Helping Out a Ghana Tech

Meltwater Academy, Ghana
Good Point Recycling has a tech working for us this month from Accra, Ghana.   His name is Mohammed Wahab, he has a USA green card, and we are paying him to prep computers and monitors suitable for export to Ghana.

Maybe he'll sell them to a student who will one day apply to Meltwater.

He says the containerload (a small 20' er) will cost around $4675 if he gets the PCs down to NY port (we'll deliver in our truck).  He's testing things as far as he needs, probably accepting 1/3 of the PCs out of the Tech Dept (those which have had hard drives wiped).

This load will all be tested working, or repairable.  The prices Wahab is paying wouldn't make sense for scrap;  neither would it make sense, if he was burning them for metal, to reject 2/3 of the PCs he tests.

We used to do this for more techs in more countries.  It saddens me that clownish depictions of emerging economies have resulted in a widespread fear among our clients to allow their material to be sold for reuse. Today we made a deal to provide zero reuse for a new contract we are applying for.  And that is the way it will be in Vermont, under the new state contract.   (Reuse is not banned, but means the tonnage cannot be reimbursed, making testing of unknown-working units rather complicated, requiring records to refund the recycling fees when the tech like Wahab takes two and assembles one working one).

In our interview, we called up our old colleague Frederic Fahiri Somda, of Burkina Faso.  He's from the south of Burkina Faso, near the Ghana border, and he and Wahab spoke approximately the same local language.  Wahab explained to Fred which hotel his mother and father owned.  Fred knew the one.  Fred lived with me in my house for about 6 months, and studied every aspect of our operation.

We have simultaneous requests for good and affordable PCs from buyers in two other African nations... more demand than we have supply.  When this happened in the past, I used to be able to buy extras for the export container from some of the e-waste recyclers we delivered bad CRTs to.  Today, none of them want to sell them to us any more.  They have "no intact unit" policies, or won't sell to Ghana based on the "Accidental Racists" depiction of "most" exports to Ghana.  Some competitors will probably use this very post to defame my company as "an e-waste exporter" who is "dumping in that country in the Greenpeace youtube video".  

By rejecting "fair trade recycling", and by refusing do sell, based on nothing more than the ethnicity of the buyer, they are painting a primitive portrait of Africa.

I'd like to export even more.  I'd like to get Wahab to take back the "clunkers" from Ghana for each one he resells, and recycle them (manually, and properly) like Las Chicas Bravas, our Fair Trade Program in Mexico.  Ghana could employ people to properly recycle the boards and metals.

Then again, Wahab can get natural resources by mining, which would not involve "trans-border-shipments" of scrap material.  This in this story in the National Geographic.

I think that creating wealth from repair, refurbishing and proper recycling is better all the way around.  I think that if Wahab is forced to buy from fewer people, and people with consciences won't trade with him, it's going to get worse.   Sometimes I feel strongly enough about this issue that I write very critical posts about the people who offer only the ugly mining choice above, and take away the choice of repair and refurbishment.  Sometimes.  I guess I do it enough that the Stewards can refuse to return Wahab's calls, and blame the whole thing on me.

I used to be mad at the people who exported junk.  Now I'm mad at the people who think I'm exporting junk.   I bought Jeffrey Hollender's book, The Responsibility Revolution, and saw him speak (he was the founder of Seventh Generation, and is on the board of Greenpeace).

I think Jeff Hollender would understand that calling Geeks of Color primitive, wire burning clowns is as harmful to the environment as it is to the spirit and the development of emerging economies, who cannot afford a $200 plasma display which lasts 3 years, but can afford a $10 used CRT monitor which will last 15 years.

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