Expert raises red flag over electronic wastes in Africa

By Mark Oloo (Nairobi) – African countries have been urged to tighten their import regulations to guard against dumping of electronic wastes from abroad.

The call follows concerns some countries had grown cold feet in complying with international rules on exportation of second-hand electronic material.

“Developing countries must tighten regulations to block dumping of obsolete electronic materials, besides seeking cost-effective means to recycle their own wastes,” said Dr Joachim Wuttke, Germany’s representative to the Basel Convention of the United Nations Environment Programme.

He said developing countries should ensure imports of used electronics from industrialized states conform to international safety standards.

More than 3,000 tonnes of used computers are annually shipped into Kenya despite public safety and environmental concerns, even as the global e-waste grows by 40 million tonnes a year.

“The Basel Convention on the transboundary movement of hazardous waste is clear about this,” he told reporters, adding developing countries could be more vulnerable as disposal of industrial waste present a challenge to developed economies.

The convention came into force in 1992 and lays down rules to control transboundary movements of wastes deemed hazardous to human health and the environment, and their disposal.

Wuttke said expert establishments such as the environmental management authoritities should collaborate with relevant authorities in the region to tighten checks and quality controls.

“The problem of e-waste cannot be ignored. There is a challenge when products which cease to be part of the normal commercial circle are exported into other countries,” Wuttke said.

According to recent surveys on e-waste, more than 50 containers of used computers are imported into most countries annually out of which 20 per cent cannot be recycled, while 80 per cent have a life span of only 3 years.

Most refurbished computers, their accessories and other ICT equipment are exported to developing countries from Europe and the US.