Last month John Lingelbach, executive director of SERI, traveled to Nigeria. Professor Oladele Osibanjo, former Executive Director of the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre for the African Region and current SERI Board member, introduced Lingelbach to high-level government officials and private sector entrepreneurs in Lagos and Abuja (the capital city).
The Nigerian government is well aware of the harm to public health and the environment posed by bad management of e-scrap. A main focus of the government is monitoring the port of Lagos for containers of e-scrap illegally shipped to the country. A rapidly growing focus is the regulation of domestically generated e-scrap.
Professor Osibanjo arranged meetings with state and federal government officials, including the Minister of Environment and the Director General and Directors of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA). SERI now is in communication with NESREA concerning ways SERI can provide technical assistance as the agency builds a more robust regulatory framework for domestic e-scrap.
The private sector, at least on the recycling side, is in the early stages of development. There are less than a handful of Nigerian electronics recyclers with the capability to manage material in a manner that would meet international norms (e.g. one of the international standards). And, unfortunately, these companies generally are not able to obtain enough e-scrap to utilize much of their capacity. Society-wide, the mindset is to sell used electronics through “informal” channels.
On the other hand, refurbishment and reuse are thriving. Lingelbach received a tour of Computer City, a 4 by 4 block area in Lagos which is home to 4000 “micro” shops that refurbish, repair, and sell all types of electronics. The sophistication with which many repaired the circuitry in cell phones, for example, was truly impressive. Some of the shops, however, were engaged in practices that could result in worker exposure to toxic materials or fumes. The few owners Lingelbach spoke with came across as genuinely concerned about such matters. SERI and Capdan (the association representing these shop owners) may collaborate in the coming months on training regarding EHS matters.
As in many parts of the world, the rate of growth in the amount of e-scrap generated domestically is catching both governments and the private sector off guard. SERI is working to do its part to address the situation.