By Kato Mivule | February 24, 2009
The Ugandan Government is moving a step forward in the right direction by proposing to set up policy to manage and curb e-Waste that flows into the country through the thousands of used electronic devices from computers to cell phones.
Parliament’s committee on ICT has finalized a new policy that will regulate the importation and disposal of electronic gadgets in the country. Committee chairman Edward Baliddawa says the Policy is contained in the draft, National Information Technology Bill that is now before the committee for scrutiny. He explains that there is No effective e-waste management system, and this has caused Uganda to remain a dumping ground for all kinds of computer scrap that come into the country from the developed economies. According to Baliddawa, the bill seeks to minimize the impact of second hand electrical gadgets whose impact on health and the environment cannot be underestimated.
“New Policy against dumping of used computers Thursday, 19th February, 2009”
Most of the used computers and cell phones are sent as donations to Africa in hopes that some how African Techs will fix those that they can and throw away the rest. Computers and PCs that fail the African Tech Test are then sent to the dumping grounds and become part of the garbage heaps all across Africa.
According to the Independent Publication in the UK, the UK alone produces 2 million tons of e-Waste and most of the disposal is sent to Africa. The same newspaper reported that 400,000 used computers arrive in Nigeria alone and 75 per cent of then cannot be used and end up on garbage heaps…
The UK generates almost 2 million tons of electronic waste. Disposing of this in America and Europe costs money, so many companies sell it to middle merchants, who promise the computers can be reused in Africa, China and India. Each month about 500 container loads, containing about 400,000 unwanted computers, arrive in Nigeria to be processed. But 75 per cent of units shipped to Nigeria cannot be resold. So they sit on landfills, and children scrabble barefoot, looking for scraps of copper wire or nails. And every so often, the plastics are burnt, sending fumes up into the air.
DanWatch a European based corporate watchdog that documents consequences of investments and trade in third world countries, reported on its website that despite tough European policies on disposal of e-Waste, Africa still remains a dumping ground for the millions of used computers and cell phones discarded in Europe and the USA. Nigeria seems to be the largest recipient of such waste.
Despite new European regulations to prevent electronic waste from being dumped in Africa and Asia, a hidden flow of end-of-life electronics is threatening to drown West Africa. Local experts are calling for the EU to tighten control with the highly toxic waste. Every month, hundreds of tons of obsolete computers, televisions and other household consumer electronics are arriving at ports in Ghana and Nigeria. From here, these second hand electronics are distributed via local networks of dealers throughout the country. According to local sources, only 25 per cent of the imports are working, while the remaining electronic waste, known as e-waste, often ends up on dumpsite fires.
However, the problem of dumping is not just limited to the European and American corporations and consumers who seek to discard unwanted computers and cell phones. African governments have of the past had robust trade with the East, especially China and India.
China in particular has taken advantage of the African market by dumping fake goods that for the most part work for only a very limited time and then are discarded off to garbage heaps. From cheap cell phones to fake computers, radio sets and fake TV sets, China is turning Africa into a major dumping ground and only adding to the already existing problem of Western Toxic Waste.
African governments need to not only to deal with e-Waste from the Western world, they need to deal with fake electronic goods that come from China and put a stop on that flow. Human Right groups, Watchdogs and Environmental groups need to tackle the problem of Chinese fake goods that are finding their way unhindered in Africa.
While most watchdog groups are focusing attention on the West, China is busy sending toxic waste in form of fake and bogus electronic goods across Africa.
The Ugandan government is taking positive steps in setting policy to curb dumping of e-Waste in Uganda but the policy seems only to deal with used electronics yet ignoring the threat that comes from fake electronic goods from China.
Ugandans would be well served if the new e-Waste policy includes a provision that deals with e-Waste in form of fake goods from China.
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