Recently industry and policy leaders gathered in Cape Town, South Africa to address a major environmental challenge facing the continent of Africa: e-waste, the discarded leftovers of electronics. This is an important issue for Africa, as experts in the region have estimated that by 2017, West Africa will generate more e-waste than all of Europe.
The African E-Waste and Refurbishment Standards Conference was attended by e-waste recyclers and refurbishment companies from 10 African countries. The event, sponsored by Microsoft, was organized by TechSoup Global, TechSoup Africa, WorldLoop, and Mico E-Waste Solutions. Participants included international companies such as UNIDO, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo/IBM, the e-Waste Association of South Africa (eWASA) and many others. The day-long event brought together those committed to evolving the state of electronics recycling in Africa, with the goal of assessing issues and problems facing the region as a result of improper disposal, and discussing ways to address them.
Policy and industry leaders presented information about the state of e-waste in Africa, while speakers from the United States and Europe shared information about voluntary recycling programs in their respective regions. Standards for recycling are emerging in several African countries and the event sought to bring understanding and greater awareness of the issue, bringing many players to the table. Discussion topics included how to better engage African governments, the largest generators of e-waste, and how to advance the large but informal existing recycling industry.
E-waste has been an increasingly prevalent discussion topic in Africa in recent years. In 2012, the United Nation’s Pan-African Forum on e-Waste was held in Nairobi, Kenya. A UN Basel Convention study released prior to the forum highlighted a number of issues in e-waste specific to West Africa. Not only were the countries studied often the recipient of e-waste from other, wealthier nations, but the growth in electronics use in Africa was also driving up domestic sources of e-waste. One can expect this topic will continue to be prevalent as technology adoption continues to increase at high rates across the continent.