Kenyan government suggests ban on second-hand computers

March 10, 2010 • Mobile and Telecoms

Used computers (source:

The Kenyan government has announced a proposed ban on second-hand computers, aimed at avoiding dumping and reducing electronic waste in the country.

“The organizations shipping in these used computers are being paid to get them out of those countries, but are disguising themselves as donors assisting Kenya’s schools. It is cheaper for companies in the developed world to pay these organizations to bring the computers here than destroy them”, said an official in the Information and Communications Ministry, Bitange Ndemo, cited by Kenyan publication Business Daily.

Ndemo encouraged the use of new computers, adding that there was no need for imported second hand hardware in the country. According to him, new computers last up to 8 years, compared to second-hand equipment that have a 3 year life span.

The was a significant increase in imported second-hand computers after the government introduced zero-rated duty on these goods in 2006. A study by Eco Ethics International conducted in 2007 revealed that the number of imported second-hand computers doubled following the removal of VAT in the country.
The ministry will propose that the treasury include a ban on used computers in the country’s Budget for next year.

According to an electronic waste study conducted in Kenya, in 2007 the country was responsible for 3,000 tons of e-waste, mainly computers, monitors and printers.



2 Responses to Kenyan government suggests ban on second-hand computers

  1. Martin W. Muiru says:

    Not all Used Electronics are eWaste

    The eWaste disposal is a menacing reality. It is a scary concern globally and every user of electronics equipment should be sensitized about disposal of junk electronic equipments. However, not all used electronics are eWaste. When imposing a ban on used electronic equipments there are some considerations which should be made. Just like when there was a big problem in the imports of used vehicles which led to incurring of heavy losses to insurance companies, the government did not ban the imports; but instead tightened the law by banning imports of vehicles exceeding eight years from the date they were manufactured. It is important to bear in mind that new electronic equipments may be highly expensive to the majority of Kenyans. With today’s government initiative of rural electrification where they have done a commendable job, the ban will be retrogressive to the introduction of ICT services in rural Kenya for young and dynamic entrepreneurs who would be aiming to start such services.

    It is also a reality that with the government’s initiative of the youth fund it may not be easy for a young person to start a business on purely new equipment bearing in mind that the amount of capital given does not add up to the point of making such an investment. I am not aware if the players in the imports of used electronic equipments were involved before the ban was suggested and if they weren’t, I am on the view that the ban should hold on a little while longer so that they can make their contributions.

    Another thing is; what may be considered as eWaste in the first world may not exactly translate directly to be the same in the third world. Many of us are using computers that were manufactured between the year 1999 and 2002. These are computers that are in the range of P3, 800MHz to P4, 1.8GHz. Unless the machines have suffered any physical damage they are still useful and will be useful for the next couple of years. I also believe that an abrupt ban on imports of all that is used electronic equipments will be a big blow to those who deal with such products. The industry of used electronic equipments already employs so many young Kenyans either as ICT professionals or as operators. This is a very productive brand of Kenyans who should not be rendered jobless so quickly.

    I also would like to point out that there are some electronic products which are eWaste even when they are new. Some new brands of computer spare parts from some Asian countries become eWaste the very date they are manufactured. These are some of the equipments that should be banned. They are cheap to buy but highly expensive to maintain.

    In conclusion, I would like to give my suggestion. But before I give it, I would like to point out that I have found out that used branded computers are much more superior compared to their ‘clones’ equivalent. The branded used computers are more resistant to power related problems, have a longer life and offer better services to their users compared to the clone computers. Notably, these computers are also good to be used as home PCs and many homesteads in Kenya are using them today. In my opinion, I would suggest that used computers and other electronic equipments, should be banned discriminately where those that may be for example more than 6 years should not be imported. Also vetting by qualified professionals, should be done at the port; with thorough scrutiny. This will avoid importation of what may be hazardous and instead importation of only what is useful. This will effectively control and manage to a great extent the eWaste that is finding its way in Kenya.

    Muiru W. Martin
    ICT Teacher, Kinangop.

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