Africa Polluted by Used Cars from Europe

Bringing diesel cars from the old continent reduces the air quality in African cities.

The crisis of diesel car sales in Europe and the depreciation of those in circulation are accentuating the phenomenon of “environmental dumping” affecting Africa and is destined to worsen air pollution  levels in the cities of the continent which already causes the deaths of a quarter of a million people.

The phenomenon of the export of used vehicles, both legal and illegal, has been brought to the fore after Dieselgate revelations and forms part of the worrying context of the many African countries that do not require even the Euro IV standard adopted in Europe in 2006. It also happens that catalytic converters are removed before sending vehicles to Africa. 80% of the vehicles sold in Ethiopia and Nigeria in 2016 were used, while in Kenya the proportion reached 96%. A further critical situation consists in the obsolescence of imported vehicles.

In Uganda, diesel cars sold in 2005 were, on average, eight years old; in 2014 the average age had doubled. The situation is further complicated if we consider that the fuel used is sometimes of very poor quality with a sulphur content from 2,500 to 10,000 ppm (parts per million). But what are the characteristics of the car population of Africa? According to the most recent data issued in 2014, there were 46 million vehicles in circulation with the number of used vehicles from the EU, Japan and the USA sold in the ten main Sub-Saharan countries amounting to 800,000 in 2013.

Faced with this situation, each country is proceeding in its own way. Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and South Africa have prohibited imports of used vehicles while others have introduced age requirements from between three years, imposed by Algeria, and fifteen years by Nigeria. The situation is also improving on the fuel front with eleven African countries adopting the standard of 50 ppm of sulphur (as required by Europe IV), bearing in mind, however, that Europe and Japan now allow only 10 ppm.

It is the countries that export old and polluting vehicles that should exercise attention and controls, something at present non-existent. Germany, especially, ought to take the lead in this since it is responsible for more than half of European exports.