Ban On Used Computers Cause for Concern in Uganda

Computing

Leading the fight against electronic waste which pollutes the environment in Africa is Uganda. The country has implemented a complete ban on the import of second hand electronics. But since the restrictive policy has slowly taken full effect, growing criticism from businesses as well as NGOs and consumers raises the question: who really benefits from the ban?

When the ban was implemented in May 2010, importers of second hand appliances were the first to cry out. And not without reason: the 'E-waste Special Interest Group' has estimated that 80 per cent of Uganda's 200 ICT enterprises have gone out of business or have been relocated since the ban.

This cost Uganda over a thousand skilled jobs and left former customers without a source of affordable IT hardware. Second hand appliances started running out and consumers, on their turn, started to raise their voices.

"When someone with little money asks me for advice on what computer to buy, I advise them to buy second hand," says IT teacher at Kampala's Makerere University, Richard Ssekibuule. "They're cheaper and better than new, unbranded ones. In many cases unbranded computers fail, because they have faulty components such as processors that didn't pass manufacturer's tests."

A second hand computer, costing about $200 (about Sh300,000), is within reach for the average Ugandan. There is a vast difference with unreliable unbranded computers, which sell for $600 to $800.Harboured in electronics are heavy metals like lead and mercury. These pose a danger to the environment and public health if they are not recycled carefully.