Untapped sanitation economies worth almost USD 22 billion in five African countries alone

Infographic Sanitation Economy and Menstrual Hygiene Marketplace

New market assessments commissioned by the UN’s SHF confirm investment in sanitation economies and menstrual hygiene marketplaces could unlock significant economic and social impact


NEW YORK, 23 March 2023 - Human waste is awash with economic and social opportunities, according to a new report by the UN’s Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF) released at the UN 2023 Water Conference today. 

From Human Waste to Prosperity: The Sanitation Economy’ reveals that sanitation economies - comprising the toilet economy, the circular sanitation economy, the smart sanitation economy - and the menstrual hygiene marketplace could unlock close to a potential USD 22 billion in economic gain, job creation, women’s empowerment and environmental protection by 2030 in Benin, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda alone.

Sanitation Economy Potential Value per country

According to estimates, achieving the 2030 SDG target 6.2 on universal access to safe, adequate and sustainable sanitation requires a 20-fold increase in rates of progress for safely managed sanitation services and a 42-fold increase for basic hygiene services. An ecosystem of sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, services and jobs, the sanitation economy marks a business response to the global sanitation and hygiene crisis. Investment in the sanitation economy together with the menstrual hygiene marketplace which covers reusable and disposable menstrual products, the recycling and reuse of menstrual materials, and smart supply chains, offers an important pathway to accelerate progress on SDG target 6.2 and other related SDGs on health, education, gender equity, economic growth and climate resilience. 

“Coming after almost 50 years, the UN 2023 Water Conference marks a watershed moment for the WASH sector and we at the SHF believe that it could propel a significant breakthrough in how sanitation, hygiene and menstrual health have been viewed and invested in so far. Tapping into the ‘dirty’ side of water as sanitation and hygiene have been called, we can generate not only access to basic human rights and services for those in need but significant economic growth and opportunities for communities, especially women and girls. In a world in which an estimated 1 in 4 menstruators are unable to manage their period safely, we can build a thriving marketplace which offers all those who menstruate access, affordability and most importantly agency to choose, use and dispose their menstrual hygiene products of choice,” said Dominic O’Neill, Executive Director, SHF. 

The estimated current total value of the menstrual hygiene marketplace is expected to reach US$ 3 billion in the five countries assessed once universal access has been achieved. More broadly, it is estimated that with the sanitation economy approaches, the cost of sanitation provision can be transformed from a cost of US$ 200 per person to a net value of US$ 10 per person. Importantly, a focus on the circular sanitation economy that ensures effective collection, transport, treatment and reuse of human waste can also deliver important results on climate action. Globally, faecal sludge (and poorly managed wastewater) is responsible for 2-6% of methane emissions and 1-3% of nitrous oxide emissions.

“There is growing consensus on the need for a transformative approach to development finance and the sanitation economy approach is a model that can deliver impacts not just for people, especially women and girls, but also for the planet and investments. Products like a toilet pan, hand tap or reusable menstrual products could be the pathway to better health, well-being and livelihoods for many; it’s time to turn the tap on investments in them and the economies they underpin,” added O’Neill.

Working globally and with an initial footprint in Africa, SHF is mobilizing resources to develop and fund a pipeline of investable propositions to create sustainable sanitation economies and menstrual hygiene marketplaces in low and lower middle income countries. Present at the UN 2023 Water Conference to advocate for greater investment in sanitation economies through the Water Action Agenda, SHF will be co-hosting an event on the topic with the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in Conference Room 5 on Friday 24 March 11:00 a.m. ET. 

Panelists include the Honourable Minister Engineer Suleiman H. Adamu, Minister of Water Resources of the Republic of Nigeria; Mr Jingdong Hua, Former Vice-President and Treasurer of the World Bank and of the International Finance Corporation, SHF Board member; Mr Jack Sim, Founder of the World Toilet Organisation and World Toilet Day; Ms Kitty van der Heijden, Director General for International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands; Ms Ana Carolina Argolo Nascimento de Castro, Director of Brazil’s National Water and Sanitation Agency (ANA) and; Ms. Nazneen Damji, Chief a.i. of the Governance and Participation Section, UN Women. Attendees can participate in person or virtually here




For further information and interview requests, please contact:

Rucha Naware, Communications Specialist, SHF: [email protected]; +32465751339 (whatsapp included) 


Notes to editor:

The Sanitation Economy is the growing economy of sanitation and hygiene products and services for all, including for the poorest and most vulnerable. It includes:
• products and services that provide safe toilet and handwashing access for all, whether public or private (Toilet Economy);
• systems that connect the biocycle, using multiple forms of biological waste, recovering nutrients and water, creating value-adding products such as renewable energy, organic fertilizers, proteins and more (Circular Sanitation Economy); and
• digitized sanitation and hygiene systems that optimize data for operating efficiencies, maintenance, plus consumer use and health information insights (Smart Sanitation Economy).


The Menstrual Hygiene Marketplace is the marketplace for menstrual hygiene materials, and development of related infrastructure, products and services including disposal and femtech solutions. It includes:

• access to reusable and disposable menstrual materials, as per choice and affordability, gender- responsive facilities and services allowing users to change, clean or dispose of materials safely (Menstrual Products); and
• new and innovative technology including recycling and reuse to reduce the impact on the environment (Circular MHH) and smart supply chains to extend reach (Smart MHH).


From Human Waste to Prosperity: The Sanitation Economy’ has been commissioned by the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF) as part of our work to develop and fund a pipeline of investable propositions to create sustainable sanitation economies and menstrual hygiene marketplaces, driving national targets and helping women gain greater economic hold. The complete Nigeria report is available here with a summary version here

The quoted values estimate the size of the sanitation economy and menstrual hygiene marketplace, their products and services, renewable resource flows, data and information for five countries: Benin, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Generated based on selected indicators and verified data from published government and other available sources, they were then cross-validated by expert interviews. Estimates are provided for a baseline year (2022), and projected into the future (2025, 2030) on the assumption that universal access will be reached. Further information on the findings and methodology are available in the report on www.shfund.org. SHF would like to thank the Toilet Board Coalition for their contributions.


The Federal Republic of Nigeria, the World Toilet Organization (WTO) and SHF are co-hosting the Side Event- Catalysing the Circular Sanitation Economy to deliver on SDG Target 6.2: Partnering with countries to achieve climate resilience, gender equity and water security through innovative financing in sanitation- to showcase how countries and the global community can accelerate progress towards SDG target 6.2 through a sharp focus on innovative financing, cross-sectoral and gender-inclusive partnerships, and scalability of local solutions.


  • Details of the session are as follows: 
  • Date: Friday, 24 March 2023
  • Time: 11:00 am-12:15 pm EST
  • Venue: UN HQ NYC, Side Event Room 5 and virtually here


About The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF)
The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF) is dedicated to achieving universal access to sanitation, hygiene, and menstrual health through market-based approaches. Establishing a global footprint, SHF works with Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) to build robust sanitation economies and menstrual hygiene marketplaces through catalytic financing.