Ugandan ban on used electronics – update

It appears the ban on used electronics and second hand computers will be reviewed by the Ugandan government.  According to the State Minister for Trade Tourism and Industry, the ambiguous ban on “computer equipment” will focus on electronics that are most harmful to the environment.  Obviously the limits on importing used electronics is a proactive approach to keep Uganda from becoming a dumping ground for the worlds e-waste.  Uganda was the first East African country to ban the import of second hand electronics.  Kenya now has a 25% VAT on all reconditioned computer equipment.  So this direction is not all bad, but needs clarity and definition to be more effective.

However, the flip side of such a ban (and subsequent review) has broad reaching impact.  The Ugandan ICT market and users were to suffer the most from this law.  The market for refurbished computers is huge in Uganda, as a new computer retails for approximately US $1,250, while a refurbished machine goes for about $184.  This would affect not only the dealers in reconditioned computers, but NGO’s that bring a great deal of second hand computers into the country.  One of these NGO’s Computer Aid International was kind enough to contact the Ministry of ICT in Uganda to get additional information on the ban.

While in Uganda in the Fall of 2009, we discussed this ban with reps at the US Embassy, because it was not clear what the definition of used “computer equipment and electronics” meant.  I guess we weren’t the only ones confused.  My employer has been looking into a donation of network hardware (switches, AP’s) to a school in Uganda.  This recent decision should open the door to assist our partner, which is very good news.


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