By Piet Vroeg, programme manager EJOM at WASTE
The unemployment rate in Mali is almost 10%, and youth employment is reaching 25%. At the same time, the water & sanitation situation in Mali is characterised by serious challenges, causing major health issues, from unhealthy living circumstances, diseases and decreased productivity.
Since 2017 we have been working on systemic employment challenges in the four cities (regions) of Kayes, Koulikoro, Gao and the district of Bamako in the project EJOM (“Creating Jobs for Young People in Mali”). In this project we combine Mali’s employment challenge with the need for better waste management and safe sanitation, and turn these into a triple-win situation – for the governments of the four cities and for its people: employment creation, increased health and the development of a circular economy.
The waste sector may provide interesting employment opportunities for these youth. Although it is not the silver bullet for unemployment, recycling and adding value to waste can provide decent jobs for these young people. This is the case for solid waste with the recycling of commodities like plastic, organic material or metal but also for the sanitation sector. Just think about the building of toilets or the treatment of human waste into fertilizer biogas or briquettes.
Whereas much emphasis is already being put on solid waste management in these cities, we see that more impact can be made by also working on circular sanitation systems. The economy of building toilets, pit emptying, faecal sludge management and reuse is still underexposed, while holding an untapped potential for both job creation and increased health for the Malian people.
Public private collaboration
In the project we therefore advise cities to broaden their horizon from solid waste to human waste, and increase their collaboration with private sector in waste management – both solid and human waste. By promoting the development of SMEs in sanitation and waste management; training young people how to become active in the solid waste collection and plastic recycling businessand improving existing ones to help them to grow and create employment, we were able to contribute to the employment of young men and women.
Stimulating existing waste & sanitation businesses
In working with multiple stakeholders, including businesses and governments, we found that the biggest challenge in employment programs is how to increase the “pull” force of the private sector in a responsible and sustainable manner. Existing companies need to be stimulated and supported to develop their business and create sustainable wealth using the principles of a circular economy. This should stimulate the creation of decent and responsible jobs. The big question is how to organize the effort, how to align the roles of NGO’s, government, financial institutes, business and consumers towards more sustainable wealth.
Lessons from the EJOM project
If you are working on the cutting edge of waste management, sanitation and job creation, please bear in mind these three lessons we’ve learnt over the last three years in the EJOM project:
Note: The project was funded by the EU Trust Fund to contribute to the development of economic opportunities in horticulture and organic farming, agribusiness, handicrafts, solid waste management and food chains in urban agriculture. This project is being carried out in a consortium with SNV, ICCO and APEJ.
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