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Pollution & HealthWhy Ghana Relies Heavily on Used Cars

Why Ghana Relies Heavily on Used Cars

Why Ghana Relies Heavily on Used Cars

Festival Godwin Boateng and Jacqueline Klopp
|January 10, 2023

Used cars are popular throughout Africa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons 

The sale of electrical cars is growing. Globally, some 2 million electric vehicles were sold in the primary quarter of 2022 — 75% greater than in the primary three months of 2021. Most, though, are sold in high income countries.

As transport electrification takes hold in wealthy countries to cut back emissions that result in climate change and air pollution, increasing numbers of internal combustion engine vehicles are more likely to land in used vehicle markets.

Africa is already considered one of the principal destinations for used vehicles. Between 2015 and 2018, the European Union, Japan, and the USA exported 14 million used vehicles worldwide. Forty percent of those went to African countries.

Used vehicles serve real needs within the continent by supporting mobility and generating livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of individuals, including mechanics, sprayers, and other garage operators. But additionally they contribute to its public health and environmental problems through crashes and pollution.

This is basically since the vehicles which might be exported to African countries run mainly on fossil fuel and are inclined to be over-aged, highly polluting and liable to malfunctioning. Sometimes, modifications to those vehicles — resembling the removal of catalytic converters to source precious metals — make them much more polluting.

Africa’s dependency on used vehicles is commonly attributed to low incomes and weak regulation. The associated fee of latest vehicles and limited access to loans put latest vehicles beyond the financial reach of the bulk. Environmental and public health protection standards against used vehicle harms are weak and poorly enforced in lots of African countries. The associated fee of repairing old vehicles, too, is comparatively low.

Together, these aspects are inclined to elevate demand for used vehicles. And provide is prepared because wealthy countries have stringent recycling policies. Nonetheless, this just isn’t the complete picture.

Our recent paper explores Ghana’s dependence on used vehicles. We found that low incomes and poor regulation tell us only a lot about it. This explanation also tends to limit the policy tools to bans and import restrictions. We argue that a more holistic view reveals more at play and opens up more policy options.

Used vehicles in Ghana

Ghana has revised some planning laws inherited from its colonial experience. Nevertheless, as with their counterparts in other African countries, the attitudes and practices of Ghanaian politicians and professionals around planning, transport and land use still reflect colonial frameworks and mentalities.

These practices proceed to advertise the spatial separation of labor and other activities like purchasing for food removed from home. This compels or encourages people to travel more. Road construction gets priority over public transport provision. Roads have huge political value in Ghana. Voters love roads, and constructing them generates great opportunities for kickbacks and profiteering.

These dynamics create incentives for investing ever more in roads. Indeed, the Ghanaian Ministry of Transport reports that over 80% of the federal government’s annual transport budget goes into road projects. Roads induce more spread-out land use — requiring more travel.

The roads are primarily designed for cars — they often lack pedestrian pathways, crossovers and bicycle lanes.

The development of increasingly roads, coupled with under-investment in public and non-motorized transport and the high social status attached to automotive ownership, encourages higher income individuals to import vehicles for his or her personal use.

The demand for personal vehicles is well met by importers focused on the cheaper used vehicles in abundant supply. Well-documented corruption within the Customs Service also undermines effective enforcement of regulations for importing used vehicles. Advantages accrue to powerful actors connected to the sector, and this can be a very regressive approach.

The minibus (popularly called “tro-tro”) sector has stepped in to fulfill the high public transport demand. Some studies suggest that the sector serves about 60% of Ghana’s traveling public. The operators, nonetheless, remain highly fragmented and largely focused on individual short-term profits. Service improvements — like more efficient operations, fleet renewal or electrification — that require more capital are neglected.

The federal government of Ghana and its “development partners” direct their top quality bus investments into Bus Rapid Transit projects which don’t all the time work as planned, leaving gaps. These conditions encourage the continuing purchase and use of second-hand minibuses, which are sometimes poorly maintained and kept on the roads at the same time as they grow old and more dangerous. Their regular use implies that large numbers of persons are exposed to discomfort, air pollution, poor safety and other problems. Research shows that poor minibus (tro-tro) transport experience adds to the aspects that push people towards used private automotive consumption in Ghana.

Big picture view of the issue

Currently, a give attention to weak regulation and poverty results in bans and penalties on used vehicle imports as the first policy response to Africa’s used vehicle dependency. A broader view, incorporating land-use patterns, and investment in public transport, provides latest policy options for reducing used vehicle and vehicle consumption generally.

The choices could include:

  • changing town and city planning to permit people to live, work and shop in the identical area and due to this fact travel less;
  • investments to make public transport in addition to walking and cycling cleaner, safer, efficient, reasonably priced and attractive;
  • investments in public transport infrastructure like dedicated bus lanes and proper bus stops, stations and passenger information;
  • tax relief and financial support for brand spanking new public transport vehicles — minibus recapitalization programs like South Africa’s can introduce higher occupancy, low emissions and safer vehicles;
  • minibus electrification and investment in emerging local electrification initiatives.

Overall, there’s a necessity for policy shifts from just banning used vehicle imports, and constructing increasingly expensive roads. A broader range of interventions exists that may shift Ghana and other countries away from automobile dependency and all of the socio-environmental harms that this brings.The Conversation

Festival Godwin Boateng is a postdoctoral research fellow on the Center for Sustainable Urban Development on the Columbia Climate SchoolJacqueline M Klopp, is a research scholar on the Center for Sustainable Urban Development.

This text is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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