ACCRA - ABUJA - The Dark Side of European Used Cars and Parts Trade in West Africa (Ghana and Nigeria)

This investigation puts the spotlight on the export of used auto parts and end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) from Europe to places like Ghana and Nigeria while port officials in Europe, Ghana, and Nigeria turn a blind eye to the environmental and health safety challenges posed to millions.

The report shows that about 80 percent of used parts and cars exported from Europe to West Africa are old and below the Euro 4/IV emission standard, and often lack requisite roadworthiness certification and fall below emission standards.

The team unravels how imported used cars and spare parts from Europe are contributing to significant air pollution and causing safety concerns for many in Ghana and Nigeria. In Ghana, for example, the yearly concentration of air pollution was 11 times higher than the WHO air quality standard as of 2020, With an estimated 40% of Accra's air pollution concentrations related to vehicle transport.

Europe exports over a million light-duty vehicles and many of these vehicles are comparable to those considered "end-of-life" vehicles, according to the data provided by the Dutch Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT).

Many of these imported cars release thick exhaust fumes while driving, and are a health hazard for many pedestrians, street hawkers, and shop owners resulting in thousands of deaths annually. These imported subpar spare parts are also sometimes dumped at open dump sites across Nigeria causing severe environmental harm.

Despite efforts by the European Commission to revise its Directive on end-of-life vehicles (ELVs), it remains uncertain if a “cross-border aspect” will be included in the final regulation to end the export of ELVs to West Africa. 

Both Nigeria and Ghana prohibit the importation of used cars above a certain age, but experts argue that the lack of minimum requirements in place to ensure that only quality used vehicles are traded allows for a lot of used cars and car parts in poor conditions to pass inspections at European harbors ending up West Africa.

The report shows how officials in Ghana and Nigeria have shirked their responsibility towards protecting their vulnerable populations against the harms of ELVs and used spare parts.

The journalists speak to environmental experts, import and export representatives, government officials, and the academia to understand what is at stake, and how Europe’s end-of-life vehicles and parts have become a burden on many African countries.

Photo credit: Used spare parts at Abosso Okai, Accra, Ghana/Daniel Abugre Anyorigya

Team members

Elfredah Kevin-Alerechi

Elfredah Kevin-Alerechi is an investigative journalist from Nigeria.

Elfredah Kevin-Alerechi

Gideon Sarpong

Gideon Sarpong is a journalist and policy analyst in Ghana.

Gideon Sarpong

Raluca Besliu

Raluca Besliu is a freelance journalist from Romania currently living in Belgium.

Raluca Besliu

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