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UN highlights e-waste challenge in Africa

Africa – After studying recycling-related developments in five African countries (Benin, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Nigeria), a United Nations report says that nearly 1 million tons of domestic e-waste is generated there every year.

While the use of electrical and electronic equipment remains at a low level when compared to the rest of the world, the penetration rate of personal computers in Africa has increased by a factor of 10 over the last decade, while the number of mobile phone subscribers has soared by a factor of 100. The UK is the dominant exporting country to Africa for both new and used equipment of this type, followed at a distance by France and Germany. Nigeria is the most dominant African importing country for new and used electrical and electronic equipment, followed by Ghana.

The report also calculates that, during recent years, at least 250 000 tons of e-waste per annum has illegally entered the five above-mentioned West African countries. ‘This number is comparable to the total amount of e-waste generated in small European countries such as Belgium or the Netherlands, and equates to approximately 5% of all e-waste generated in the European Union,’ says Mathias Schluep, the report’s author and Project Leader at the EMPA research institute.

Achim Steiner, the United Nations Environment Program’s Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary General, is convinced that a ‘resource-efficient green economy’ can only be realised through more effective management of the growing amount of e-waste generated in Africa. ‘This report shows how measures, such as improved collection strategies and establishing more formal recycling structures, can limit environmental damage and provide economic opportunities,’ he adds.

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