I T I S L E G A L
|See video of African Reuse|
First the Good News about United Nations University's "Person in the Port Project" (2018). "Assessing Import of Used Electrical and Electronic Equipment Into Nigeria"...
- The 2018 PiP report avoids the pitfall of poverty porn (which made its 2015 report cringeworthy)
- The report correctly describes the use of otherwise "unused space" in automobiles (West Africa's #1 used goods import) to move laptops, computers, and other household electronics (and clothes, and jacuzzis, etc).
- They involved 2 African authors, Olusegun Odeyingbo (UNU), and Dr. Innocent Nnorom, BCCC Africa (along with Dr. Olmar Desozer of UNU - ViE SCYCLE)
"The high skill level of Nigeria’s refurbishing sector, with the ability to fix many technical defects in UEEE at reasonable service cost, also motivates importers to import both functioning and non-functioning electronic equipment to Nigeria."Well done.
The problem is in the press release, and the headline. They claim something that is rational and environmentally sound is nevertheless illegal. And the press release (apparently written by a freaked out white Starbucks barista) is to call law enforcement... without quoting or interviewing the black people who loaded and unloaded the containers.
Africans are control of this whole trade. This report does a lot to document that, reversing the narrative that unethical OECD sham recyclers are responsible.
It's halfway there. It correctly describes the trade, but nonetheless also makes concessions to the European E-Wastes lynch mob. Better dressed, better facts, and with credible African co-authors. But where is the crime? Where is the waste dumping?
Recalling Booker T. Washington, the report reads like a compromise. It describes the good, but extends an olive branch to regulators who impugn trade with geeks of color in rapidly emerging markets like Nigeria.
To me, the photos, charts, and data look - ordinary. Below are a couple which I took just a month before I saw the report, at a USA African-run pack-and-ship terminal in the New York City Area.
We agree on what it looks like. Here is a shot I took of a container being loaded for Africa.
Chart after chart after chart describes the exports. And to repeat, to their credit, there are no emotion-button photos of kids at the dumps standing on computer monitors (which had been imported 20 years earlier).
They almost have it. Then, as if they anticipated the question... So what? They invoke the spectre of crime.
The automobiles and mixed loads are made to sound suspicious. But that's what people do in the shipping business - efficiently maximize space in sea containers. Hardly worth an extension of the constantly-funded UNU E-waste research budget... Uh-oh. Here it comes.
The report concedes these are imports by Africans, who generate profits from reuse and repair. They are not "waste" products shipped by the driver "avoiding disposal fees" by shammy fat white guys in capitalist top hats.
But DING, that false note. "Nevertheless, under the provisions of the Basel Convention, the export to and import of nonfunctional [Untested Electric and Electronic Equipment] into Nigeria are illegal."
No. Sorry. Check the Convention. Exporting them for the purpose of dumping and burning is illegal (the original claim). Export of non-functional electronic devices for the purpose of repair is not only NOT ILLEGAL, there is special language stating, unequivocably, that it is LEGAL UNDER THE BASEL CONVENTION ANNEX IX, B1110. And nothing says otherwise!