Despite being a crucial part of the just expired Millennium Development Goals, seven out of every ten persons in sub-Saharan Africa still do not have access to improved sanitation. Over 200 million people in the region still defecate in the open, thus contaminating water and land, and leading directly to diseases such as diarrhea and cholera, which are responsible for the second highest number of deaths of children in Africa. Nowhere is this challenge more pronounced than in Uganda where about 65 percent of the population do not have access to improved sanitation. It is within this challenge that Samuel Malinga grew up and for which he has created an innovative ‘sludge management system’ with the potential to significantly improve sanitation in his country and the region as a whole.
Young, creative and passionate about his community, Malinga is the archetypical African innovator. From a rural community in the very poor Kumi District of North East Uganda, Malinga grew up with the harsh socioeconomic challenges which pervade most African communities. At age 12 he moved to the Naguru slums in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, and there he was faced with the community-wide problem of poor sanitation and lack of proper faeces and waste management. These difficulties inspired Malinga to think up innovative solutions that would tackle head on the pervasive challenges in rural areas, like the one he hails from, and urban slums, like the one in which he grew up in. One of his innovations is the conversion of faecal sludge into briquettes that basically do a better job as cooking fuel than charcoal or firewood.