African "E-waste" Witch Hunt Continues: Part 2

I have the account of Mark Daniels.  I have the account of Joe Benson.  I'm looking for Ezenwa Ogbonnaya and M2 Ventures Limited ...  That will make 3 UK electronics recycling companies who were tried in the press.

Daniels Recycling prosecuted for African WEEE export

In Part 1, as well as the "Sodom and Gomorrah" blog, we traced the outrage and arrests back to two men, Jim Puckett and Mike Anane.

  • That Agbogbloshie was a very large e-waste dump... perhaps "biggest in the world"
  • That the Odaw River was a pristine, green African "Eden" just a decade ago, "teeming with fish"
  • That the lead in the soil at the dump does not come from automobiles, but from dumped electronics
  • That 80% of the electronics shipped to Ghana are "junk" and the other 20% "fail after between 2 and 6 months"
  • That most of the work done at Agbogbloshie is by children, orphans, under age 18
  • That the majority of workers at AGbogbloshie die of cancer in 2 years.

Well, well, well... this is the information that was recited by Anane and Puckett at an Interpol meeting I attended at EPA offices in Arlington VA in March 2010.   Puckett and Anane were introduced by the UK's Environmental Agency head, Lord Chris Smith.   

These horrible "e-waste facts" were also recited to Raphael Rowe of BBC in "Panorama".

If half of the "e-waste facts" were half true, it would indeed be understandable that the Environmental Agency prosecuted Joe Benson, Mark Daniels, and Ezenwa Ogbonnaya for dumping - or rather selling - used electronics to Africa's Tech Sector.

But the accusers, the prosecutors, never met anyone in Africa's Tech Sector, did they?

BREAKING: Lord Chris Smith's African Witch Hunt Continues: Part 1

UNEP doubled down, using photos of "primitive recycling" in its 2015 report on "e-waste".  But the actual statistics hidden throughout UNEP's own report told a different story from it's press release headline.  If the majority of sea containers of used electronics shipped from Europe are "illegal", then why do the seizures of hundreds of containers only find 1/3 which had anything illegal?

Just one of dozens of examples where the #ewastehoax needs to answer the simple question, "duh?"

UNEP is only pointing fingers, however.  One nation abandoned nuance with flair 5 years ago.  Indictments and prison sentences. While Agbo workers burn wire, England is burning witches.

The photo above shows Mike Anane of Ghana briefing reporter Raphael Rowe of BBC Panorama, on the ground in Agbogbloshie, Ghana.   Mr. Anane was back at Agbogbloshie 2 days before my arrival in March... briefing Jacopo Ottaviana of Aljazeera's #ewasterepublic... see below.

"When I look at these things, I would not call it importation. For me the bottom line is dumping, because from all of these containers that come, only about 20% are functional, and 80% are junk, garbage" - Mike Anane Aug 2014


Anane's accounts to journalists were covered on this blog a few days ago.  I met him face to face at an Interopol Meeting in Washington DC in 2010, where he presented between UK Environmental Agency Director Lord Chris Smith and Jim Puckett of BAN.  You know the claims... 80% dumping. 500 sea containers per month arriving at Agbogbloshie. The biggest E-Waste Dump in the World. Teeming with fish, Anane recounted, just 10 years earlier.

Mike Anane: "For the past 11 years. That was when I first saw the trucks with e-waste coming from the port to Agbogbloshie. Agbogbloshie happens to be a place I’m familiar with. I have been hanging around the area when it was a lush, green, beautiful wetland with lots of birds and some wildlife, and the river and the lagoon that run through the dump site had so much fish. The fishermen, the people in the communities depended on these rivers for their livelihood. Agbogbloshie used to be an amazing, beautiful wetland, a Garden of Eden. A wetland performs enormous environmental functions. When the water from the city goes to the sea, it goes through the wetland and gets filtered. Fish from the sea come and make babies. Wetlands are so important to every country, to nature, and to mankind.
"But now, the river and the lagoon are both dead: no fish, no organisms, nothing. The river and the lagoon both end up in the sea, and when the fishermen at the seaside throw their net, hoping to catch some fish, they get computers, television sets, and fridges. Their poisons spill into the sea every single day... So for me Agbogbloshie, which was a green Garden of Eden, is now paradise lost."
Note that this interview was in August 2014, describing "11 years" of experience.  But his 2010 interview with me at Interpol, he said it had been ten years.  And in his first interview, with Greenpeace in 2008, it was ten years.  And on PBS Frontline, it was since he was a boy.

My personal interview was during the meeting that set Lord Chris Smith up against Hurricane Benson. Lord Chris Smith, as I recall, introduced Jim Puckett and Mike Anane to the audience of Interpol enforcement experts.  It set up the first arrest and indictment of "Hurricane Joe Benson". And this week,, a British environmental online newsletter, reports that "Hurricane Joe Benson" has company.


Latest Pics of Kids at Dumps - #TakingTuesday #FloggingAgbogbloshie

Pics of Kids at Dumps - The Gift that Keeps on Taking.

See today's solicitation from our friends at Basel Action Network, photo of scrapper at Agbogbloshie. It implies your donation for #GivingTuesday will benefit "Children aged 11-18" scavenging at dumps to earn $1-3 per day.  Another waste NGO flogging Agbogbloshie.

Ages 11-18??  B******t.  See Journal of Health, Exploratory Health Assessment of Chemical Exposures at E-Waste Recycling and Scrapyard Facility in Ghana (Jack CaravanosDrPH, CIHEdith E. ClarkeDrPH, MPHCarl S. OseiMD, MPHYaw Amoyaw-Osei)
Demographic Characteristics:  "The ages of the 87 e-waste exposed subjects from Agbogbloshie ranged from 15 to 73 years. The mean age was 32 years with a standard deviation of 5.6..."
Mean age 32.  Median age of 25.5 years.  That's not "child labor". The mean age of women giving childbirth in Ghana is 22.2 years, for crying out loud.  The employment data at the recycling yard shows far less child labor than agriculture sector, in fact it's above average for workforce in Accra.

Remember, this is from the organization that "never, ever stated" 80% of used electronics were dumped.  They are shameless in their "data" when it's used to solicit donations. They have a view of math, as something that your wishes and intentions give you mysterious powers over.  And it's full of accidental racism, bigotry, povertyporn, and profiling.   Yuck.

The art of making up very specific, scientificky sounding stats and numbers is bad for environmentalism and development.  But you know what's REALLY offensive to the workers in Agbogbloshie (who I'm still in touch with every week)?  That they are raising money with POSTER CHILDREN and they do not share one penny with anyone whose photos they use.

NONE.  I think this qualifies for worst non-profit EVER.  They can't even do #PovertyPorn right. 

Welcome to #TakingTuesday

When Formal Market is Criminal, is Informal more Moral?

Quick thanks for a tip from a pal via Tweet, here's a thought-provoking article on Informal Trade in East Africa.  Kate Douglas writes in

Wheelbarrows of dollars: Understanding informal trade in East Africa 

"The Hand That Will Rule The World—One Big Union"I'll leave you to read it, it's about the underestimation of the power and importance of "informal" markets in Africa, and how "off the books" trade makes African commerce look smaller than it really is.  That's not a huge surprise - how much of the growth in China's economy came from record-keeping of trade previously off the record?

The thoughts provoked here are based on my sadness and disgust at the levels of corruption I witnessed while living in Africa in the mid-80s.  I remember going through checkpoints in East Zaire (Dem Republic of Congo) which were set up by soldiers on dirt roads in the jungle.  Using a fallen tree to block the road, the soldiers would stop taxivans and demand bribes, while waving machine guns.

When "formal" is run by criminals, the moral market may be the informal.

Africa's Tech Sector Becoming Africa's Banking Sector

WSJ Reports

"Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for more than half of the 255 live mobile money services across the globe in 2014, with monthly mobile money transactions in the region topping $10 billion in late 2014, according to GSMA."

Startup Fuels Africa’s Mobile-Payment Boom

MFS Africa’s mobile-payment platform is used by 55 million people in 17 African countries

Full article here (may be paywalled).  But check out the numbers.  This network is built on the refurbished cell phones and phone towers set up by Geeks of Color a decade ago.  This is incredible, and helps explain why it makes me furious that Basel Action Network, Greenpeace and PureEarth are making money by hustling and over-producing films depicting Africans as "primitive".

The Geeks of Color are going to inherit the continent, and people are fools to boycott America's access to the ground floor.  More Africans are going to college in China today than are going to college in the USA.



Sodom and Gomorrah? Fishing as a Boy? Mike Anane via PBS Frontline

"Photojournalism without data journalism jails and fails"

Immediately after our 3 week investigation of Agbogbloshie, Tema, Tamale region and Accra, I went to Vancouver to meet with Graham Pickren and Peter Klein, both professors.  Pickren was very kind to meet me for lunch.

Peter Klein initially returned my messages, but did not seem to want to meet.

Klein's at UBC Vancouver, which is responsible for the PBS Frontline episode in 2010 that labelled Agbogbloshie as "Sodom and Gomorrah."  The label was based on interviews with Mike Anane, who has been repeatedly represented as a "journalist" in Ghana.

Isaac Brown, left, films Mike Anane in Accra, Ghana. Anane is a ...
n'importe quoi
My interviews with the scrappers at Ghana led me to believe Anane is not a journalist at all.  I can't find any record of any articles published by him, or any newspaper, radio, or television station he has worked for.  The Agbogbloshie scrappers claimed he was "in cahoots" with AMA, the Ghana developers who wanted to evict them from the increasingly valuable real estate near the center of Accra.  I've written about that before.

Here's another UN sponsored report, by African researchers, on the sources of pollution at the Odaw River lagoon of Agbogbloshie (2002).  It's incredibly well documented, and none of it jives with Frontline.

What I haven't really had the guts to do is to question Mike Anane's credibility.  I interviewed him at an Interpol meeting in 2010.  And I've promoted alternative experts such as Grace Akese of Memorial University or Emmanuel Eric P. Nyalete of Georgia Tech.  But when it comes to being an American questioning an African about his depiction of Africa, I've only attacked Anane's figures, his statistics, his 500 containerloads per month story.  And independent scholars back us up ("Criminal Negligence?")

The claims of the Agbogbloshie scrap workers do appear to hold water.  Take a look at the specific Anane representation below, still on the PBS website.

Anane makes a specific personal claim:
"I've always known Agbogbloshie as part of the country's westlands. As a kid, I used to play football here.  Some of my friends would go fishing in the lagoon.  When I went back and saw the huge amount of computers shipped in and dumped here, it mad me angry that these children had come to break them up." - Michael Anane
Now this is specifically an eyewitness claim.  Anane is personally claiming to PBS to have seen computers "shipped" to Agbogbloshie.  In the AlJazeera E-Waste Republic series and Cosima Dannoritzer's "The E-Waste Tragedy" Anane makes the same boast... this was a pristine riverside, a fishing village. 

Now how does this square with all the reports of Agbogbloshie, and the Odaw River Lagoon, since 1960?  How does it compare to eyewitness reports from any of my own interviews?  And Anane's claims to have been an editor in 1991-95 for "Triumph Newspaper" (no record of the paper in Ghana, though there's a Triumph newspaper in Kano, Nigeria).  Either Anane was in northern Nigeria, or he was editor from a remote location before the internet. But if that's the timeframe when Agbogbloshie was ruined in Accra, it's at a time when 1) Agbogbloshie was a city dump and auto scrapyard for a city of millions, and 2) there were no strict "ewaste" regulations to avoid as "drivers" per UNEP / "StoryofStuff", and 3) it's definitely not near "the outskirts", it's in the middle of the gosh darn city, visible on Google Maps.  Nothing adds up... except Anane's speaking fees.   Oh, didn't know that? Ask reporters, like those of #ewasterepublic  about the Anane speaking fees, and fees to photograph his collection of plastic with asset tags.

Nyalete, Odoi, and Akese say otherwise, and the reports like the one linked above are pretty darn thorough.  Agbogbloshie was a polluted dump before personal computers were sold in USA, let alone discarded. It's larger and more polluted to the degree Accra is larger and more polluted. There is no international dumping link, and no evidence of Eden after the Akosombo Dam of the Volta River was completed in 1965.  Electricity led to WEEE as roads led to cars.

But Anane specifically says it was "teeming with fish" in 1999.
Dan McKinney and M. Anane report that Agbogbloshie river was teeming with fish in 1999.  Bullhockey

Refining the Fair Trade Recycling Mission Statement

"Recycling needs to be materials science, not a belief system. Collecting during bad markets is smart, shows reliable long term supply grid."

Fair Trade Recycling is pro recycling.  But we are not exactly defined as part of "Zero Waste" movements.  We are somewhat resistant to "producer responsibility", at least as a solution for secondhand goods markets - planned obsolescence and right to repair are opposing forces (if producer implies mining and virgin material extraction, we are all ears). If any group has a close affinity to Fair Trade Recycling, it's probably USA's "Net Impact"... young professionals in the business sector who are agents of conscience, making the world better by participating in, rather than reacting to, global markets.  The worst recycling is better than the best mining.

At the same time, while we defend and participate in the overseas recycling and repair and reuse sector, we are confronted with the eventual waste and unplanned obsolescence of goods we once exported.  Our vision is to turn this into an opportunity, a circular economy, rather than reversing course on the international trade which is clearly benefiting standards of living and information and education in emerging markets.

Our primary incentive is to create a transitional economy for Africa's Tech Sector, the reuse and repair markets for used electronics, which we project will face increasing pressure from new affordable devices (seen in Asia in the past decade).  We believe the value of the sector is in the minds and education and ingenuity of the repair market 

The "Tinkerer's Blessing" is the working title of a book I'm writing about development and "savior complex" and "charitable industrial complex".  It's actually very optimistic, a defense of trade and free market activity in Africa, Asia and other emerging markets.  Terry Gou, Simon Lin, Steve Wozniak, etc. were tinkerers very much like the laptop and cell phone repair shop gurus from Tamale and Accra, we want to pitch them as a functional distribution and maintenance market for inevitable growth of solar power models in Africa.

Where will Africa's Wosniak emerge?  Who will monetize the "good enough market" in a way that is scaleable (like Foxconn and Wistron), creative like Apple, and sustainable as Microsoft?

It will probably be in the energy sector.  Which brings us back to Solar power.  Can SolarCity (Elon Musk's transformational solar panel financing scheme) scale solar power in a cash-based economy like urban Africa?  Or do we need other innovative financing models, like cell phone plans, to secure investments?

We will need people.  Africa's Geeks of Color.  Africa's repairers, tinkerers, fixers.  We need to stop arresting the people who buy and sell teledensity equipment in Cairo and Lagos and Accra and Nairobi, we need to silence the charitable industrial complex which defines its goodness in misleading photojournalism depicting Africa as a "victim".  We need to push out of the closet the NGOs who use pictures of African kids at dumps to raise money which is never, ever spent on Africans.

Photojournalism without data journalism jails and fails.  Our mission will outlive me, because it's rooted in the same scientific method and inspired conscience which has made the world's best practices.

- Robin Ingenthron 11/9/2015

Lesson in CRT Cullet and Sintering: Size Matters

The EPA vs. American Mining Congress case in the early 90s resulted in the "remanded smelter slag" rule.  The mining industry convinced the court, and even EPA, that treating slag piles as "waste" with 365 day storage ("speculative accumulation") under RCRA statute, did more harm than good.   Today, it's an industrial mineral, and can be kept under basically the same conditions  as mined angelsite or other leaded silicate, because treating it otherwise is anti-recycling.

Anti-recycling means that the identical chemical solid is governed more strictly if it's recovered from waste instead of mined from the ground.

Fair Trade Recycling's 2020 Vision for Agbogbloshie Ghana

2020 Vision

In March of 2020, five years after Fair Trade Recycling toured Ghana, a thriving refurbishing, assembly, and recycling operation exists.  Chendiba Recycling Enterprises, headquartered in Tamale, has hired most of the Ghana scrap workers who previously hung about Agbogbloshie looking for copper on a barren and charred landscape.  The recyclers have uniforms, appropriate tools, and safety training.  They offer tours of the recycling operation to Western university students, reporters, regulators and photographers.  Visitors are housed in a new affordable housing complex, erected where the slum was bulldozed in 2015.  This “urban eco-tourism” has created opportunities for economic migrants in Accra, and also at similar “recycling parks” in Tamale and Kumasi.

Transforming attitudes, not Africans

The recycling staff are overseen by Technicians of Chendiba Enterprises, a computer, cell phone and television "R and O" (Repair and Overhaul) operation.  Chendiba was nearly shut down by misdirected environmental enforcement in 2015.  Happily, Africa’s “Tech Sector” workers are now recognized as the best and brightest of Ghana’s economy.

        “We would no more boycott the Techs of Agbogbloshie than we would a manufacturer takeback program,” said a spokesperson for an environmental NGO, who is taking university surplus property officials on a tour of the grounds.  Referring to the past decade of boycotts as “collateral damage” and “friendly fire”, the NGO leader now promotes a “Hurricane Joe Benson” scholarship to bring students from around the world to see “win-win” in action.  "The Tinkerer's Blessing" is seen as the best, most sustainable economy in emerging markets - the opposite of the Resource Curse.  Africa's geeks add value to e-scrap with their minds, and use the profits to clean up Africa's own recycling yards.

Environmentally and Economically Sustainable

The program is funded not only by the environmental tourism,  but by the very import-for-reuse economy once targeted by anti-globalization NGOs.  Chendiba is now the leading importer of, and recycler of, flat screen LED and LCD televisions worldwide, and employs hundreds.  “While the major cause of waste generation in Europe and the USA is physical screen damage, Africa’s flat TVs most often suffer from blown boards due to ‘fuzzy current’,” explains Muhammed Odoi. “We import and part out the TVs and use them to provide affordable parts in Ghana.”

The Fair Trade Recycling program does not need European customs agents or Interpol staff to interfere with Chendiba’s imports.  It encourages the import and export as a "value added, job creating industry".  Asked whether the parts are “properly tested” in America, African regulators now shrug.  They explain this recycling system is based on “carbon trading” models.  “For every ton of electronics we import to Ghana,” explains Muhammed, “we collect and recycle two tons of old electronics from Ghana’s cities.”  

Opportunity vs. Embargo

        The Fair Trade Recycling program has been much easier to monitor and enforce than "PAT tests" (which never accurately predicted African consumer demand or shelf life) or traditional "certification" programs.  The Chendiba traders order and buy what they want.   Chendiba must simply show it recovers and properly recycles at least as many pieces of "ewaste" from Africa's cities as it imports. VCRs, CRT televisions, Pentium 1 computers, etc. were imported in the 1980s and 90s, used productively for years, but now need a recycling solution; Chendiba is there.  

As more countries allow export under Fair Trade, the quality of imports has improved.  “We no longer have to choose between buying in back alleys and staying barefoot and off the internet,” says Kamal. "We benefit from more choice of suppliers, lower prices, legally enforceable contracts, openness, and transparency.  It is a "computers for clunkers", or needle exchange, or carbon trading model.  We recycle as much as we import, period."

Marketplace Solution vs. Enforcement

The 2020 “ewaste trading” project has been far more successful than western certification programs.  It is less paternalistic, more transparent.  It involves less liability for sellers, and frees up valuable Interpol time to pursue endangered species poachers, rather than "geeks-of-color".   This circular economy interferes less with the “good enough market” African consumers depend on.  The main question, students here ask, is "why did it take so long to accept a solution so simple?"

Just as it is more efficient for an airline to pay for carbon removal by planting trees than to squeeze more carbon from jet fuel combustion, it's easier for Africa's Tech Sector to recycle the urban e-waste than to "certify" every piece they import. Fair Trade Recycling assures that even if an item is damaged in shipping, that a recycling infrastructure is in place to manage it, and that another piece of junk was properly recycled in exchange.  The program brings Ghana’s poorest scrappers and drop-outs from the slums, and surrounds them not with Western “saviors”, but with the Africa’s high-tech entrepreneurs, Africa’s valedictorians.

Legal, Safe, and Necessary

American and European recyclers now get to meet the technicians overseas who were once impugned as shady characters, and pay less tax money to prosecute them.  They see that Africa is not a jungle, not a dystopia. They see that African techs, African consumers, and African recyclers are no more “primitive” than Americans, Europeans, Asians and Latinos.  They need affordable technology, and then have decades of older machines to recycle.

“Most Africans live in the Africa the media never showed you,” says Wahab. “Fair Trade Recycling sees Africa for what it can do and must do, not for what we cannot do.”

"We are transforming attitudes rather than Africans."

This is a pre-published excerpt from the 2015 Fair Trade Recycling report on Agbogbloshie, Ghana by This is our vision - not of boycotts and paternalistic "training" by Western NGOs. It harnesses what Africa's Best and Brightest already have, right now. Like most win-win paradigms, it can be self funding, but needs help in the development stages (e.g. to cross train Americans in Africa, and Africans in the USA). Please contribute to WR3A via to help make this real.

Why do we always define signs of intelligence as something we understand and recognize?  It usually turns out that we didn't recognize it because of our own "lack of intelligence".  - WR3A