AFRICA WASTE TRADE

AFRICA WASTE TRADE



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     CASE NUMBER:   315
     CASE NMENONIC: OAUWASTE
     CASE NAME:     AFRICA WASTE TRADE

A. IDENTIFICATION

1.   THE ISSUE

For the past three decades, poor African nations have been used as
the dumping sites for hazardous toxic waste materials from
developed countries who are out to reduce the costs of disposing or
recycling these by-products of industries.  Caught in a
stranglehold by economic hardship, many African nations have been
lured by the potential financial gains (which in some cases have
exceeded the GDP of many poor countries), of importing hazardous
waste from the West.  The dumping of toxic waste materials poses a
grave environmental threat to African people, many of whom are not
aware of the dangers and are not equipped to handle the ensuing
consequences.  The magnitude of the problem has become a major
international environmental and trade issue, and has prompted two
global and regional attempts to regulate and monitor the
international transport of hazardous wastes.  Signed in 1987, the
Basel Convention is the first global attempt to regulate and
monitor the transboundry movement of hazardous waste. The second is
the United Nations Environment Program's adoption of the  Cairo
Guidelines and Principals for the Environmentally Sound Management
of Hazardous Waste.  Equally important and perhaps more significant
on a regional level, is the Organization of African Unity's (OAU)
voting of a resolution banning the acceptance of waste materials by
all member countries.  Despite these significant worldwide attempts
to curb the lucrative but hazardous business, clandestine waste
trading still continues.

2.   DESCRIPTION

For the past three decades, poor African nations have served as the
dumping ground for toxic hazardous waste materials, i.e. raw
sewage, sludge, incinerated ashes, contaminated oils, chemical
substances,  acids, poisonous solvents ejected by chemical,
pharmaceutical, and fertilizer producing plants in the 
industrialized world. High regulatory standards (although marred by
regulatory loopholes) and the equally  high costs of disposing the
industrial by-products in the West, have brought about the growth
of a  secondary and very lucrative waste dumping industry. Where
are these by-products being shipped  off to? They are clandestinely
being shipped off  to poor developing nations. The major
destination has been the vast amount of used and unused land
available in many African countries.

Why is it that a number of African countries (independent business
owners and some governments) have ignored the long-term and obvious
dangers associated with untreated and therefore hazardous waste
materials? The predominant driving force behind the importation of 
these waste materials has been the desperate need for these
countries to earn  income in the form of  hard currency in an 
attempt to alleviate the economic hardships and high poverty levels
prevalent in all developing countries.  Furthermore, the greed of 
a few African business owners with the desire to make  a relatively
enormous  amount of money in foreign currency, in a relatively
short amount of time, have also had a significant role in the
growth of the waste dumping industry in African countries. Reports
of  individual African business owners signing deals to import
waste materials for a fraction of the cost of  recycling or
disposal in the  West, have been made public in a number of
countries, (See Benin, Nigeria and Somalia cases).

Uncontrolled dumping of  toxic wastes in Africa has been traced
back to the early 1970s, when  reports of clandestine deals between
African countries and companies in the United States, France, 
Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy and the former
U.S.S.R. began surfacing.  Rumors of toxic waste sites in different
African countries (predominantly in West Africa)  were soon
substantiated by evidence such as leaking barrels (see Nigeria
case), and aerial photographs of a  constructed dumping site, (see
Benin case).

The high growth of industries in developed countries has been
accompanied by an equally high increase in the production of by-
products which are often toxic and hazardous to land, air, water
and all living beings, if not treated and disposed of as required
under the guidelines of environmental  safety regulations, which
attempt to ensure the least negative impact on the environment. In
1947, the worldwide generation of waste was estimated at 5 million
metric tons, (See Basel Case). By 1988, the total amount of waste
production had risen to 300 million metric ton,  (See Nigeria
case).

Because industrial by-products contain many chemicals and
substances that cannot be recycled nor disposed of very easily, one
of the biggest challenges for the major industrialized countries
has become the disposal of  waste materials, as more and more
industrialized countries fill up their landfills, and the price of
processing the waste materials continues to increase.  The cost of
disposing waste  products in any given industrialized nation can
reach $3000 a ton, whereas selling untreated waste  to an African
nation reportedly is as low as $5 a ton. That is approximately one
thousandth of the cost of processing the waste in any given
industrialized country, which tends to have stricter requirements
for waste recycling and disposal .These figures translate to
enormous profits for  the exporting businesses. While it is also
true that from an African nation's perspective, waste importing
African governments and\or independent business owners make a
relatively hefty bundle  of hard currency in the short-term, the
cost of cleaning up the effects of the toxic dumping, outweigh  the
long-term costs and environmental effects on the people and the
economy.

The majority of the waste trade destined for cheap dumping
locations in Africa, is conducted clandestinely.  Waste is bought
and sold just like any other commodity and traded as a
liability."Toxic commodity brokers" operate in the shadows from a 
number of operating sites. Identified sites include Gibraltar, the
Isle of Man, and Liechtenstein. The ships' destinations are often
not disclosed, and the contents of the cargo are usually 
identified as harmless items such as fertilizer or building
materials. The process is reportedly very simple. It begins with
registering a private company. The second step is to buy waste
materials with no questions  asked. The most challenging part is
finding a dump site. Renting a ship and hiring a crew follows and
is  considered relatively easy to do. The easiest part is watching
the money come in.   

The magnitude of the problem has become a major international
environmental and trade issue prompting  two global attempts, and
an African effort under the auspices of the Organization of African
Unity, to regulate the transboundry movement of waste materials
from the industrialized countries to developing countries. The
United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) initiated the first
global attempt against  irresponsable waste trading. In 1987, it
adopted the Cairo Guidelines and Principals for the Environmentally
Sound Management of Hazardous Waste which contained recommendations
concerning the trading of  toxic waste. Under the guidelines, the
exporter is responsible for ensuring that the disposal site meets 
the safety requirements of national and international regulations.
The 1987 Basel Convention an offspring of the UNEP Cairo guidelines
and the first international effort to formalize regulation of
hazardous waste  procedures into international law, was signed by
116 nations. The convention sought to regulate the transboundry
movement of  hazardous waste. Twenty-nine articles and six annexes
regulate cross inational border shipping and trading of hazardous
material. Equally important, and with more regional  significance
was the voting of a resolution by the Organization of African Unity
(OAU) to ban member countries from accepting industrial waste
products. 

Despite the OAU's attempts to ban member countries from waste
trading, a number of countries have   violated the ban. The reasons
for doing so are based on economics; the need to generate
substantial  amounts of revenue to alleviate the economic hardships
faced by African countries. Caught in a stranglehold by economic
hardship, many African nations have been and continue to be lured
by the potential financial gains, which in some cases exceed the
GDP of many countries, of importing hazardous waste from the West.
African countries accepting waste products from the developed
countries have done so under crisis situations, i.e. severe balance
of payment deficits, external loan payment defaults, civil war
created by among other factors, their weak income earning power  on
the global market. In the past decade, a number of country specific
African cases have served to heighten global attention to the
transboundry movement of  toxic wastes, but also raised many 
questions about the effectiveness of   regulations made by the UNEP
guidelines, the Basel Convention  and the OAU ban against hazardous
waste trading. As members of the Organization of African Unity, 
Benin,  Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Somalia and Zimbabwe are just a few
of the countries which have violated the OAU ban against importing
toxic waste trading.

In 1987, the infamous Koko deal in Nigeria took place. A deal was
signed between an Italian waste broker and a Nigerian business man,
that would allow the Italians  to store waste products on his  land
for $100 a month, (see Nigeria Case). In 1988, the Benin government
negotiated a bilateral  deal with the French government to import
radioactive and industrial waste for an advance of $1.6 million and
30 years of economic assistance (see Benin case). It defended the
decision to import the waste as a matter of survival. For an
extremely impoverished country  like Guinea-Bissau, the prospect of
earning $20million, a substantial added percentage to national
income was too difficult to pass up.  However, public outcries led
to the cancellation of the deal. It has been suggested that Guinea-
Bissau would have earned its entire gross domestic product from
toxic waste trade. During the Somali civil war,  a deal was made
with one of the warring sides to dump hazardous material in the
country. International  media reports drew outrage from the
international and local community which stopped the deal,  (see
Somali case). In all these cases, accepting the dangerous by-
products has been determined by,  and the dangerous consequences
superseded by the need to make money, whether it is for the genuine
need to earn much needed income or the simple fact of accumulating
wealth. Both the exporting and  importing counterparts violated
international treaties to which these countries are signatories.  
These cases are just a few which demonstrate the ineffectiveness of
global and regional attempts  to regulate an industry, which
appears to have significant monetary gains (short-term though they
may be) that overshadow its very hazardous impacts. This factor has
been the basis for the international call to go beyond regulating
waste material trading. Environmental groups such as the Greenpeace
Movement have called for the outright ban, which would do away with
the legitimacy regulations give to the industry. 

How beneficial is this do-or-die method of income generation? Even
though waste importation may  be an alternative solution to the
desperate search for revenue, it is clear African countries are 
ill-equipped to dispose of the waste properly. The dumping of toxic
waste materials poses grave environmental and health threats to
African people, many of whom are not aware of the dangers  and are
not equipped to handle the ensuing consequences. Evidence of the
potential harm from  toxic material has already been identified,
(see Benin and Nigeria cases).

Africa is a viable alternative for waste dumping because it demands
low disposal fees and entails a disposal process that includes
nothing more than finding a site (suitable or unsuitable), and 
burying the dangerous substances without processing them, and with
no adherence to the international and local environmental
regulatory standards. The low public awareness of the dangers
involved, and  the willingness of some African local officials and
individual business owners to ignore the dangers in exchange for
financial gains, further facilitate the process.

Does poverty and the desperate need to get out of it, circumvent
the potential far-reaching harm, toxic waste can ultimately have on
the environment and the African people? Does the end  (short-term
gains in this case) justify the means? Toxic waste importing
African countries have yet to realize that in reality, it is the
exporting countries who stand to gain the most from the deals.  By
using Africa as a dumping site, industrialized countries avoid the
high costs of incinerating and  recycling its wastes according to
the Common Market laws, and Africa picks up the cost of cleaning 
the damage caused by the wastes, thereby nullifying the entire
attempt to generate revenue to  alleviate poverty.

3.   RELATED CASES

BASEL Case
BENGALI Case
BENIN Case
BASMEX Case
JELLYWAX Case
KHAIN Case
NIGERIA Case
SOMALIA Case
IKO Case
SAOTOME Case

Keyword Clusters:

     1.Trade Product          = WASTE
     2. Bio-geography         = TROPical
     3. Environmental Problem =  POLL (Pollution Land)

4.   Draft Author:  Irene Bomani (May, 1996)

B.   LEGAL CLUSTERS

5.   Discourse and Status:    DISagreement and INPROGRess

Despite the OAU's resolution banning member countries from
accepting toxic waste materials  from industrialized countries, the
ratification of the Basel Convention by 115 countries,  many of
them African countries, the Greenpeace movement's surveyance of
transboundry waste materials, the efforts of the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development and the  United States EPA, to
curb the lucrative but dangerous business, clandestine waste trade
transactions have not been eliminated and environmental regulations
continue to be violated.

6.   Scope and Forum:    MULTILATERAL AND OAU

7.   Decision Breadth:   9

8.   Legal Standing:     TREATY

C.   GEOGRAPHIC CLUSTER

9.   Geographic Locations

     a. Geographic Domain:    AFRICA

     b. Geographic Site:      AFRICA

     c. Geographic Impact:    AFRICA

10.  Sub-national Factors:    YES

11.  Type of Habitat:    TROPical

D.   TRADE CLUSTER

12.  Type of Measure:    Import Ban [IMBAN]

13.  Direct vs. Indirect Impacts:  DIRect

14.  The Relation of Measure to Impact
     
     a. Directly Related:     YES  Hazmat
     b. Indirectly Related:   NO   
     c. Not related:          NO
     d. Process Related:      YES  Pollution Land

15.  Trade Product Identification: WASTE

16.  Economic Data

The clandestine nature of waste product trade makes it difficult to
provide detailed data. Nevertheless, estimates of the waste
disposal industry are in the multi-billion dollar level. African
countries demand relatively very little compensation for accepting
the hazardous material.  Estimates for waste processing in the
industrial countries reach $3000 a ton, whereas some African 
countries have reportedly accepted as little as $5.00 a ton.

17.  Impact of Trade Restriction:  Ban

18.  Industrial Sector:  WASTE Disposal

19.  Exporters and Importers: MANY AND OAU                       

E.   Environmental Filters

20.  Environmental Problem Type: POLL

21.  Name, Type and Diversity of Species

22.  Impact and Effect:  HIGH and REGULatory

23.  Urgency and lifetime:    Medium and 100s of years

24.  Substitutes:   Biodegradeable material [BIODG]

F.   OTHER FACTORS

25.  Culture:            NO

26.  Trans-boundary:     NO

27.  Human Rights:       YES

On an African regional level, the environmental dangers which come
hand-in-hand with toxic wastes, threaten the lives of millions of
people who are often unaware of the dangers. The harm inflicted by
the wastes is a violation of the right to a healthy and productive
life. The callous act of  dumping toxic wastes on unsuspecting
populations is a demonstration of the international dimension of
wealth inequity and poverty, and the continuing poisoning of the
region. 

28.  Relevant Literature

Africa News, Environment: The West's Wastebasket.  June 13, 1988.

Africa Report. The Deadly Trade: Toxic Waste Dumping in Africa.
September-October 1988.

Business and Society Review. Africa: Wastebasket of the West. Fall
1988.

Brooke, James. African Countries Barring Foreign Toxic Waste. The
New York Times, September 25, 1988.

Cody, Edward. 105 Nations Back Treaty on Toxic Waste Shipping: Pact
Seeks to Shield Third World States.  The Washington Post, March 23,
1989.

Financial Times. Toxic Waste: Trade offs in Poison and Poverty".
August 31, 1988.

Greenpeace. Greenpeace Waste Trade Update. March 1993.

Henwood, Douglas. Toxic Banking. The Nation 254, March 9, 1992. 

Kummer, Katherina. The International Regulation of Transboundry
Traffic in Hazardous Waste:The 1989 Basel Convention. 
     International and Comparative Law Quarterly, July 1992, pp.
530-562.

New Scientist. Africa Wages War on Dumpers of Poisonous Waste. June
23, 1989.  
Portersfield, Andrew. Developing States Become Developing Dump for
Toxics. WorldPaper, December, 1988.

Sperling, Lawrence I. Feldman, Ira, R. The Transboundry Movement of
Hazardous Waste:  Implementation and Enforcement of Control Regimes
in the European Community.  Environmental Law Reporter, November
1992, pp. 10701-10716.

Starr, Douglas. Shoppers, Shoppers, Everywhere. Audubon 92, pp.
98-103,  March 1990,

Rwegayura, Anaclet. Africa: New Dumping Ground for Toxic Wastes.
Inter Press Service, July 20, 1988.

Ruffins, Paul. Toxic Terrorism Invades Third World Nations. Black
Enterprise,  November 1988.

Vir, Arti, K. Toxic Trade with Africa. Environment and Science and
Technology, January 23, 1989.



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May, 1996