By Nuru Ahmed

Trade in old and used vehicles from high-income countries causes massive environmental dumping and toxic pollution.

African countries that allow unregulated import of cars have a negative effect on the continent’s environment, economy and society at large, a recent report has shown.

The report — conducted with the help of a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project that seeks to regulate the export and import of used vehicles in Africa said Africa imports used vehicles primarily from high-income countries.

Approximately 2.5 million of such vehicles are exported by European Union, Japan and the United States — the primary exporters — in 2017, Promoting Safer and Cleaner Used Vehicles for Africa 2020 the Report said.

Around 48 percent of these used vehicles were destined for Africa. The report, released by the Automobile Association of South Africa on July 1, 2020, said.

Only five of the continent’s 54 countries had a complete ban on the import of used vehicles, while 22 countries had no restrictions on the import of second-hand vehicles, according to the report.

The remaining 27 countries have age restrictions on the import of used vehicles. These range from 3-15 years. 15 countries, with and without age restrictions, impose additional taxes on vehicles imported older than a certain age, ranging from 3-10 years, according to the study.

Mauritius, Seychelles and Uganda implement additional tax based on the environmental impact. 

Environmental impact

The burning of diesel is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. Sub-Saharan Africa witnessed a 75 percent increase in transport emissions between 2000 and 2016, with transport emissions increasing 153 percent in Ghana, 73 percent in Kenya and 16 percent in Nigeria.

The regulation of vehicle imports to allow vehicles with only Euro IV of equivalent emission standard and banning vehicles older than five years will decrease levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the report said.

Road transport was responsible for 25 percent of particulate matter, a mix of organic and inorganic material, the report added.

Trade in old and used vehicles from high-income countries caused massive environmental dumping and toxic pollution, showed Clunkered : Combating Dumping of Used Vehicles – A roadmap for Africa and South Asia, a study by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment.

Africa has the highest fatality rate, estimated at 26.6 for every 100,000 population, according to Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, a study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

The continent contributed 20 percent to the overall road death rate, while having only 2.3 percent of the world’s vehicles.

The combined environmental and economic impacts influence social impact that policy change has over imports of used vehicles in Africa.

Policy reform

The Automobile Association of Zimbabwe, along with the other members of the African Council of Touring and Automobile Clubs have called on importing and exporting countries to take action to promote safer and cleaner used vehicles in Africa.

They support the policy changes suggested by UN, which call for:

  • Development of an endorsed used vehicle quality label, especially for second-hand vehicles sold
  • Implementation of minimum Euro IV or equivalent emission standards
  • Import of vehicles with a maximum vehicle age of five years
  • Banning export / import of zero-rated vehicles
  • Supporting import of low to zero-carbon and used electric vehicles.