The rapid increase in production of electronic waste is putting the African continent at risk and is calling for the intervention of Pan African parliamentarians to push for integrated legislation in their respective countries.
Joining the Committee on Rural Economy, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, Ms Mariekie Gericke presented on the development of an e-waste implementation toolkit (EWIT) to support recycling strategies in African metropoles.
EWIT is an open-source online resource equipping the public with access to e-waste guidelines and practical support.
“With the rise of African urbanisation we are experiencing rapid changes in consumption rates. The speed at which cellphones are used and replaced results in more e-waste being generated in Africa than ever before,” said Ms Gericke. “The challenge is that e-waste streams are increasing at a fast rate, but in large parts of Africa no waste management infrastructure is in place to address this”.
Gericke said several examples in African countries show people, including young children, working on e-waste dumps in unsafe conditions. The hazardous effluent and fumes generated by e-waste is detrimental to population health and needs to be addressed by governments to combat and prevent serious health concerns.
However, she pointed out that e-waste should not only be perceived as a liability to municipalities; it is also a resource to be utilised to create job opportunities and secondary value through metal reuse provided that the adequate recycling systems are in place.
Gericke shared how the EWIT consortium was established in 2013 when a task team met in Brussels to find solutions for electronic waste challenges in Africa, drawing from European best practices and benchmarks.
In 2014, the EU Commission provided funding of 1.6 million Euro in support of the project. “The short-term objective was to understand the requirements of African cities in terms of e-waste management. In the longer term, the task team aims to understand the environmental and health risks associated with e-waste, while looking at opportunities to create employment and secondary value,” she said.
Four African countries, five European countries and 24 partners participated in the project. Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa, with Italy, Austria, Belgium, Portugal and the United Kingdom worked jointly with universities, researchers, NGOs and recyclers to find creative e-waste management solutions for the continent.
According to Gericke little data exists on the volumes of e-waste being generated. One of the challenges is that African countries are used as a ‘dumping ground’ for old computers, monitors or digital equipment which comes as donations from the West. Although well intended these donations end up being unused on landfills.
Pre-feasibility studies are currently underway to explore the development of e-waste recycling facilities. Gericke said the capital cost of e-waste plants makes it nearly impossible to erect in every country and therefore African countries may have to consolidate waste streams to treat at a northern and southern treatment facility.
Committee Chair, Hon. Jacqueline Amongin, a PAP member representing Uganda, said the EWIT project is a ‘two birds with one stone’ initiative, where several issues that plague Africa such as littering, sanitation, hygiene, climate change and unemployment could be addressed simultaneously.
Parliamentarians were forthcoming to support the EWIT initiative and were eager to provide information and case studies from their countries.
Hon. Abdoulie Jawla said recycling information was readily available in his home country the Gambia, and argued that data may be accessible to the EWIT team through the right channels.
The second presentation on land-use and governance by Tamzin Hudson, advocacy specialist for Habitat for Humanity provoked fervent conversations around the long-standing sensitivity around African land.
Ms Hudson proposed a land-use and governance conference in collaboration with the African Parliament in August 2016. The conference was widely welcomed by MPs.
In working towards a continental land-use framework, Ms Hudson, with the inputs and commentary from committee members, agreed that contextual factors are critical to consider.