More Africans need to get their hands on computers in order for Africa to tap the potential of information and communications technology (ICT) to improve lives. But the price of new computers puts them beyond the reach of most Africans. And the overall lack of technical skills also limits computer use across the continent.

Locally owned computer refurbishment centres may help. When refurbishment is done cheaply and efficiently, restored computers can be resold at a low price. But in Africa, it may require more than just a viable refurbishment operation: everybody wins when a social purpose is embedded in the business. The refurbishment process provides technical training to members of the community, who can help sustain effective ICT use. And centres increase their likelihood of success by offering services that are usually not otherwise available, like consultation and technical support.

When used equipment is donated to refurbishment centres it keeps costs down. It also solves problems for big companies that have social corporate responsibility obligations, and which increasingly face environmental mandates on hardware disposal. Several international initiatives are underway to bring second-hand computers to Africa, and many intend to refurbish at the local destination.

But there are only a few successful computer refurbishment centres in Africa at present, and very little is documented about their experiences for others to learn from. "How to Set Up and Operate a Successful Computer Refurbishment Centre in Africa: A Planning and Management Guide" is the result of a study undertaken by in early 2004, which examined the methods and strategies of the computer refurbishment industry, focusing on Africa. This guide describes the steps involved in opening a computer refurbishment centre in Africa and managing it into productivity.

Teresa Peters,'s executive director believes, “Second-hand computers aren't ideal, but they will probably be a reality for Africa at least in the short term. As environmental mandates in North America and Europe start to kick-in during the next few years, used computers will be shipped to Africa in unprecedented numbers. It is crucial that the refurbishment be done locally, so Africans gain skills as part of the process. This guide sets out proven methods that could be replicated in refurbishment centres across the continent. ”