E-waste Legislations and Management System in Africa

E-waste Legislations and Management System in Africa

In past years, there have been some improvements in the legal, institutional, and infrastructural framework for achieving sound management of e-waste in some countries. In Ghana, Technical Guidelines on Environmentally Sound E-Waste Management for Collectors, Collection Centers, Transporters, Treatment Facilities, and Final Disposal have been developed and are being enforced. In Nigeria, the EPR took off with the formation of the E-waste Producer Responsibility Organisation of Nigeria (EPRON), a non-profit the organization set up by electrical and electronic producers in Nigeria. EPRON is the first Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) for electronic waste in Nigeria and was founded in March 2018 with such stakeholders as HP, Dell, Phillips, Microsoft, and Deloitte contributing towards its establishment in Nigeria. In East Africa, there are also significant continuing developments, with Rwanda adopting e-waste regulation and other countries looking at adopting future regulations. 

Nevertheless, specific e-waste legislation on the management of e-waste is still lacking in most African countries. Few countries have e-waste legislation published in Africa (e.g. Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Cameroon, Côte D'Ivoire). However, enforcing legislation is very challenging. Some countries, such as Rwanda, have recently passed regulations governing e-waste management. Uganda implemented an Electronic Waste Management Policy in 2012. In the East Africa community, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and South Sudan have adopted a regional e-waste strategy to achieve a sustainable e-waste management system (EACO 2017). The strategy prioritizes a) strengthening the policy, legal, and regulatory framework for sustainable resourcing of e-waste management, b) putting in place the requisite e-waste management infrastructure, c) establishing mechanisms for comprehensive and sustainable mobilization for e-waste management resources, d) strengthening e-waste coordination structures at regional and national levels and e) promoting research and innovation in e-waste management.

Source: The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 

E-waste management system 

E-waste management in Africa is dominated by thriving informal sector collectors and recyclers in most countries; neither organized take-back systems nor license provisions for sorting and dismantling e-waste exist. Government control of this sector is currently very minimal and inefficient. The handling of e-waste is often processed in backyards by manual stripping to remove electronic boards for resale, open burning of wires to recover few major components (e.g. copper, aluminium, and iron), and the deposition of other bulk components, including CRTs, in open dumpsites. An example that has attracted international attention is the Agbogbloshie site in Ghana – always referred to as Africa's largest electronic waste dump. However, Agbogbloshie's reality is complex and can be described as a well-organized scrapyard as opposed to an e-waste dumpsite. At Agbogbloshie, roughly 5,000 scrap workers turn up at the dump every day to search for valuable metals contained in the waste, such as aluminium and copper.

In such cities or countries where the e-waste is a source of revenue for many, the “informal” e-waste collection rate is extremely high, most of the valuable materials are recovered, and many components are reused or resold. The downside of such intense informal activities are not of interest economically or that don't end up having a second application is disposed of in a hazardous way. 

Few countries, such as South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Namibia, and Rwanda, have some facilities in place for e-waste recycling, but those co-exist with the existence of a large informal sector. Therefore, some of those recycling companies have struggled to progress and increase the volumes processed, but interesting pilots and energies are also mobilized through new initiatives. On the other hand, sizeable countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana are still very reliant on informal recycling. A study conducted in Nigeria shows that approximately 60,000-71,000 t of used EEE were imported annually into Nigeria through the two main ports in Lagos in 2015 and 2016. It was found that most of the imported used e-waste was shipped from developed countries such as Germany, UK, Belgium, USA, etc. Additionally, a basic functionality test showed that, on average, at least 19% of devices were non-functional (Odeyingbo, Nnorom, and Deubzer 2017). 

E-waste management problems and attendant remedies are somewhat similar in the various sub-regions of Africa. In summary, the major problems include the lack of adequate public awareness, lack of government policy and legislation, lack of an effective collection system and EPR system, the dominance of the recycling sector by an uncontrolled, ill-equipped informal sector that pollutes the environment, lack of adequate recycling facilities, and poor financing of hazardous waste management activities.

Follow: The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 


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