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Zambia moves to block entry of used IT equipment

o Michael Malakata
25.06.2009 kl 19:58 |

Amid growing protests that Africa continues to be a dumping ground for old electronic equipment, Uganda has outlawed imports of used computers and Zambia is moving to stem the tide of imports of old technology.


Amid growing protests that Africa continues to be a dumping ground for old electronic equipment, Uganda has outlawed imports of used computers and Zambia is moving to stem the tide of imports of old technology.

Most computers and other ICT equipment being exported to Africa from Europe and America cannot be upgraded or repaired and are carelessly disposed of because most African countries lack the capacity to dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way, government officials say.

The Ugandan government outlawed the import of old computers in its 2009/2010 national budget presented to Parliament last week. Meanwhile, Zambian Communication and Transport Deputy Minister Mubika Mubika has said that Zambia is not a technological dumping ground for outdated ICT equipment.

Mubika issued a warning about the harmful environmental effects resulting from unsafe disposal of computers and other ICT equipment including mobile phones. Material for digital equipment used in computers is harmful unless disposed of well, according to the Ministry of Communication and Transport.   

The Zambian government has developed and approved a national ICT policy that seeks a partnership with the private sector and civil society organizations to bring the latest ICT products into the country, Mubika said.

"Unlike in the past, operators and service providers will now be deploying services based on technologies of their choice," Mubika said last week when he officiated at an ICT expo in Lusaka. In addition to approving the national ICT policy, the Zambian government has also included ICT as a priority in its development road map, known as the fifth national development plan.

Although Zambia has had a Technology and Service Neutral Approach policy, the country has no law on how to dispose of used ICT equipment. The technology approach policy states that all ICT equipment being imported or exported must meet international standards and the health requirements of users. However, many companies and individuals in Zambia fail to adhere to the policy, raising fears of health and environmental damage due to hazardous toxic waste.

Computers and other electronic appliances contain heavy metals like lead and antimony, which are dangerous to the environment if not properly disposed.

Many people and organizations expected the Computer Society of Zambia to condemn the Zambian government's efforts to stem the flow of used PC imports. Instead, the Computer Society of Zambia said it has endorsed the government's policy. The Computer Society of Zambia president, Collins Chinyama Thursdau, blamed foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) for the influx of outdated computers in Zambia, saying they export them as donations to schools and local NGOs.

"We should be able to have specifications at all entry points so that all the computers that do not meet such specifications are not allowed entry into Zambia," Chinyama said in a phone interview.

The Computer Society of Zambia is a professional organization for people and organizations involved in IT in Zambia.

However, the director of Chimwewe Academy, a beneficiary of donated computers, said the school does not support the call by the Zambian government and the computer society of Zambia to block imports of old donated computers. School head teacher Amos Makanya said the Zambian government is well aware that most schools in Zambia cannot afford to buy new computers for use in schools. If the Zambian government is serious about promoting the use of computers in schools as they have been claiming, then they should not block imports of old computers, according to Makanya.


Meanwhile, the Ugandan National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) said Uganda has no capacity to dispose of old computers that are already in the country. Uganda is a co-chair of ongoing international negotiation efforts on the management of mercury as a heavy metal.

NEMA is carrying out a study on the management of chemicals and heavy metals in order to enable the Ugandan government to come up with guidelines on the proper disposal of old computers. Uganda is trying to retrieve the old computers from institutions that are using them so that they can either be dismantled or shipped to countries with capacity to recycle them.

Keywords: Hardware Systems  
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