Africa invaded by electronic waste

Cell phones, computers, refrigerators, microwaves … many African cities are now invaded by waves of waste electrical and household appliances, just unable to cope with this phenomenon as worrying as dangerous.



A paradox, Africa, which does not yet manufacture electronic equipment and household appliances, is becoming the new garbage can of the world.

According to a recent study, the quantity of this waste would have reached 67 million tonnes in 2017, an increase of one third compared to 2014.

But where does this waste come from?

Hidden in vehicles destined for the African second-hand market or incurring camouflaged in containers, tens of thousands of tons of waste land each year in most African ports. This waste generally comes from Europe and the United States. A report from the United Nations Environment Program showed that France, Germany and Great Britain are the major exporters of e-waste in Africa, where they are landing on the second-hand market.

But why import these end-of-life and toxic equipment?

Not having a high purchasing power to buy a car or new equipment, many men and women in Africa are turning to the second hand market to find all kinds of equipment at a reduced price. However, much of this second-hand equipment as it is called hardly works anymore or runs for some time afterwards and breaks down. But again, there is no shortage of ideas, as Mohamed Danko, a regular at a garbage dump near the outskirts of the capital of Accra in Ghana, recalls: “I get everything, aluminum, copper and iron. metal computer screens, television sets … The metal is then used to make kitchen dishes, copper is used in electronics, everything is recycled.

And what about international and national legislation?

The international treaty of the Basel Convention and the resulting European directive formally prohibit the circulation of hazardous waste, particularly electrical and electronic waste (WEEE).

At the level of the African continent this convention is ratified by several states but still it is impossible for the African states to face this phenomenon.

What can be done to improve the situation?

The answer to this question is not easy in that it would be difficult for African countries to force foreign powers to stop dumping toxic waste on the continent.

If taking charge of the management of this waste becomes obvious, it is important to recognize that a large part of the African countries is still struggling to ensure the normal treatment of household waste, so the addition of these new types of waste makes things become even more complicated.

In addition, some people who live from the mafia of electronic waste are hostile to the stop of this waste by arguing that: “it is certainly dangerous but it is their livelihood”. For some families too, the possibility of equipment that is up to their stock market is considerable.

For now, the problem remains unresolved even though some cities like Douala in Cameroon seem to decide to fight against this scourge by setting up to treat this household waste with a convention. However, as long as there is no real national and international policy accompanied by real and appropriate sanction, the problem will still be relevant.

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A propos de Ibrahima SECK

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