to the “man on the street.”
The government must keep its word to establish a National Sanitation Authority, a sanitation fund and also deploy sanitation marshals across the MMDAs in the country.
There is the need for a coordinated and integrated approach involving related ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to tackle the sanitation challenge head-on.
A strong political will to push through tough measures that may serve as an antidote to the sanitation challenge is essential.
All state and non-state actors including traditional authorities, faith-based organisations (FBOs) must rise up and be counted to make the call for Accra to be the cleanest city in Africa a reality.
After all, the effect of poor sanitation spares no one.