Uganda Flooded With E-Waste 'Clones'

According to a UN report, 27,000 computers were imported into Uganda in 2007. Of these units, only 4,000 were used computers. The vast majority of the rest were clones. Photo: Flickr/buhugu.org

For the people of Uganda, living on $2 a day is a reality. Purchasing a new computer probably doesn’t fit in to that reality. In fact, there are a mere 10 installed computers per 1,000 people in Uganda.

Knowing that, charities have popped up right and left to send donated computers to Africa. These tend to be the computers donated out of genuine good will by an individual trying to “help somebody in Africa.”

But countless other computers are sent overseas to Africa each year, either by companies looking to adopt the out-of-sight out-of-mind mentality to their e-waste problem (albeit a violation of the Basel Convention) or by “cloned” computer manufacturers looking to sell PC’s assembled from non-major brand parts at discounted prices.

Regardless of how the computers get there, parts of Africa have turned into a literal e-waste dumping grounds, where there is little or no means of properly treating and disposing of their hazardous components.

Omaha-based nonprofit, Computers for Africa (CFA), provides refurbished computers and labs; as well as hardware, maintenance and repair lessons; to students in rural Uganda. The organization receives computer donations from local businesses, then works with high school and college students to upload new software, clean, test and configure them to excellent working condition.

The computers aren’t merely shipped overseas. They are shipped to the local CFA coordinator who has carefully vetted the applicants for factors including administrative leadership, sources of affordable energy and overall planning for the computer program. This commitment ensures the computers don’t become tech-trash a year after they are sent over.

Teachers from the recipient schools attend a two-week course in computer maintenance and repair and attend periodic workshops to keep skills up to date.

The organization hopes the adoption of quality refurbished technology will help control the influx of cloned computers as “dead clones are accumulating all over the country with little public outcry,” Herbert Busiku, Director of Ugandan Operations for CFA, told The Huffington Post.

A May 2008 report from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) put the number of computers imported into Uganda in 2007 at 27,000 units. Of these units, only 4,000 were used computers. The vast majority of the rest were clones.

Read more
BBC Uncovers E-Waste Laws ‘Turned Toxic’
Apple Admits to Improper Hazardous Waste Disposal
Dell Bans E-Waste Exports to Developing Nations

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Comments

  1. Contact MIke Anane in Ghana if you want to know more about the environmental and public health impacts of ewaste shipments and dumping in Ghana. He is a Ghanaian Environmental Journalist and activist who has beendocumenting the impacts of ewaste and campaigning against ewaste shipments from the US and the EU for the past eight years. You can reach him on his cellphone 00233 244 656632 or mikeanane@yahoo.com

  2. First a question… what does this mean, “albeit a violation of the Basel Action Network”? Since when did this small Seattle political group become a law entity? The group has publicly attacked the United Nations and EPA based on shoddy statistics about the percentage of used electronics which are “waste”. The export to Africa needs reform, even if only 25% is obsolete waste then that 25% will build day by day and needs a solution. But Kenya’s solution – legislatively banning imports of working computers (passed last fall) and BAN.org’s presentation in Ghana last December go too far.

    The solution is Fair Trade, not a boycott of the techies in Africa. WR3A.org is one organization promoting fair trade, there are others which don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

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