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This research paper researches the dumping of electronic waste in Africa. The electronic waste, also known as e-waste is a term that covers a whole range of electronic devices. The term includes TV sets, mobile phones, laptops, personal computers and many other kinds of equipment. Electronic waste is the end-product generated by two different domains: the household appliances, which contribute a large share, and legal institutions such as government agencies or private organizations. The world market for e-waste equipments continues to expand, while the lifetime of electric and electronic equipments continues to decline(Puckett et al 2002).

The electronic equipments sector is a worldwide industry with manufacturing and assembly taking place in industrialized countries. In the last two decades, the worldwide growth in electronic equipments has continued to grow at an exponential rate since production has been prompted by the continuously rising consumption of electronic products all over the world. Another contributing reason is the increase in information and communication technology: new products features and capabilities, product obsolescence, low prices and the growth in internet use contribute largely to the disposal of e-waste equipments(SAICM, 2009).

The UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) estimated that between 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are generated each year all over the world. This means that the disposal of this particular kind of waste is becoming a big problem, as it starts to compete heavily with the volume of the solid municipal waste stream (Brigden et al, 2008).

Moreover, e-waste equipments contain various hazardous materials and therefore need to be handled with great care when being recycled or disposed of, so that these materials cannot pose threat either to humans or to the environment (Brigden et al, 2008). Due to inferior environmental standards and work situations in Africa, e-waste is being sent to the continent for processing primarily illegitimately. Uncontrolled flaming and disposal are causing environmental problems due to methods of processing the e-waste. E-waste is of concern mainly due to the toxicity of a number of the substances if handled improperly. The toxicity is due to in part to lead, mercury, cadmium and a number of other substances. For instance, a computer possibly will contain more than sixty percent lead by weight. The un-sustainability of discarded electronic equipments and computer technology is another reason for the need to recycle the e-waste. In case, the e-waste recycling is properly treated, e-waste is a valuable source for secondary raw materials. However, Africa does not have the capacity and ability to recycle, dispose of and manage the e-waste in a way that is friendly to both humans and the environment. Africa has simply perceived as a place to dump these EEE, thereby damaging people and the environment (Luther L., 2009).

E-waste is exported to Africa because of various reasons. A first reason is the agreement between recipient and donor countries as stated in the Basel Convention. The Convention states that only re-usable electronic equipments must be shipped, as those will get a second life in Africa, so as to bridge the digital divide gap. Yet, this trade has proved to be nothing but a disaster to the African surroundings since most of the e-waste shipped to Africa is not for re-use. Africa is merely being used as a dumping ground for e-waste by industrialized nations. As a result these piles of e-waste end up dumped in landfills. In that way, the e-waste gets into direct contact with the soil through which it contaminates ground water (Azuka A.I., 2009). Africa just lacks the capacity and capability to manage the e-waste in an environment-friendly way (Odoi-larbi S., 2008).

A second obvious reason for exporting e-waste to Africa is the low recycling and labor costs. Developed countries have strict environmental rules which most African countries lack or do not enforce the way they should. To give an idea of the discrepancy: in the United States, it costs about $50 to recycle one computer while in Africa the recycling cost per computer ranges between $10 to $15. A quick calculation learns that the net profit is somewhere between $35 and $40. Companies benefit largely from shipping e-waste to Africa. Africa also does benefit, as it provides an income for workers, but then, there are the huge environmental problems to be thought of. One solution is to modernize the recycling sector as this would include a lot of possible jobs for Africans. This kind of trade could possibly create a win-win situation (Azuka A.I., 2009).

Research Objectives & Questions

The major objective of this research is to use the model of international trade to analyze the impacts of environmental externalities in places where dumping takes place. This will mean a careful examination of the opportunities and threats resulted from e-waste disposal and recycling. How does several factors - such as magnitude of the problem, the legal requirements of the Basel Convention, environmental standards and the impacts of opportunities, challenges and threats related to e-waste disposal. In line with this objective, this research paper looks at the current e-waste management in the world. Thereafter, the focus will base on Nigeria by assessing the environmental externalities of the e-waste material flow to Africa. In addressing the research objectives, the research seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. How big is the world's e-waste problem and what trends will impact demand for the recycling of electric and electronic equipments (EEE)?
  2. What steps are developed countries taking to help alleviate the world's growing e-waste problem?
  3. Who are the leading e-waste management nations, what opportunities and challenges lie ahead in countries where dumping ends up?
  4. What steps must be taken to prevent developed nations from dumping electronic waste in African countries, and how will exports of E-waste change over the coming years?

Research Methodology

As I have said earlier, e-waste is composed of many electronic products, such as computers, TV-sets and mobile phones. A second-hand market for these products in Africa is booming, because Africans consider using these products as being in fashion. Therefore, this research will consider computers, TV sets and mobile phones as electronic wastes. Much has been written on e-waste management and its trans-boundary movement across international borders. Yet, nobody is sure on how big the actual volume of e-waste is, since the shipping of e-waste equipments often involves smuggling and cheating. Therefore, my research will focus on literature analysis by exploring the model of international trade in analyzing the impacts of environmental externalities using secondary sources.

Due to the lack of consistent data especially on export and import, this research will neither arrange any interview nor visit any dumping sites in Nigeria due to both time and financial constraints. This research aims to use secondary sources in collecting information in order to answer research questions and achieve the research objectives. In order to understand the operations of e-waste flow, this research will review the global e-waste generation and capacity. Thereafter, the paper will narrow the problem down to the countrywide point of view in Nigeria. Nigeria will be a case study country for this research. The situation in Nigeria is harshly worse than else where in Africa. Legislation exists that should ban the simple sending of old PCs to be dumped, but the problem is that Nigeria's booming second-hand computer industry gives full capacity for computer waste to be brought in.

To facilitate a sound conclusion to this research, two African countries need to be compared in response to e-waste management. I have opted to compare Nigeria with South Africa. South Africa has made some considerable progress toward e-waste management. E-waste in South Africa shortly known as (eWASA) is a national wide organization deals with issues related to e-waste disposal, recycling and management. eWASA has involved all stakeholders to discuss the successes and lessons learnt while implementing e-waste management systems. It also served as an opportunity for the project team to report on progress made so far. I will highlight the business model, the policy formulation mechanism and the procedures adopted to reduce the inflow of e-waste to South Africa.

Scope and Limits

The scope of this research is limited in many ways. This study covers only the ICT sector within the electronic industry with a particular focus on computers, TV sets and mobile phones. It excludes electronic waste from primary data and information due to reasons stated above. Choosing to focus on computers, TV sets and Mobile phones is a good idea, as this industry is growing rapidly in Africa. We will see this being reflected in Ikeja village in Nigeria. This village acts as second hand market where different vendors from neighboring countries come together and trade.

Moreover, the choice for this particular subsection of e-waste was triggered by the ongoing debates in political and environmental agendas of many African governments in drafting policies to manage, handle and recycle used electronic equipments. Responding to questions about both e-waste disposal and recycling involves some challenges due to the fact that little information is available on a complete assessment of e-waste management. For example, accurate data regarding how much is generated, exported and managed still today unavailable. Data gathering will bias my data analysis and that why this research will rely on secondary data and information to conduct this thesis.

Significance of the study

With the establishment of the above objectives, this study will be of importance to the objectives that have been set. By fulfilling the aims that were stated in the previous section, this study will be helpful for other researchers focusing on e-waste management in Africa. The analysis of this research aims to provide a realistic image on the e-waste situation in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa for policymakers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions and other interested parties like international organizations and individuals. The exploration of international trade theory and its impacts on environmental externalities, will help stakeholders play their role in job creation by turning the informal sector into a formal sector, boost the income of the people and increase labor wages so that the war against poverty can be defeated. This research aims to contribute to the ongoing events in Africa persuading e-waste exporters to comply with the obligations of the Basel Convention.

Time Planning

In order to fulfill the duties of this research, a time table is needed to show how tasks will be achieved in relation with data collection so that the entirely research objectives may be met. Below is time schedule executed in order to fulfill the duties;


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