Africa is witnessing a huge electronic waste problem

Africa is increasingly becoming a dumping ground for electronic waste from developed nations. Despite having the lowest annual e-waste production per capita, UN agencies project a growth rate of 3 to 5 percent annually — a trend likely to continue with further technology integration.

Thred Media
3 min readApr 16, 2024


The African continent has emerged as a significant destination for electronic waste, often originating from developed nations.

According to the United Nations Institute for Training and Research 2024 report, the continent receives around 3 million tons of electronic waste annually, making it a dumping ground for obsolete gadgets including smartphones, computers, televisions, among many others.

This issue is fuelled by factors such as lax regulations, inadequate recycling infrastructures, and a growing demand for second-hand electronics en masse.

The improper handling and disposal of e-waste continue to pose grave risks to public health across Africa. Electronic devices contain hazardous materials such as lead and mercury which leach into soil and water sources when dumped in landfills or burned.

Consequently, communities living near e-waste sites such as Dandora in Kenya, continue to be exposed to toxic substances through air, water, and food contamination, leading to various health ailments including respiratory problems, neurological disorders, and cancers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children and women are at greater risk of the effects of hazardous pollutants from e-waste recycling activities.

In many African countries such as Kenya, Ghana, and Tanzania children are often involved in waste picking and scavenging, burning discarded e-waste and manually dismantling items for component parts.

Beyond its impact on human health, e-waste exacts a heavy toll on the continent’s environment. Improper disposal methods, such as open burning and landfilling, release toxic pollutants into the air and soil, contaminating ecosystems and damaging biodiversity.

Hazardous substances from electronic waste seep into groundwater, posing long-term threats to aquatic life and compromising the quality of drinking water.

Additionally, e-waste contributes to climate change through the release of greenhouse gases during incineration and decomposition processes.

The extraction and processing of raw materials for electronic devices requires significant energy consumption and carbon emissions, further exacerbating environmental degradation.

The World Economic Forum asserts that beyond a handful of African countries including Madagascar, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, and Rwanda, defined regulations covering e-waste management and Extended Producer Responsibility are lacking.

This modern crisis in Africa requires a combination of regulatory frameworks, technological innovation, and public awareness campaigns.

African countries need to invest in e-waste management infrastructure to build capacity for safe and sustainable recycling processes.

Establishing formal recycling facilities equipped with state-of-the-art tech for the extraction and recovery of valuable materials from this waste is essential, minimising environmental pollution and ending the reliance on civilian efforts.

With these pillars established, African countries have the potential to mitigate health and environmental impacts associated with e-waste, paving the way for a more sustainable and resilient future.

Originally written by Derrick Wachaya for Thred.