"He that beats the drum for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself." – African proverb

It began as a simple problem.  Ghana household teledensity (TV, internet, cell phone) is increasing like wildfire, two and three digit growth, year on year.  Ghana residents mostly afford this with used devices cherry picked from Western depots by African expats.  The most recent study (Secretariat Basel Convention) estimated that Ghana imported 215,000 Tons of second hand electronics goods (including refrigerators, microwaves, as well as PCs, TVs).  The study concluded that about 90% of these were reused or repaired.  21,500 tons not reused were added to the estimated 129,000 tons junked by Ghana residents after years of use.  The fallout rate for used electronics is actually less than new electronics, according to Ghana technicians, explaining consumer preferences.

However, well-intentioned NGOs like Blacksmith Institute, Greenpeace and BAN used the statistics above to imply that "western companies" dumping on Africa was the cause of the toxics problem.  Professional photographers (Fedele, Hugo, Bellini, McElvaney, etc.) used close-ups of scrap workers and odd Biblical references like "Hell" and "Sodom and Gomorrah" to scare people into a pledge campaign to boycott Africa technicians.

The "Sodom and Gomorrah" references to Agbogbloshie are a biblical reference, and the "E-Waste Hell" photos of Old Fadama are everywhere on Twitter, Facebook, in newspapers and magazines.  Fellow environmentalists discovered a white-guilt honeypot.   They found easy grant money, and crossover support from environmentalists and social activists on the "common ground" of not "polluting the poor".   But look what transpired...

1.  Create widespread citation of fake dumping statistic.

"Approximately 80% of electronic waste currently delivered to recyclers is actually exported to developing countries." 

"The dirty little secret is that when you take [your electronic waste] to a recycler, instead of throwing it in a trashcan, about 80 percent of that material, very quickly, finds itself on a container ship going to a country like China, Nigeria, India, Vietnam, Pakistan — where very dirty things happen to it," says Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basel Action Network, which works to keep toxic waste out of the environment.

Makes it easy to imagine 50,000,000 tons going into a scrapyard - by hand pushcart - without a driveway.

2.  Take pics of Tire burning

Homer Simpson Voice:   OOOOOooooo!  Fire!

3.  Tell simple story about nameless faceless White Exporters

4. Ignore actual African Importers, Techs of Color 

5. Ignore true statistics (93% Reuse) when Techs ARE interviewed

5.  Hide when Collateral Damage is documented

Photos of Agbogbloshie homes being destroyed June 2015

Twitter photo from Ab

the people look on helplessly as their homes are crashed in

Did enviros conspire with land grabbing developers to evict thousands of homes of scrapper families in Old Fadama / Agbogbloshie?  Of course not.

But we played into a propaganda war over the increasingly valuable property.  It would have been expensive for AMA and developers to buy it.   Easier to find a reason / excuse for teargas and military evactuation.

"They are unChristian outsiders, Dagomba tribe are settlers, Sodom and Gomorrah"

"They caused the flooding which killed 150 people in May"

"They import electronic waste from other countries and burn it, poisoning us"

I had no clue about the property issue when I went to Agbogbloshie.  I was surprised how close it was to the most expensive developments in all of Ghana.  When I saw less than 1,000 tons (not 215,000 tons, and certainly not "most" of the world's millions of tons of ewaste), all home scrap, I asked the scrappers why anyone would repeat this?  I thought maybe, for grant money.

The Dagbani speaking scrappers had another theory about the lie.

They said it was about their land.   People wanted it but did not want to pay for it.  And sure enough, soon after they were being blamed for importing waste, for causing floods, and for being un-Christian... the teargas and bulldozers came.   It looked pretty bad, and I had no idea this was going to happen so quickly.

I'm not very popular with some environmental groups right now.

But see, I'm doing us all a favor.

When someone in our "tribe" of do-gooder environmentalists attacks someone innocent, they draw negativity against our tribe that can affect many generations.  Standing up against "friendly fire" is not disloyal, is not profiteering, is not damaging.    I'm taking bullets for this but I really believe this is the right thing to be documenting, and am asking friends to retweet our messages of support for the "geeks of color".


wire recycler Awal. "They tell lies about us importing waste. All home scrap from Accra." Why? "Land"

There are truths about Agbogbloshie and there are lies. What's really scary is the number, volume, direction of lies.

For a well written history of the land dispute by Josh Lepawsky and Grace Akese of Memorial University (Geography), read this "Discard Studies" essay, just published.

50 million tons per year to this small scrapyard?  Let's see, that's 50,000 tons per day, at 25kg per TV/PC... Gee, Guardian, short on editors?  But hey, it's Africans, don't sweat the easy calculator stuff.

You reprinted two of three propaganda tropes about the minority Dagbani, a Muslim minority in Accra, saying they go by "Sodomites" and that they handle 5 million scrap televisions per DAY.  You just needed to say they were responsible for the flooding.  

Growth of Internet users in Nigeria (Quartz)

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