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E-waste in Africa

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Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) waste, or e-waste, is illegally brought into African states every year. A minimum of 250,000 metric tons of e-waste comes into the continent, and according to the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, the majority of it in West Africa enters from Europe.[1] Developed countries commodify underdeveloped African states as dumping grounds for their e-waste, and due to poor regulations and a lack of enforcement institutions, illegal dumping is promoted[2]. Currently, the largest e-waste dumping site in Africa is Agbogbloshie in Ghana. While states like Nigeria do not contain e-waste sites as concentrated as Agbogbloshie, they do have several small sites.[2]

Two e-waste regulatory institutions exist in Africa: the Basel Convention and Bamako Convention.[3] Because the former institution perceives e-waste as hazardous, it seeks to circumvent adverse public health outcomes that derive from trading EEE. Informal dumping sites burn hazardous materials, subsequently exposing individuals to toxic fumes, contaminating crop production, etc.[3] In particular, Europe and the UK export e-waste into several African states often as donations or second-hand products.[3] African states themselves produce ~50 and 85% of its e-waste with the rest being imported from developed nations.[3]

Economically, e-waste can carry high value materials which can lead to financial opportunity. E-waste materials sourced from Africa amounted to $3.2 billion US dollars in 2019, therefore making trading and repairing them economic pursuits for poorer individuals.[4] As such, global trade of e-waste lends itself to a business-like system in certain African states like Ghana.[4] Extracting raw materials like copper is frequently executed by untrained and informal workers that need protective gear and are near localities where children can be exposed.[4] Several economic, health, and political implications derive from the trade of these materials.

Production and Trade of E-Waste[edit]

E-waste is categorized as used EEE including refrigerators, cell phones, and computers.[4]

Africa has seen a significant usage of personal computers and mobile phones in the past decade.[5] The continent produced 2.5kg per capita of e-waste in 2019, which is the lowest rate in the world.[4] 60% of e-waste is imported into the continent, and it is often processed manually with the intent to resell.[5]

The Port of Lagos in Nigeria is a primary location for importing EEE and its capital, Ikeja, stores obsolete e-waste.[6] The United States and Europe deliver EEE daily to Ikeja's marketplace, and approximately 25 to 75% of it is irreparable.[6] The absence of regulatory agencies in developed countries allows them to export into vulnerable checkpoints in Nigeria, thereby exacerbating the growing amount of e-waste.[6] Simultaneously, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, Ghana and West Africa themselves produces 85 percent of e-waste that ultimately remains in Ghana.[7] The same UN programme determined 215,000 metric tons of EEE being imported into Ghana in 2009, with 15 percent being dumped into the Ghana's Agbogbloshie dump site.[7] More broadly, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania receive e-waste from Europe and the UK.[3]

"Leakage" is used to describe the illegal exportation of waste.[3] The Basel Action Network (BAN) tracked e-waste arriving to recycling centers in ten European countries and discovered 64% of it subsequently being shipped to Africa.[3] Additionally, the BAN identified the UK as the main exporter of EEE to underdeveloped countries. It approximates Europe countries export 352,474 metric tons to developing countries nationally.[3]

Economic Conditions and Impacts[edit]

Gold, copper, and other valuable metals and minerals are sought after in e-waste, and despite the environmental and public health effects, people informally work in dumping sites.[2] Agbogbloshie provides work for an estimated 4500 to 6000 people, and byproducts from e-waste have made it a global business.[8] Roughly USD 105 to 268 million is generated by the market while also benefiting 200,000 people.[8]

Health Impacts[edit]

Political Implications[edit]

Local Interaction[edit]

Known Dumping Sites[edit]

Olusosun landfill



  1. Lubick, Naomi (2012). "JSTOR". JSTOR 41548607. Retrieved 2022-03-26.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lebbie, Tamba S.; Moyebi, Omosehin D.; Asante, Kwadwo Ansong; Fobil, Julius; Brune-Drisse, Marie Noel; Suk, William A.; Sly, Peter D.; Gorman, Julia; Carpenter, David O. (January 2021). "E-Waste in Africa: A Serious Threat to the Health of Children". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 18 (16): 8488. doi:10.3390/ijerph18168488. ISSN 1660-4601. PMC 8392572 Check |pmc= value (help). PMID 34444234 Check |pmid= value (help).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Maes, Thomas; Preston-Whyte, Fiona (2022-02-05). "E-waste it wisely: lessons from Africa". SN Applied Sciences. 4 (3): 72. doi:10.1007/s42452-022-04962-9. ISSN 2523-3971. PMC 8817158 Check |pmc= value (help). PMID 35155992 Check |pmid= value (help).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Lebbie, Tamba S.; Moyebi, Omosehin D.; Asante, Kwadwo Ansong; Fobil, Julius; Brune-Drisse, Marie Noel; Suk, William A.; Sly, Peter D.; Gorman, Julia; Carpenter, David O. (2021-08-11). "E-Waste in Africa: A Serious Threat to the Health of Children". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 18 (16): 8488. doi:10.3390/ijerph18168488. ISSN 1661-7827. PMC 8392572 Check |pmc= value (help). PMID 34444234 Check |pmid= value (help).
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Circular economy in Africa: Electronics and e-waste". Retrieved 2022-03-28.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Sullivan, Jack (2014). "Trash or Treasure: Global Trade and the Accumulation of E-Waste in Lagos, Nigeria". Africa Today. 61 (1): 89–112. doi:10.2979/africatoday.61.1.89. ISSN 0001-9887. JSTOR 10.2979/africatoday.61.1.89. Unknown parameter |s2cid= ignored (help)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Magazine, Smithsonian; Minter, Adam. "The Burning Truth Behind an E-Waste Dump in Africa". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2022-03-28.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Daum, Kurt; Stoler, Justin; Grant, Richard (2017-01-29). "Toward a More Sustainable Trajectory for E-Waste Policy: A Review of a Decade of E-Waste Research in Accra, Ghana". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 14 (2): 135. doi:10.3390/ijerph14020135. ISSN 1660-4601. PMC 5334689. PMID 28146075.

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