AMA, why ignore the Assin Kushea sanitation expertise?

BY: By Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

The news last week, that a delegation from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly had travelled to Kigali, Rwanda, to study their sanitation management made intriguing reading.

It also brought to mind the sanitation success story of a town in Ghana’s Central Region, Assin Kushea, and the sanitation system there spearheaded, by their innovative chief, Ehunoabobrim Prah Agyinsaim.

As reported by the Daily Graphic of May 5, under the headline ‘AMA delegation in Kigali to understudy sanitation system’:

“A 15-member delegation from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly is in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, to learn at first-hand the waste management system of that city.”

It included the Africa Environmental Sanitation Consult (AFESC), the research and consultancy firm of sanitation experts, Zoomlion, and some journalists.

Its joint leaders were the Metropolitan Chief Executive, Mohammed Adjei Sowah, and the Managing Director of the AFESC, Dr Abena Asomaning Antwi.

“At a briefing in Kigali Mr. Sowah explained that ‘we are here to learn about their waste management system and the good sanitation practices that we can replicate to make Accra and Ghana clean’.

“He expressed the hope that at the end of the visit ‘we would have learnt something that the city of Kigali is doing to establish their status as the cleanest city in Africa (emphasis added).’”

I think that it’s highly commendable that the AMA is taking steps to get to grips with the capital city’s intractable sanitation problem.

But why did the AMA not look for a role model closer home, like Assin Kushea?

Doubtless, a much cheaper option, too, apart from other advantages.

Assin Kushea, came to my attention in 2019 when it made headlines because its impressive sanitation achievements had led to it being acclaimed as Ghana’s cleanest town.

By all accounts the feat was achieved through the creative leadership of Ehunoabobrim Prah Agyinsaim VI, the Paramount Chief of the Owirenkyiman Traditional Area, whose capital town is Assin Kushea.

His formidable sanitation leadership earned him the title of ‘Sanitation Ambassador’, conferred on him on July 13, 2019 by Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Ms Cecilia Dapaah on behalf of the Ghana Government.

Part of the citation read: “You have distinguished yourself and bestowed the virtues of cleanliness in the town which is in line with the vision of the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to keep Ghana clean. In recognition of this laudable achievement, the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources acknowledges you and bestows on you this day, this special citation as a Sanitation Ambassador.”

Thus, one would have expected that if a delegation was being sent to another country to learn about sanitation management, this Sanitation Ambassador, given his relevant, proven expertise, would have been on that delegation.

According to other reports, the total delegation comprised some 30 people, but Nana Prah Agyinsaim was not named as one of them.

Maybe a case of ‘a prophet not being accepted in his hometown’?

What I find even more difficult to understand is why the AMA has apparently ignored somebody who has devised a sanitation management scheme that is working in Ghana.

In seeking direction, surely a meeting with the Paramount Chief to discuss how he did it, and is still doing it, would have been useful for the AMA?

After all, the Assin Kushea model is homegrown, developed with Ghanaian attitudes, perspectives and challenges factored in.

I guess the Kigali visit is perhaps an indication of the anxiety of Accra Mayor Mr. Sowah to find a workable, sustainable sanitation game plan.

But isn’t what Nana Agyinsaim is demonstrating in Assin Kushea one solution?

True, with a population of only 8,000 Assin Kushea’s sanitation challenges are nowhere near those of Accra.

Nevertheless, in my view, there is no reason why what has been developed by Ehunoabobrim and his team can’t be used to formulate a workable plan for Accra.

Also, from what one reads, Rwanda is an admirably very disciplined and orderly society, meaning that the sanitation success story has been built on a foundation of discipline.

Does the Accra population have that attribute of ‘a disciplined people’?

Secondly, although President Nana Akufo-Addo has vowed to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa, is it not possible that other countries, including Rwanda, also seek that coveted description for their capital?

It’s noteworthy that even now, Kigali is being described as such in some quarters.

That being the case, is it prudent to look for management tips from a potential rival?

Why should Kigali want to share their ‘trade secrets’ with a rival for that revered title?

The way I see it, in order to do as well as Kigali, the AMA would even first have to get them to teach Ghana how they achieved the discipline that Rwanda is famed for, before they can apply the Rwandan sanitation management magic in Accra.

Again, why do we need to look for answers to Accra’s sanitation problem abroad when we have a ready-made role model right here in Ghana, close to Accra, too, in the Central Region?

This is the question some people are asking and I side with them.

Videos about Assin Kushea tell a compelling story of cleanliness, symbolised, for a start, by arrays of distinctive litter bins everywhere.

The huge oil barrels converted into litter bins are painted in the Ghana national colours, certainly an ingenious approach to beat litter bin thieves.

In the past, the AMA even resorted to drilling holes in litter bins to stop people stealing them for use at home for water storage!

I believe that no matter what insights and strategies the delegation brought from Kigali, it would be wrong for the AMA to continue to ignore Nana Agyinsaim’s expertise and accomplishment.

At the very least, what was learned in Kigali could be combined with the Assin Kushea methods to achieve the sanitation success that has eluded successive AMA administrations for so long.

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