Discourage importation of used vehicles to reduce carbon emission, says expert

African countries are becoming scrap yards for old vehicles from advanced economies, says report

In Summary

• Used vehicle import is rampant and a flourishing trade in Africa.

• There has been an influx of imported old and polluting vehicles in Africa, some of which are unfit for the road.

The government has been urged to discourage importation of used vehicles through taxation and standards to reduce carbon emission.

United Nations Environmental Programme Africa Focal, Jane Akumu, wants the government to replace the used vehicles with environment friendly electric vehicles.

She said the new, cleaner vehicles can be made more available by encouraging local manufacturing, which will also create job opportunities.

“Instead of importing oil we have sustainable electricity from renewable sources,” Akumu said.  

The State of Africa’s Environment 2023 report shows that African countries are becoming scrap yards for old vehicles from advanced economies.

The report released last week by the Centre for Science and Environment, said there is an influx of imported old and polluting vehicles in Africa.

“Used vehicle import is a rampant and flourishing trade in Africa. While advanced economies have the capacity to deal with the accompanying problems of vehicles changing several hands within their domestic markets, poorer economies do not,” the report said.

It said low- and middle-income countries that do not have their own vehicle manufacturing base are the most vulnerable to unregulated and uncontrolled import of used vehicles

The report said lack of strong environmental safeguards has contributed highly to the situation.

It said lure of cheap vehicles and lack of clean automotive fuels have created conditions and incentives for the trade of used vehicles and uncontrolled dumping.

The report said developing countries are beginning to frame regulations to reduce vehicular emissions due to pressure to meet clean air standards.

“The scale of dumping from the rich countries to the poor is overwhelming. Back in 2014, it was estimated that globally, about 40 million vehicles a year approach their end-of-life, which is four percent of the total global automobile ownership,” it said.

Estimates from the International Energy Agency say a lot of the old vehicles get traded to low and middle-income countries.

According to the estimates, the number is expected to explode as global automobile fleet doubles by 2050.

A 2014 World Bank estimate says the vehicle ownership rate in Africa, though much lower than the world average, is rapidly increasing across cities.

Nairobi's car fleet has doubled between 2012 and 2018.

Data from Deloitte Africa Automotive Insights Report, 2016 say vehicle imports in Kenya, Ethiopis and Nigeria are hugely dominated by used vehicles.

The share of used vehicles in these countries is 80–90 per cent of the total imported fleet.

In Kenya, the share of commercial vehicles in new sales is the highest at 86 per cent.

UNEP says several regulations have evolved in Africa and South Asia that include fixing of age to ensure newer fleet is imported.

This is in addition to emission-based taxation to import cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

At least four countries in Africa namely, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Sudan have banned importation of used vehicles.

Another 25 countries have imposed age restrictions of between 3-15 years on vehicles.

Gabon, Libya, Mozambique, Niger and Tunisia have an age cap of five years and less.

Benin and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have capped it at 10 years, while Liberia, Nigeria and Swaziland have capped it at 15 years.

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