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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Private sector leaders, policymakers address Africa’s e-waste problem

CAPE TOWN, 13 June 2013 – Leaders of industry and policymakers from all over the world met in Cape Town last week to address the pressing issues of collection and processing of e-waste and discarded electronics in Africa.

A recent UN study has found that domestic consumption is the main contributor to Africa's growing e-waste problem. Africa now has more than 650 million mobile phone subscribers, which is more than the total number in the United States and in the European Union.

The meeting followed up on the United Nation’s Pan-African Forum on E-Waste that took place in Kenya in March 2012, and was convened to help speed up efforts to address the African e-waste problem in a manner that protects the environment, workers health, and creates economic opportunity. Conference participants discussed the electronics recycling standards movement that is emerging in several countries and how it is applicable to electronics recycling and refurbishment industries in Africa.

This event, which took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, was sponsored by Microsoft and organized by TechSoup Global, TechSoup Africa, WorldLoop, and Mico E-Waste Solutions. The participants included significant representations from the following entities: the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo/IBM, the e-Waste Association of South Africa (eWASA), the e-Waste Alliance, Sims Recycling Solutions Africa, and R2 Solutions, as well as the heads of e-waste recyclers and refurbishment companies from 10 African countries.

“It is important to understand emerging electronic reuse and recycling standards, and their strengths and weaknesses in the African context, and to build the capacity to utilize them where appropriate. Done well, this can create economic opportunities, as well as address environmental concerns,” said Sean Nicholson, Microsoft’s 3R Manager.

Industry leaders and policymakers shared information on the current state of African electronics recycling and refurbishment policy and practice. A special emphasis was placed on voluntary industry standards, such as Responsible Recycling (R2) in the Unites States and Weelabex in Europe, in order to assure the responsible recycling of used electronics. The standards discussed included provisions that protect the environment, improve operations, insure worker health and safety, improve data security and successfully compete in the world market.

“The event facilitated discussions between stakeholders throughout the whole chain of e-waste recycling. In the long term, standards will be key to stimulating the economic development of the recycling industry in Africa,” said UNIDO’s Smail Alhilali.

Among many issues discussed during the conference were the best ways to engage African governments, the largest generators of computer discards, and to encourage them to make better use of the emerging electronics and refurbishment industry; how to integrate the already large informal recycling sector in Africa in ways that provide income and also ensure both the personal health of workers and the safety of the environment; and ways to expand the work of the e-Waste Association of South Africa and South Africa’s e-Waste Alliance to the rest of the continent.

For more information, please contact:

Smail Alhilali

UNIDO Industrial Development Officer

+43 26026 3363
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e-Waste Alliance (South Africa)
Susanne Dittke
+27-718 590 829  
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TechSoup Global Contact (United States)
Jim Lynch
+1-415-633-9308
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WorldLoop
Barbara Toorens
+32 (0)2 614 82 03    
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