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The Theory of Environmental Racism in Africa

A recent paper shows how Western companies and businesses (primarily those in Europe and the US) target countries in the Gulf of Guinea – it covered Nigeria, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire – as a dump for their toxic waste. This, despite the knowledge of the physiological and environmental effects of this waste. These African countries do not have the facilities to enable the safe disposal of hazardous and toxic waste. And the true contents of the waste are almost always unknown to them. Exporters label unsalvageable electronic goods as reusable. This allows them to circumvent international laws which prohibit the transboundary transport of this waste. Drawing on examples from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Ghana, the paper argues that toxic waste dumping in the Gulf of Guinea amounts to environmental racism. This is a term that’s used to describe a form of systemic racism – manifested through policies or practices – whereby communities of colour are disproportionately burdened with health hazards through policies and practices that force them to live in proximity to sources of toxic waste. The dumping of toxic waste into Africa, while deliberately concealing its true content, shows that companies know it is ethically wrong. To protect communities within these countries, governments must implement the provisions of the Basel and Bamako Conventions. These conventions classify the transboundary movement of hazardous waste without the consent of the receiving state as illegal.