UN-led Meeting Agrees on Priority Actions for Managing E-Waste in Africa



Pan-African Forum on E-Waste Underlines Green Economy Opportunities in   E-Waste Sector.

Priority actions for reducing the environmental   and health impacts of growing levels of electrical and electronic waste   (e-waste), alongside promoting the sector's potential for green jobs and   economic development, were today agreed by representatives from 18 African   states, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, the private   sector and academia.

The actions were agreed on the final day of the Pan-African Forum on   E-Waste, which was held at the Nairobi headquarters of the United Nations   Environment Programme (UNEP).   Organized by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and UNEP, with   support from the Government of Kenya, and private sector companies   including Dell, HP, Nokia and Philips, the forum was the first event of   its kind on the continent. It focused on long-term solutions to the rising   levels of obsolete mobile phones, refrigerators, televisions and other   e-products in Africa.

Increasing domestic consumption of electronic products, coupled with the   ongoing import of waste electronics into Africa from other regions, means   that the continent could generate a higher volume of e-waste than Europe   by 2017.

The Pan-African Forum on E-Waste in Nairobi adopted a   Call to Action,   which outlines 8 priority areas to improve the environmentally-sound   management of e-waste in Africa.

These include:

  •   Implementation and enforcement by African states of the Basel Convention on   the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes   and their Disposal   and the Bamako Convention, which bans the import of   hazardous wastes into Africa
  • Development of national systems to improve the collection,   recycling, transport, storage and disposal of e-waste National institutions to co-operate with multiple stakeholders   (UN, NGOs, private sector and others) in producing e-waste assessments
  • Recognition that the safe and sustainable recycling of e-waste   provides an opportunity for green jobs and poverty reduction
  • Awareness raising activities on environmental and health hazards   linked to the unsound management of e-waste
  • Managing e-waste, and other kinds of waste, is essential for the   transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy?, said UN   Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

Sustainable management of e-waste can combat poverty and generate green   jobs through recycling, collection and processing of e-waste - and safeguard the environment and human health from the hazards posed by rising levels of waste electronics. With just over three months until the Rio+20 conference in Brazil, this event has underlined how smart public   policies, creative financial incentives and technology transfer can turn   e-waste from a challenge into an important resource for sustainable   development,   added Mr. Steiner.

He highlighted that global recycling rates of some e-waste metals?known as   rare earth metals?can be as low as one per cent despite these metals being   crucial for components in hybrid electric car batteries to the magnets in   wind turbines.

The future of the clean tech, high-tech products and the transition to a   Green Economy may in part depend on boosting the recycling of e-waste in   order to assure a steady and streamlined supply of these specialty metals   for these 21st century industries, added Mr Steiner.

As well as serving as a valuable source of secondary raw materials, the   recovery and recycling of e-waste can reduce pressure on scarce natural   resources and contribute to emissions reductions.

One tonne of obsolete mobile phones contains more gold than one tonne of   ore and the picture is similar for other precious substances, said   Katharina Kummer-Peiry, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention.

If you consider the value of these materials, then this represents an   important economic opportunity. There are recyclers and other industrial   sectors who are interested in taking advantage of such opportunities,   which can in turn create green jobs and support sustainable development.?

Delegates at the Pan-African E-waste Forum underlined the importance of   improved access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in   Africa towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

But the disposal of obsolete electronic equipment can pose significant   environmental and health risks. E-waste can contain hazardous substances,   including heavy metals such as mercury and lead, and endocrine disrupting   substances such as brominated flame retardants.

Much of the recycling of e-waste that takes place in Africa today occurs   on an informal basis ? often on uncontrolled dumpsites or landfills.   Hazardous substances can be released during these dismantling and disposal   operations. Open burning of cables, for example, is a major source of   dioxin emissions; a persistent organic pollutant that travels over   long-distances and can end up in food chain.

Participants at the Pan-African E-Waste Forum underlined the fact that   recycling and recovery activities need to move from the unregulated,   informal sector, where health and environmental risks are high, to a more   regulated system using international recycling standards.

Africa’s environmental challenges are growing by the day. This includes   the exponential growth of electronic waste, said Ali D. Mohamed,   Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources   of Kenya.



Annepu, R. (2012). UN-led Meeting Agrees on Priority Actions for Managing E-Waste in Africa. Retrieved from


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