Can an innovation prize meet Ghana’s sanitation challenge?

The Sanitation Challenge for Ghana is a prize that encourages local municipalities to find solutions to the country’s sanitation issues. The recent launch of its second phase has provided us with the opportunity to take stock of the lessons learnt so far.

Thursday 23 November 2017, Private: Lorenza Geronimo

22 million.

This the number of people who do not have access to adequate sanitation in Ghana.

Despite the country’s sustained economic growth over the last few years, the provision of basic services has not kept up with rapid urbanisation, especially in low-income areas.

To improve the situation, the Sanitation Challenge for Ghana (SC4G) was launched in November 2015 within the UKaid-funded Ideas to Impact programme.

SC4G, which has been implemented by IMC alongside our partner IRC Ghana, uses honorary and financial awards to incentivise Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to develop and implement innovative urban sanitation plans.

48 MMDAs have developed liquid waste management strategies and 17 have been selected for the second stage of the competition and have started to implement them. Ongoing interventions include:

  • promotion of household toilets construction for the poor
  • construction of institutional and public toilets
  • reduction of open defecation through community mobilisation
  • hygiene promotion
  • enhancement of regulations and compliance enforcement of byelaws
  • acquisition of land for construction of liquid waste treatment and reuse plants
  • community involvement in decision-making

What we have learnt so far

The recent launch of SC4G’s second phase, The Dignified City Award, which will be awarded in June 2019, has provided us with the opportunity to take stock of the lessons learnt so far.

The Sanitation Challenge for Ghana has confirmed that, compared to a donor-funded grant, a competition can spur innovative solutions as rewards are closely linked to the results achieved.

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Bryony Everett, IMC Worldwide Director and Ideas to Impact team leader

Local ownership and renewed interest in sanitation

Acknowledging that local authorities are best placed to produce contextually-appropriate solutions, SC4G has left them free to develop their liquid waste management strategies. This bottom-up approach with no strings attached has increased enthusiasm and local ownership.

The Sanitation Challenge for Ghana has also generated a media buzz that helped to put a spotlight on the issue of inadequate sanitation. As a consequence, communities are now more vocal in demanding better services and the issue has moved higher on the political agenda.

Meanwhile, government buy-in has translated into the budgetary allocation of over 255 million Ghanaian Cedi (approximately GBP 42.6 million) to the newly created Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources for the 2017 fiscal year.

A newly completed public facility near the market area in Akumadan Offinso - North District.
A newly completed public facility near the market area in Akumadan Offinso, North District, Ghana.

Strong commitment

MMDAs have been covering the cost of attending SC4G workshops and meetings with no expectation of refund. This demonstrates their strong commitment to tackle the sanitation challenge.

Reliance on self-funding certainly exposes SC4G to the uncertainties linked with changes in government and political commitments. However, lack of reliance on external funds ensures long-term sustainability of the Sanitation Challenge for Ghana and its achievements, after the competition will be over.

Collaboration for a common objective

The competition has generated excitement among the MMDAs, increased their resolution and boosted their credibility. Some of them are partnering with the private sector to improve their strategies and, interestingly, competing assemblies are collaborating and learning from each other.

‘It is gratifying to note that 17 MMDAs who met the minimum condition for stage 2 and vying for the ultimate GBP 1.285 million Dignified City Award are teaming up with citizens, private sector and non-state actors, innovators and solvers to implement locally owned solutions’, says Hon. Kofi Adda, Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources. ‘I personally wish all MMDAs were on board to ensure that sustainable sanitation services are available and affordable for everyone living in Ghana. We will forge partnerships and work towards generating the needed resources to scale this initiative across the 216 MMDAs so as to make sanitation and the president’s “toilet for all” vision a reality.’

The enthusiastic attendance at the SC4G’s first Learning and Practice Convening session, which was held in Ghana’s capital city Accra in July 2017, is a testament to this spirit of collaboration.

Over 120 representatives from the 17 local governments now competing in SC4G’s stage 2 alongside partner organisations and high-level national stakeholders participated to exchange implementation experiences.

The follow-on workshop held on 16 and 17 November 2017 was also very well attended with over 60 participants, including some Chief Executives and other Technical Leads within the assemblies.

There is the saying that education starts from the cradle to the grave – so man does not stop learning. We have learnt a lot in the 2-day event. I’m happy we are part of the competition and happy that this competition is giving us the opportunity to transform our waste into resources. I thank my team for the work done so far and happy for this learning and sharing opportunity.

Municipal Chief Executive, Mampong Municipal Assembly

What next?

With a 7% open defecation rate, Ghana is still far from ensuring access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 6.

While it is too early to assess the impact of SC4G, we are witnessing promising developments that seem to suggest that something is changing, both at the community and political level.

If you want to embark on this learning journey with us, keep checking

To learn more about the Ideas to Impact programme and the other prizes it runs, visit

Cover photo: The Jasikan District won the first stage of the Sanitation Challenge for Ghana, the Duapa Award, in June 2016.

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