22-year-old Joseph Awuah-Darko is determined to tackle Ghana’s electronic waste problem head-on. The young Awuah-Darko is spearheading an innovative approach to environmentally sound management of electronic waste in Ghana. In 2017, he founded Agbogblo.Shine Initiative- a social enterprise geared towards sustainable recycling of e-waste at Agbogbloshie.
The E-waste problem
At the heart of Accra’s waste management problem is electronic waste. Agbogbloshie represents Africa’s biggest e-waste dump. Every year, tonnes of e-waste are illegally imported into Ghana; a clear contravention to the Basel Convention. Most of these obsolete electronic equipment (laptops, mobile phones, TV, computers) finds it resting place at Agbogbloshie. Young men gather daily at the e-waste dump to search for copper, aluminum and other valuable metals from the e-waste. The extraction process involves the burning of electrical wires and plastics. Agbogbloshie highlights serious environmental pollution and public health concerns.
Repair, Re-use, Recycle
Despite Agbogbloshie’s gloomy story, Mr. Awuah-Darko is committed to changing the narrative. Since 2017, Agbogblo.Shine Initiative offered skills training to scrap dealers to transform e-waste into high-end furniture and valuable art by applying design thinking. Awuah-Darko made a grandfather clock from a galvanized car axle, aluminum, and a discarded wall clock.
Awuah Darko’s team started by educating scrap dealers on the need to adopt sustainable and safer methods of handling e-waste. They also advocated against the burning of e-waste because of the rippling effects on the environment (air quality) and the health risk it poses to scrap dealers. Awuah-Darko believes the future of Agbogbloshie is beyond an e-waste dump. He has an ambitious plan to transform Agbogbloshie e-waste dump into a creative hub. He chooses to find opportunities and solution amid the e-waste mess. Agbogbloshie has the potential to become a functional profit-making recycling economy.
The journey has not been rosy. Awuah-Darko founded Agbogblo.Shine Initiative whiles schooling at Asheshi University. He was faced with the challenge of combining academic work with his commitment to Agbogblo.Shine project. He also encountered language barrier between his team and the scrap dealers.
Agbogblo.Shine Initiative is anchored on sustainable development goals 11-making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Their work is also linked with urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
The population of Agbogbloshie is made up of economic migrants from northern and rural parts of Ghana. The Agbogblo.Shine Initiative is seeking to empower residents of Agbogbloshie to add value to e-waste whiles creating an alternative livelihood for them. This means placing people and the environment at the center of the e-waste solution.
In May of 2018, Awuah-Darko was awarded by the West African Business Excellence Awards as “ Most Promising Social Enterprise “. Mostly for his efforts in climate action and environmental conservation. He became the youngest person to win the award. Mr. Awuah-Darko was also listed by Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 game-changers in creatives category.
The role of key stakeholders in terms of policy direction on e-waste cannot be over-emphasized. There is also an urgent need to create more awareness on issues concerning e-waste management. Awuah-Darko is strongly campaigning to ensure electronic waste are managed in a manner that protect human health and the environment against its adverse effect. Agbogblo.Shine Initiative is a big step in the right direction. Joseph Awuah-Darko is taking a huge leap and also paving the way for a young generation of problems solvers.
This article was originally published on medium.com by same author.