By Sharon Atieno

Africa’s lack of stringent regulations in the importation of heavy-duty vehicles (HDV), including trucks and buses, is resulting in the importation of lower-quality vehicles which contribute significantly to air pollution.

This is according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)report dubbed Used Heavy Duty Vehicles and the Environment – A Global Overview of Used Heavy-Duty Vehicles: Flow, Scale and Regulation launched on the sidelines of the Climate and Clean Air Conference 2024.

The report finds that though HDV exports represent a paltry 3.6% of the global automotive trade’s total value, their associated carbon dioxide emissions have risen by more than 30% since 2000, with trucks accounting for 80% of this increase.

Additionally, HDVs participate substantially in environmental pollution, contributing to over 40% of on-road nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, over 60% of on-road particulate matter (PM 2.5), and more than 20% of black carbon emissions.

According to the report, African countries import the cheapest HDVs, most of which are old. In 2020 alone, the average price of a used HDV in Africa was close to US$5,900 while it was US$11,200 in Asia Pacific, US$11,100 in Latin America and the Caribbean, US$8,000 in EECCA block (Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia) and US$9,700 in the Middle East.

This significant price difference, the report notes, is due to the HDVs exported to Africa being of lower quality, poor technology penetration and fuel efficiency or lower gross weight.


The report found that 48 of the 54 African countries reviewed have inadequate measures to regulate used HDV imports. Additionally, about 55% of countries in Africa do not regulate used HDV imports or lack a comprehensive set of regulations for used HDV imports.

Though age restriction is the most common approach to regulate the import of used HDV, slightly 63% of African countries impose this limit.

“The countries with very poor regulation are attracting the worst quality of used trucks and buses, vehicles that may be 20 years old, that may have 500,000 or a million kilometres on their odometer,” Rob de Jong, head of UNEP’s Sustainable Mobility Unit, said.

Jong noted that the adoption and implementation of Euro 4 standards would reduce emissions of particulate matter and black carbon by 75% in the sector. This is because these standards are stricter and more comprehensive in limiting emissions.

Part of the findings was that exporting countries also do not have standards to ensure that the vehicles are of good quality, thus, the report calls for shared responsibility to improve and regulate quality. This will minimize negative impacts and ensure that used HDVs make meaningful contributions towards shifting to cleaner, safer, and affordable mobility, as well as emission reduction in the developing world.

“From the exporters’ side, the policy measures that can be adopted include banning the export of end-of-life used HDVs, making sure exported vehicles have a valid roadworthiness certificate, and helping importing countries with standards compliance checks,” the report reads.

Additionally, it recommends harmonization of regulations as it will contribute greatly to deter the import of obsolete, unsafe, dirty, and faulty used HDVs. Africa is already leading on this front with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and East African Community (EAC) Member States adopting Euro IV regulations for new and used HDVs.

Other suggestions include the need for incentives to leapfrog to clean technologies like electric mobility, better quality and more accessible data to improve future analysis, and more research to detail the impacts of used HDVs trade on the environment, economy and road safety.