Informal Waste Management in Africa: Perspectives and Lessons from Nigerian Garbage Geographies


Correspondence address: Thaddeus Chidi Nzeadibe, Department of Geography, University of Nigeria, 410001 Nsukka, Nigeria. E-mail:


Informal waste management (IWM) has over the years been a contentious issue in urban development policy in Africa. Surprisingly, knowledge contributions on the subject have remained somewhat poorly assessed by urban development researchers throughout the continent. This paper reviews developments in IWM in Africa, drawing from lessons learned over a decade of research and activism in Nigerian cities. The aim is to evaluate the scholarship impact of Nigerian informal garbage geographies and to accentuate emerging innovations in IWM research and activism in the country. The paper first contextualizes IWM in Africa, zeroing in on Egypt and South Africa, two countries with widely acknowledged systems. Next, it draws attention to some unique developments in the Nigerian system while also linking the Nigerian case study to broader literatures on Africa. On the basis of a critical sub-sectoral review of African literature and a comparative analysis of research and activism in Nigeria, the paper argues that research on Nigerian IWM has seemingly enjoyed a modicum of international acceptability and recognition as evidenced by the involvement of reputable Afro-oriented institutions and associations and the high quality of the resultant publications. The paper avers that in the absence of sustainable solutions from the formal sector, IWM appears to have carved a niche through innovations and inserted itself into the solid waste governance and development paradigm in many Nigerian cities. Emerging innovations in research and activism in Nigerian IWM are examined while their public policy relevance in Africa is highlighted.