North Rhine-Westphalia helps Ghana fight consequences of e-waste | Africa | DW | 23.05.2016
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North Rhine-Westphalia helps Ghana fight consequences of e-waste

The German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia has strengthened its partnership with Ghana. A recently signed new agreement proposes to implement several projects in the areas of health, environment and tourism.

To that end, the state’s minister for Federal and European Affairs, Franz-Josef Lersch-Mense, led a delegation on an official visit to Ghana from May 18 to 21. German’s most populous federal state is involved in several development projects in Ghana.

One of Lersch-Mense's stops was the Agbogbloshie community in the capital, Accra. Here lies the biggest dump for electronic waste in the whole of West Africa. Most of it imported from developed countries. This so-called e-waste contains toxic chemicals which pollute the ground, water and atmosphere. It thus threatens the health of residents, especially those who live on what they earn from processing and selling parts and material from TV sets, cell phones, computers and ither electronic devices.

Lersch-Mense was able to assess firsthand the environmental destruction caused by electronic waste, some of which is imported from Germany. Alarmed by what he saw, the minister said that his government in Düsseldorf will help build a health facility in Agbogbloshie. He noticed that there were about three thousand people working at the disposal site. They run high health risks, he said, and "sometimes need extra treatment when they suffer injuries. It is very complicated to reach a hospital. So I think it's very important for the people here to have a health post on this site."

Agbogbloshie grateful to Germany

The man in charge of executing the project is Michael Funcke-Bartz, from the German agency for international cooperation - GIZ. He explains that the project is being implemented in collaboration between the University of Ghana and the Technical University of Aachen. "They decided to work closer together in the field of occupational health and environmental medicine," Funcke-Bartz said. Both institutions will be involved in setting up a health post togther with the community.

Memebrs of the German delegation with minister Lersch-Mense (on the right) sit around a table with community leaders

Meeting of the German delegation with minister Lersch-Mense (on the right) and community leaders.

Many of the residents of Agbogbloshie are scrap dealers. The general secretary of the scrap dealers' association, Mohammed Ali, told DW that he is grateful for this project: "This initiative to bring this health post to our community is going to be of immense help to us, not only to the scrap people, but to everyone."

Earlier, the minister signed a reviewed partnership agreement between the federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia and Ghana. The initial agreement was signed in 2007 to undertake developmental projects in several regions of the West African country. Ghana is Germany's fifth largest trading partner on the continent. Lersch-Mense travelled to some of these regions to assess the various projects underway.

Hope for improved livelihood

He expressed the hope that the people's livelihood will be improved once the projects are implemented: "In coming years I hope that we will have more projects on the level of governments and administrations, concerning questions of good governance and administrative techniques."

Scrap dealers are loading scrap on a lorry

Scrap dealers in Accra

Among the delegation accompanying the minister was Ghana's Ambassador to Germany Akua Sena Dansua. She is excited about the partnership and promises that Accra will make sure that good governance will prevail in the implementation of the various projects.

There are an estimated 6,000 Ghanaians or people with roots from Ghana living in North Rhine-Westphalia. In 2015, the federal state exported merchandise to the tune of 28 million euros ($31 million) to Ghana and imported products from there worth 11 million euros. Numerous bilateral partnerships have been established between schools, universities and cities like Bonn and Cape Coast.

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