Many developing countries such as Tanzania, have jumped few steps of digitalisation as compared to the developed countries. They have jumped quicker from the technology of landlines to mobile lines, typewriters to computers, pocket digital cameras to mobile phone inbuilt cameras. This jump has contributed positively to the economy in terms of jobs, inclusion, health and efficiency but also has caused disruption to the society in terms of culture and tradition.
In 2017 Reuters News Agency reported that the number of internet users in Tanzania reached 23 million which is almost half of the total population, and majority of those users were using their handsets to access internet. That also means that there were around 23 million gadgets such as handsets, computers, iPad in circulation which were used to access the internet.
There are no further official statistics or reports showing the users of other electronic equipment, however, current available statics from HBS 2017-2018, show that 24% households own TV and 43% households own Radio. When it comes to telephone only 0.2% household’s own landline and 78% of households own mobile phone. There are no statistics on other electronic gadgets such as digital cameras, radios, microwaves, refrigerators, Indeed, these electronics have made our lives simpler, have reduced transaction costs and distance, have saved time, have promoted inclusion, and have made the World become closer. They have also contributed to jobs creation and efficiency in many aspects of the economy and society.
Despite their importance in our today’s lives, it is important to note that electronic equipment’s are made with many toxic substances which might have direct or indirect negative implications to the health and wellbeing of the users. Many studies such as Baba, A (2010), published by the Association of Metallurgical Engineers of Serbia and the study by Aston, J.E (2010) published by Journal of Hazardous Materials confirmed that gadgets such as cell phones have high level of toxic metals which need to be carefully stored in order to ensure safety (health wise) of the users.
In that regard, it is crucial at this stage for countries like Tanzania to establish mechanism (recycling or promoting exportation of wastes) that can promote systematic collection and processing of electronic wastes. This is important because these devices have a very short life span contributing to the increase in electronic wastes in our homes hence, majority of the households in the country keep these wastes in their homes.
Recently I visited the Mwanza landfill which is still under construction. One of my observation was that I could not spot any electronic waste in the landfill. That triggered me to ask myself several questions given the fact that electronic products have penetrated in every aspect of our daily lives. These questions included where are the electronic wastes, who collects them, and if collected are they recycled, are they exported, if so, who is exporting them and to where?
The speed of upgrade electronic equipment such as handsets and other gadgets is very high, but where do the old ones go? As mentioned above, probably majority of these wastes are in household and we are living with them. In that regard, majority of us are exposed to the negative impacts of the toxic components which forms these electronics.
Globally, the issue of managing electronic waste has been debated in different platforms and several regulations have been introduced. For example, in many European countries, electronic wastes have been banned from landfills because they have been proven to have toxic components which are linked to cancer and other health problems. Such measures, however, are not practiced in many of developing countries such as Tanzania even though majority of e-waste are disposed of in such countries.
In a nutshell, fast growing cities such as those in Tanzania are generating more electronic waste in quantity which need consistent approaches to counter this issue. In that regard, stakeholders involved in waste management (including the private sector) need to apply technical and high level (policy) interventions to control and manage electronic wastes which are increasing at high speed. In addition, stakeholders need to raise awareness on how to manage electronic wastes, the negative effects of living with such wastes in our homes and the possibility of converting this challenge into a business opportunity.
This blogpost was shared by Accelerator Lab Tanzania Team