Some attendees at last fall's E-Scrap Conference had the opportunity to screen the documentary film "The E-waste Tragedy" which takes a hard look at some of the unsophisticated and dangerous methods of handling e-waste in Africa. However, one viewer who grew up in Ghana, a short distance from where the film takes place, said it misrepresents the nature of the problem:
Growing up in Ghana as a young man I was very fascinated by electronic gadgets and their magic. So I spent a lot of time learning to fix used electronics. As a result I have met so many respected repair guys or “Geeks of Color” if you wish. These are the people who prolong the life span of some of the computers, cell phone, TVs etc that you throw away. Without these guys, so many household, schools, businesses in Africa will lack basic gadgets like computers, TVs, and cell phones for everyday life. The average annual household income in Ghana is $1,327, yet most Africans have facebook accounts and cell phones. With this income level, very few Ghanaians are able to afford brand new electronics. How did we achieve higher rates of electronic use than the USA had in the 1990s? It’s not thanks to the non-profits, which make millions selling images of poor African and Asian recyclers. We are connected to the world thanks to imported used electronics and the Tinkerers, Fixers, Technicians, Nerds and Geeks of Color who finance the trade. Thanks to the mysteriously missing African businesses, 95% of Ghanaians can afford to buy these “magic” gadgets that our lives have come to depend on. With the widely available repair services, these families (including mine) are able to afford and maintain these electronics for a very long time. These are the people whose voices are not heard in this film and many others circulating in the western media.
If you have seen the film and are interested in this review from an individual close to its source material, the article can be found here.