An African Tech Reacts to "The E-Waste Tragedy"

EntertainmentEmmanuel E.P. Nyaletey is an electronics technician, currently on scholarship at Georgia Tech in Marrietta, where he's pursuing a degree in coding.    Emmanuel grew up a few blocks from the alleged largest "e-waste dump" of Agbogbloshie.    He went back to visit Agbogbloshie in March 2014.  Emmanual and I both attended the USA premier of Cosima Dannoritzer's documentary, The E-Waste Tragedy hosted by Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network... the inspiration of my past 6 blog posts.

Nyaletey has written an essay, reacting to the film, and it was posted on the blog last week.
It is worth a humble read.

Link:    My Reaction to the Film 'The E-Waste Tragedy' by Emmanuel Nyaletey.

The urbanization, electrification, and rapid development in African cities and other "emerging markets" is changing not just the landscape of Africa, but the foundations of the Guilt-AID industry.

 Since the NGO publicly denied its previous claims that most of Africa's imports are "reuse excuse" junk, destined for "primitive recycling", the internet has begun to explode with exasperation, much of it (like Emmanuel's essay) written as eyewitness accounts.

William Buffett's essay, "The Charitable Industrial Complex", Cassandra Herrman's documentary #Framed, Heather Agyepong's "The Gaze on Agbogbloshie", and the "Rusty Radiator Awards" are well-heeled responses this blog has been inspired by over the past year.   What's harder to document are the less well produced, naturally exasperated reactions by ordinary businesspeople (like Joseph Benson) who trade "good enough" product to Africa's metropoleses (new articles in New Republic and the Guardian at bottom).

Check out the reaction to Bob Geldoff's "Band AID" on this UK talk show program.

Ghana Geek fixes Camera at Good Point Recycling
The lens is turning.  The photographers, and exotic gaze itself, is being examined by a new generation, born decades after "loving vs. virginia".  Touche pas a mon pote, biensur.

For the recyclers who follow these links through this blog, as you prepare for Thanksgiving Day with family, I suggest you ask who remembers when the Loving Vs. Virginia case was in the news.

From the Wikipedia article on the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision, here's the account of Mildred and Richard Loving's arrest, in their bedroom, in the town of Central Point Virginia... for the crime of interracial marriage:

"At the age of 18, Mildred became pregnant, and in June 1958 the couple traveled to Washington, D.C. to marry, thereby evading Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made interracial marriage a crime. They returned to the small town of Central Point, Virginia. Based on an anonymous tip,[8] local police raided their home at night, hoping to find them having sex, which was also a crime according to Virginia law. When the officers found the Lovings sleeping in their bed, Mildred pointed out their marriage certificate on the bedroom wall. That certificate became the evidence for the criminal charge of "cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth" that was brought against them."

I was 5 years old in 1967, and remember the discussions at a family reunion in Ridgedale, Missouri (my grandparents home, outside a town on the Missouri-Arkansas line).   I don't remember which of my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and their cousins, were on which side of the debate, but I remember it being somewhat "controversial" that a white man would marry an African American (black, negro) woman.  The "kiss of love" movement, I'd argue, has been going for 50 years, and began with the Lovings.

I remember the "take-away" lesson a close relative gave this 5 year old.   While it shouldn't be illegal, I was told that the couple should think about their responsibility, as parents, to bring mixed race children up in the world.  "It's not just their lives, it's their children's lives" the relative told me... implying something was somehow selfish, or irresponsible, even if not illegal.    I got the jist... that it was a morally complex decision for two lovers of mixed races to join as family.

The lesson I was being fed was a kind of a moral compromise... Relatives not wanting to be on record as opposing the Supreme Court's decision, but who were finding a different reason to caution me about opposition to these marriages... for the good of future children.

I hear the same kind of moral rationalizing going on over export for reuse and repair.   "What about ten years from now, when the repaired CRT doesn't work anymore?"   Thus a section chief at Vermont ANR warned our company's municipal clients at a regular meeting of solid waste districts, earlier this year.   They should be warned... if Good Point exported their working material, they will have exported a future "waste".  

That's her moral imperative, that if something will eventually become waste, it shouldn't be legal to sell it to willing black people. I'd like to see that logic applied to thrift shops and used car dealers.   For that matter, I guess it's equally true of brand new product.   Once again, the vision for Africa is "Back to (Project) Eden".

Accra Fixers

This Thursday, I suggest you ask some of your older relatives if they remember when the 1967 Supreme Court case was in the news, and how people reacted.   If you can't remember it yourself, try to get a sense of what was "controversial" about the Lovings marriage in 1967.

And then ask them if they imagined in 1967 that USA society would elect the "mixed race" child of such a marriage to be President of the United States.   Are we better off that minorities and children of mixed race marriage can be President?  And would we have gotten here without changing the laws banning those marriages?

Here's an article on Richard and Mildred Loving's marriage from 1967's Life Magazine, with the public kiss photo (Grey Villet estate).

Time to set down the pen and give readers time to follow the link to Emmanuel Nyaletey's "Reaction".   But as you consider the position your recycling company takes on the RERA legislation, to ban export of used electronics to people like Emmanuel, Wahab, Hamdy, Souleymane, Miguel (African used tech dealers I've profiled via the blog since 2007), think about Thanksgiving Dinner forty five years from now.   Will you want have taken a stand banning commercial relationships with African tech importers?  Can you imagine that in 40-50 years, a future Simon Lin, Lee Byung-chul, or Terry Gou, will be running an ODM in Yaounde, Lagos, or Accra?

I would have had trouble imagining Africa's first female head of state in 1985

Or will you tell your kids you were one of the first 50 people to sign the petition to FREE HURRICANE JOE BENSON?  You have the chance to quit CAER and to join WR3A / Fair Trade Recycling instead.  You have a chance to look the children of today's African Nerds in the eye, and tell them you were on the side of Huckleberry Finn, that you were willing to take a risk and be on the right side of this debate.

Stand by us.

More very recent articles on Africa's reaction to charity industrial complex and "parasites of the poor"

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