Africa Water and Sanitation Local Authorities Network
  • Almost 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa relies on a water source that is more than 30 minutes away from the household.
  • 26% of Africa's population (244 million) has a piped water connection on their premises.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for over a third of the world's 884 million people who still do not get their drinking water from improved sources.
  • Africa has 9% of global freshwater resources, but 15% of the global population.

Senegal: One man’s waste is another’s treasure

Today there are still more than 2 billion people worldwide who do not have access to proper sanitation and drinking water. Annually more than 700 000 children die due to contaminated food and or water. In developing countries half of the patients in hospital, are there due to illness related to poor access to improved drinking water and safe sanitation.

In Dakar, 1.2 million people have no access to sewer lines instead the household has pits that need to be emptied once they are full. The Gates Foundation together with Janicki Bioenergy, an engineering firm based north of Seattle, has set out to change these statistics with a pilot study that has just become operational in Senegal. The use of water borne sanitation is often impractical for poor countries and in particular for urban poor communities as they require massive infrastructure which are costly to implement and maintain. This led to the Gates Foundation putting out a call for a new solution a few years ago and the Omniprocessor was born. Janicki, the developers of the Omniprocessor, have set up their plant in Dakar but the company invested a great deal in researching the best methods for connecting with the community and picking a convenient location. In the past the trend has been to upgrade and or build extensive sewage systems in urban poor areas, but this project is built around realistic solutions for an ever growing urban poor community through sustainable innovations that are aimed at reaching renewable goals. The Omniprocessor is unique due to the fact that, unlike other waste treatment plants, it makes use of a steam engine which makes it cheaper to run. In addition, the energy produced by the burning process is enough to keep the engine running and have some surplus left over. This means that the plant is entirely self-sufficient with a little surplus and the ability to add energy into the grid. Another critical advantage of the Omniprocessor is that it turns sewage into potable drinking water. Bill Gates visited a plant earlier this year and had a sip of water. “I watched the piles of faeces go up the conveyer belt and drop into a large bin. They made their way through the machine, getting boiled and treated. A few minutes later I took a long taste of the end result: a glass of delicious drinking water,” said Bill Gates. Omniprocessor is revolutionary in its income-generating potential, which the foundation hopes will attract private sector entrepreneurs to a field that until now only governments have been able to bankroll. The hope is that it will turn the business of sewage processing from a cost centre into a profits centre, with operators charging for the electricity and water produced by the machine.

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