E-waste Management In Kenya: A Case Study Of Mobile Phone Waste In Nairobi
This study focused on the management of mobile phone E-waste in Nairobi, Kenya. The mobile phone sub-sector in Kenya has been recording a phenomenal increase in the number of mobile phone users, which continues to act as a stimulant for growth in other sectors of the economy. Mobile phone users rose from 24.9 million in 2010 to approximately 28 million in 2011, which means that the volume of mobile phone E-waste produced increased by a similar margin. Global production network (GPN), which involves companies outsourcing their production to low-cost countries while retaining their core business has been taking place in Kenya leading to both economic and social upgrading. Economic upgrading is the process where firms and workers move from low-value to high-value activities in GPN while social upgrading is the process of improvement in the rights and entitlement of workers as social players. This study therefore sought to: (i) map out the mobile phone GPN in Kenya; (ii) investigate the social and economic upgrading that has taken place in the mobile phone GPN in Kenya; (iii) examine the E-waste policy framework on mobile phones in Kenya; and (iv) interrogate the link between Nokia’s design for environment (DfE) and the end of life (EoL) practices of mobile phones in Kenya. Both primary and secondary data collection was undertaken. Different methods were utilized to collect primary data. They include key informant interviews, questionnaire surveys and case studies. The study targeted stakeholders in the mobile phone sector who include government agencies, mobile phone manufacturers, mobile phone network operators and owners and workers of repair shops. The research indicates that the mobile phone GPN in Kenya includes post consumption activities where mobile phone E-waste are recycled and exported. The findings showed that both economic and social upgrading is occurring in Kenya. Social upgrading was evident since the mobile industry has employed many people directly and indirectly. Economic upgrading was also evident since the mobile phone industry in Kenya is the leading source of government revenue through tax. It has also led to the use of several mobile phone applications that include m-agriculture, m-commerce, m-education, m-governance, and mhealth. xi The research paper emphasizes the need to develop an E-waste management policy and regulations, which will aid in the management of mobile phone E-waste. There is a need for Nokia to design a system that will sensitize users to bring back their EoL phones to the appropriate collection points. The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) on the other hand should educate the public on the hazardous materials found in E-waste and how it will affect their health, water, environment and overall food chain. Further research on the link between economic and social upgrading and on the operations of exporters of printed circuit boards (PCBs) should be undertaken.