Between Neglect and Control: Questioning Partnerships and the Integration of Informal Actors in Public Solid Waste Management in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


  • Axel Baudouin
  • Camilla Bjerkli
  • Yirgalem Habtemariam
  • Zelalem Fenta Chekole


The paper addresses the long-standing role of informal actors in solid waste management in Addis Ababa. Large numbers of people make a living through scavenging, waste collection and recycling. The varied and shifting relations between these actors and the local authorities are examined. For the most part, the authorities have largely neglected informal waste collectors. Recently, however, the role of informal actors was recognized and the authorities attempted to establish a “partnership” with informal actors in the waste sector. The paper discusses the consequences and problems involved in this partnership and how it facilitated political dominance and surveillance in a context of authoritarian governance. Informal actors have frequently resisted attempts at taxation and have avoided any collaboration with and control by the authorities. More generally, the paper concludes that political manipulation, poor accountability, lack of opportunities for participation, and the ensuing mistrust among informal actors towards local authorities prevent any successful integration of the actors and their interests in the public management of waste in the studied setting.