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Africa; A dumping ground for vehicles that Europe and Japan no longer want

A UN report recalls that the often unregulated import of old and dangerous vehicles generates massive pollution in the cities of the continent.

What passenger in a Dakar or Cotonou taxi has not suffocated in an ageless Mercedes or Peugeot? The used cars that Europe or Japan dump in African countries are the source of massive pollution in the cities of the continent.

Out of date with regard to environmental or safety standards in force in OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, these vehicles find a last outlet in the poorest countries, where only a privileged minority can access the new car and where import regulations are weak if not nonexistent.

Africa bought more than 40% of the 14 million used vehicles exported to the world between 2015 and 2018. And the majority entered the continent through the ports of Nigeria, Libya, Tanzania, Guinea or Ghana.

Read also In West Africa, fatal pollution but of unknown magnitude

Faced with a growing health problem, the regulation of this trade has become an issue for which the responsibility lies as much with local governments as with exporting countries. The work carried out on 146 developing countries by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and published on Monday October 26 allows for the first time to better understand the contours of these trade networks.

In Africa, it thus appears that only a few countries have taken strong measures to control this growing market. South Africa, Egypt and Sudan have adopted the strictest policy banning the import of used vehicles. Morocco only allows vehicles less than five years old. Like Chad, Ivory Coast or Gabon. Mauritius has set this limit at three years. But in thirty countries, there is still no provision for resetting the oldest vehicles. So in The Gambia, for example, their average age is 19 years.

A health and climate issue

The lack of control is even more widespread in terms of polluting emissions since only four countries – Morocco, Rwanda, Ghana and Nigeria – require compliance with one of the European EURO standards. “The countries which have the weakest regulations are also those where the rate of fatal accidents on the roads is the highest” , points out the report, citing as example Burundi, Zimbabwe or Malawi. In the latter, 97% of the increase in the vehicle fleet is satisfied by imports of used vehicles.

“Developed countries must stop exporting vehicles that are no longer allowed to run in their own countries and developing countries must set standards,” urges Inger Andersen, the executive director of UNEP, to end the spill of ” old, dangerous and polluting vehicles ” . The UN organization will launch a program to help countries introduce minimum standards in the second-hand market. Africa is the first target.

The member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have already taken the initiative to ban, from January 2021, vehicles that do not meet European EURO 4 pollution standards.

Alongside the health issue, the issue is also climatic. The transport sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, almost a quarter of global energy-related emissions. The global vehicle fleet will double if not triple over the next 30 years. 90% of this growth will occur in developing countries.

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