Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene are key ingredients for the well-being of people, especially women and girls. Significant inequalities exist between urban and rural communities in the supply and consumption of clean water. Rapid urbanization in Africa has increased the population in slums where water shortage is one of the most acute challenges. Local governments are fighting hard to turn the threat of water scarcity into an opportunity for their citizens. The municipalities of Kumasi, in Ghana, and Kigali, in Rwanda are two African cities breaking new ground to bring water and sanitation to their people.

Striving to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6, “clean water and sanitation for all”, the municipalities of Kigali and Kumasi are working hard to achieve this objective.

The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly is tackling the lack of adequate private toilets by training unemployed youth to build low-cost ones for private households.

Kigali City is introducing a comprehensive solution in residential buildings that introduces stormwater capture, flood mitigation and smart waste sensor technologies to reduce residents’ dependency on commercial water and keep solid waste from polluting the environment.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized its first “Local Solution series” online on Tuesday 4th April 2023, more than 30 participants attended the event online. This is what we learnt from the event:

Kumasi – the problem 

In Kumasi, 50% of its 1.2 million population lack access to household toilets. In the community of Moshie Zongo, only a 16% of households have access to private toilet facilities. The area has a population of 13.740 inhabitants, with 54 % being women and girls. This appalling health situation is one that Joshua Tetteh, Project Supervisor of the 2021-2022 Global Mayors Challenge-winning project in Kumasi, is not comfortable with.

“What is worrying about this problem at Moshie Zongo is that it is a community dominated by women and girls. Most of the households are without access to private toilets hence resorting to public toilets which are poorly managed. Whenever they use the toilets, they have to remove all their clothes in the open before entering the toilets. It’s a worrying situation in the community,” Tetteh frowns at the situation.

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Kumasi – the intervention

Kumasi is developing a sustainable financing scheme through soft loans offered to residents to build toilets in their homes. The city is also training young people to build locally designed toilets.

It is hoped that the scheme will eventually end open defecation and keep women and girls safe in the neighborhood. The project “Kumasi Sanitation Revolving Fund” will build nine hundred and fifteen toilets to be constructed as bio-digesters that are easy to maintain.

Kigali – the intervention

The City of Kigali is improving the living conditions of two newly upgraded informal neighborhoods: Mpazi and Busanza by introducing a rainwater harvesting and smart solid waste management system as an alternative and affordable water source.

Project Supervisor of the 2021-2022 Global Mayors Challenge-winning project in Kigali, David Musonera is concerned by the deteriorating sanitary situation and sheds light on the solution ahead.

“About 8094 households that occupy these neighborhoods do not have enough resources for paying off water bills supplied by the water cooperation, thus limiting water usage due to high costs. In some of the informal settlements in Kigali, people dump their waste anywhere they want, and it takes months for it to be collected; that’s why we want to introduce and build a smart waste collection to improve sanitation in Kigali,” Musonera explains.

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The Kumasi and Kigali local governments are contributing to Agenda 2030 with innovative solutions around the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

Regarding Goal 6 “clean water and sanitation for all” Kigali intends to reduce household water expenditure by approximately 50% from US$12 a month to US$6 per month for 1,405 households by 2025. Kumasi aims at decreasing the number of people resorting to open defecation by installing more private toilets in the community.

Concerning Goal 8 “decent work and economic growth” , Kumasi envisages training more young women and men in Moshie Zongo to achieve full and productive employment by 2025. 

On Goal 11 “sustainable cities and communities”, Kigali plans to install seven smart waste sensors for efficient and real-time collection of waste by in project communities by 2025.

The session provided an opportunity for the two cities to learn from each other. 

Participants from the public were also given the opportunity to ask questions and comment on issues raised. 

The discussion also addressed technical and practical issues.



Pilot projects always entail risks, especially when funds are available to target only a small part of the city’s population. Decisions need to take into consideration the importance to implement and showcase results while ensuring sustainability and serving the residents in the long term. The involvement of stakeholders is paramount for a project to be successful. Without community involvement, it is a big challenge for a project to succeed. Both cities expressed that including users is a must to ensure sustainability.

The involvement of everyone in the community will make a big difference.


Water and sanitation are very technical issues, but technical solutions do not need to be complicated: many times going back to more traditional or nature-based solutions can be the response to modern challenges.

In Kumasi, for example, the construction of a communal septic tank that stores waste from several households was proposed as a practical solution to address the challenge of limited space associated with dense communities.


Allowing the community to play a lead role in the development of an intervention is key to sustainability as this ensures ownership and facilitates implementation.  Acknowledging the importance of partnerships is also key to the successful implementation of projects. 

The role of important stakeholders such as traditional authorities, faith-based organizations, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations is crucial to the successful implementation of projects.

As cities continue to spearhead innovation in the provision of basic services, it is worthwhile to provide them with platforms to share their stories and learn from others. 

The “Sharing Local Action” series of webinars want to bring cities together to talk about their concrete problems and specific solutions to innovate city management. It is believed that concrete solutions and local capacities are what we need to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.