Business News of 2013-07-06

Mahama must review ban on scrap export – SDA urges

Not too long ago, the government of Ghana banned the exportation of scrap metal with the excuse of protecting the local steel industry and preventing its collapse. Inasmuch as we share in the sentiments of government that scrap materials ought to be available for the steel industry so that they will be able to increase their productive capacity, we are of the opinion that such a decision should not also deprive scrap dealers of their livelihood. As Scrap Dealers Advocate (SDA), we believe that government erred by terminating the exportation of ferrous scrap from Ghana. We have three key points to support our claim.

It is public knowledge that the effects of the Kokomba-Nanumba wars which erupted in the 90’s necessitated the migration of our brothers from the North to settlements such as Kokompe, Ashiaman, Agbogbloshie (Sodom and Gomorrah). It is also a fact that the major occupation of these strong young men in these communities have always been sifting through commercial and residential waste to find scrap metal. On a daily basis, scrap dealers clean our streets and homes of unwanted metal debris, keep them on what is popularly known as “hand trucks” and eventually sell them to make a living.

It is painful that nobody is even discussing the hazardous nature and risk these young people take in search of metal debris to earn a honest living. According to the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA), about 15 million people throughout the developing world earn a living from collecting garbage. This means that with the needed governmental support, employment can be generated for young people in this regard.

We wish to state that scrap dealers do not have any market to sell their debris. Moreover, it is a tongue-in-cheek that the ban was instituted to feed the local steel industry, yet the local steel industry is unable to buy the scrap from these young men.

Our investigations to steel factories in Ghana show long queues of KIA trucks filled with scrap looking for a sale. We find it unacceptable that when the price of scrap was sold at nearly Ghc800, the price per iron rod has not changed now that prices have been reduced to Ghc400, iron rod prices still remains the same. We are of the conviction that the factory owners who are largely foreigners, are behind the price reductions and that government is working for large foreign corporations to the detriment of its own citizens.

Steel that was previously bought by the steel companies and the exporters are now being rejected by them (cast engines, hubs.) They now have an option of choosing which one to buy. Where will these young men sell their scrap to earn a decent wage?

Furthermore, what is clearly at stake here is that, government of the people, by the people, for the people; is not true and that this whole process must be reviewed because the government has failed in this regard. It is very unfortunate that we still live in a country where the rich is getting richer whiles the poor is getting poorer, which is actually defining what Karl Marx called the Law of Increasing Poverty.

The Basel Convention prevents the trans-frontier shipment of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries. Only three countries, the United States, Afghanistan and Haiti, have never ratified the convention. It is, therefore, not surprising that Ghana has become a dumping ground for almost everything ranging from used computers, used clothes, used underwear, used handkerchiefs etc. Each month, cargo containers arrive in Agbogbloshie which is known as the destination for legal and illegal exportation, and environmental dumping of electronic waste from industrialized nations all over the world.

It is estimated that between 50% to 75% of the electronics imported into Ghana are unable to be salvaged and remain on the land. Government should rather be thankful to these young people for finding a use for the scrap. It is quite shameful that government has truncated an effort by these young people to export waste back to the developed countries. How can government do this and still maintain that it cares for the people? It is unfortunate that this ban was instituted at a time when Ghana has become a hub for scrap business with trucks bringing scrap from the ECOWAS sub-region. All of this has now come to a halt.

The government must listen to its citizens and shed tears for citizens who have not had the chance to make any living. Scrap leaders are up and in arms about their seemingly fatal condition. A business which used to be a cash and carry system has now turned into a credit system whereby the big businesses are not even buying. Tons of scrap metals stored in KIA trucks for many weeks awaiting demand from local businesses are incurring a daily vehicle cost of Ghc100. So if they are sitting idle at the factory for two weeks, it means they have incurred Ghc1,400 in vehicle cost alone. How much do they make from their product? We the Scrap Dealers Advocate (SDA) maintain that this new policy has taken food off the table of ordinary Ghanaians, and government must reverse this harsh policy on ordinary survivors.

We would also like to state here and now that the government has been insensitive to economic migrants from northern and rural parts of Ghana who did not come and stay in these communities by choice, but as a result of internal strife and tribal war. We appreciate that others came for “greener pastures”. Over the past two decades, these hardworking scrap dealers have been able to remit their families back home with the honest work they have been doing in Accra. We believe that as citizens, we will not be safe if these people do not find food to eat.

It is our expectation that Government would review this ban with a sense of urgency as it can have catastrophic consequences for the security of this nation. The question government must answer is “what happens when strong, able and agile young men are no longer able to fend for themselves and their families”? You think about it!

Signed on Behalf of the Group:

Spokesperson:

Nana Ofori Owusu