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Africa, Sustainable Development and Global Waste Disposal

In 2015, the United Nations adopted The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Sustainability has three integrated components: social, economic and environmental sustainability. It’s a noble global vision, but it comes with numerous significant challenges especially for Africa.

There is a constant stream of containers arriving in Africa packed with used and cheap clothing and electronics materials. The bulk of it ends up as waste in African countries with little to no capacity for handling the waste disposal. Ghana is emblematic of the problem: home to huge clothing and electronics landfills, toxic air from burning waste, polluted waters and unsightly beaches. There are many others across the continent. For the global North, Africa presents a cheap disposal solution.
This is a complex multifaceted problem with many stakeholders. It is international, implicating and exacerbating inequalities and inequities, both local and global. It has roots in global unsustainable overproductions, throwaway consumption patterns, poverty and heavy shouldering of waste disposal by the least resourced countries. Instead of fish, fishermen now net-in dumped clothes and residents breath in toxic fumes.

If “Africa is central to the understanding, analysis, and interpretation of the major global issues of today…” and “…conversations that seek to understand these issues are incomplete without accounting for the African dimensions and experiences of these mega-topics”, there is need to problematize waste disposal. Working toward a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous world as aspired to by the global community requires understanding of Africa’s location in the unsustainability of present trends. Africa cannot attain sustainable development goals while serving as a global waste disposal unit.

This panel is aimed at exploring the various facets of Africa shouldering disproportionately the disposal of clothing and electronic waste from other parts of the world and how this can be addressed. Presentations can focus on the realities of waste disposal, the experiences of those in the proximity of the damaging disposal sites, the practices and the perspectives of producers, traders and consumers of the products, and where policy makers stand in the conflicting imperatives around the issue.

Please submit an abstract of 200-250 words to Ismael Muvingi at im283@nova.edu by 13th March 2024.