Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Nigerians Control Lucrative Scrap Business

Public Agenda (Accra)

20 October 2008
Posted to the web 20 October 2008

By Frederick Asiamah

Having virtually taken over the banking and entertainment industries, Nigerians have now become the kingpins of the fast-growing scrap industry in Ghana, Public Agenda's investigations have established.

At Agbogbloshie, the busy scrap market in Accra, Nigerians are the ones who call the shots; determining prices of the various scrap materials, especially copper and aluminium. They are able to do this because they own a chunk of scales available. A scale costs anything from GH¢500.

It was clear that families were consolidating their shares in the sector by training their relations - mainly siblings - after which they helped them to establish their own weighing points.

Typically, their Ghanaian counterparts (mainly aged 12 years and above) comb the various parts of the city for scrap - metals, unusable electronic gadgets, cables, etc. They then break the electronic equipment to extract copper and other metals to sell to the Nigerians who in turn sell to their dealers, mainly from Asian countries like China and Sri Lanka, Dubai and also Europe.

Scrap is a hot commodity in China for instance. In March this year the Spring Scrap Industry Economics & Trade Fair was held by Worldscrap.com in Ningbo, China, which is the biggest waste material trading site in China. From 3rd-5th Nov, 2008, the World Scrap Industry (autumn) Economics & Trade Fair will also be held in Ningbo. It is expected that "the scale of overseas suppliers group will be enlarged and the varieties of scrap metals and plastic will be more extensive and detailed. The number of attending enterprises is estimated to reach 800," according to the organizers.

Ghana is a major source of scrap for the western world. But lately, the sector has been overshadowed by dumping of electronic waste or e-waste, principally "dead" computers, televisions, refrigerators, etc. This has led to concerns on the part of environmentalists.

However, the beneficiaries, like Chinedu who said he preferred working in Ghana than in the same industry in Nigeria, did not seem to have any concern at all for the environment even though they did their business on the banks of the Korle Lagoon.

Ace environmental journalist Mike Anane said "The lagoon nearby contains no fish, no frogs. It has no life."

He was concerned about the lack of enforcement of environmental regulations. He noted that Ghana has not been able to deal with dumping of e-waste from western countries.

He noted that although the computers arriving in the country through the Tema port were marked "usable second-hand goods, only about 10 percent were functional."

He said his surveillance over the years has proved that "The rest go straight to Agbobloshie."

According to Greenpeace, " 'second hand goods' exported to Ghana for re-use are actually causing horrendous pollution. 'People in the developed countries bring them here to bridge the digital gap but in actual fact they are creating a digital dump.'"

Greenpeace said, "Our analysis of samples taken from two electronic waste (e-waste) scrap yards in Ghana has revealed severe contamination with hazardous chemicals."

Not long ago, a BBC report said of Agbogbloshie that "great clouds of acrid black smoke corrupt the air. People are burning off the plastic coatings on computer cable to capture the copper. Children maneuver through the dump looking to smash computer monitors to sell the metal inside them. It's illegal, but unwanted computers from industrial countries arriving in Third World Countries are dumped, turning the water and earth into toxic swamps."

Besides the air pollution, Public Agenda sought to know from the scrap dealers what effect the process have on their health.

"I don't get sick, Swalisu, 10 years old, told this paper as he headed to one of the weighing points to sell a pound of cupper for GH¢2.50.

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