Africa is worried by the large-scale importation of used computers from the West that poses an environmental hazard to the impoverished continent. Children scavenging rubbish dumps for old computer parts are a common sight in Africa. The activity exposes them to dangerous minerals such as lead, cadmium and toxic fumes emitted from dump sites, experts say. “This is the situation in most African cities where ‘computer villages’ for selling old imported computers, especially laptops, are springing up,” said a spokesman for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The dumping of used equipment does not end with computers only, but extends to cars, refrigerators, televisions and other electronic devices which African governments should also oppose, activists say. A lot of used cars imported mostly from Europe ply the streets of many African countries, emitting high levels of smoke.
But Ben Abedi, an Accra taxi driver expressed misgivings on the workability of any plans to effect a ban.” The Ghanaian government banned the importation of used cars of more than 10 years and placed high import duties, but such cars are all over the country. Nothing has changed,” Abedi said.
“The unprecedented importation of old computers into Africa from developed countries to satisfy information technology needs has resulted in electronic waste that adds to environmental pollution,” Ghana’s Environment Minister Kwadwo Adjei-Darko said. “I appeal to developed countries not to use Africa as a dumping site for computers,” he told representatives from 150 countries attending a week-long United Nations conference on climate change.
There are international laws banning the export of computer waste but people are getting round this by labelling the shipments « usable second-hand goods ». Research shows that about 90 per cent of the computers are just junk. “They just don’t work,” says a resident of Ghana. “This is dumping,” he states.
There are many computer dumps around many African countries where they contaminate ground water, surface water, the rivers and the streams – thereby raising serious environmental and safety concerns.