It’s a fairly obvious equation. You have a lot full of older model vehicles that have not been sold. They are simply not desirable models any longer, since they guzzle fuel like it’s going out of fashion, and emit clouds of putrid pollution. Furthermore, mounting emission laws may well have even entirely restricted the vehicle from being sold at all, unless some serious modifications are made to bring down toxic emission levels.
But even then, there are dozens of more efficient models available, probably more appealing in just about every way. Let’s face it; no one perfecting their blackjack strategy just to save up and buy a new means of transport is going to be settling for something less than the current industry best! Options are, then, to have the cars stripped and sold as scrap, pushed off at ridiculously low prices, if a sale is even possible, or ship them off to a country that is not in a position to be picky about imports, and has far more relaxed emission regulations.
The simple truth is that this last option is the most viable, with a number of African countries slowly becoming dumping grounds for pollution spewing, obsolete vehicle models. The problem? The countries in question are quickly suffering massive pollution spikes as a result, and in far harsher ways than might be assumed.
African Buying Power
25 African countries have placed a ban on vehicles that are older than 25 years, which is a very sensible restriction to have. The problem is that in some of those countries the enforcement of this law is slack, to say the least. There happens to be a massive demand for older, cheaper forms of transport, given that the buying power in these countries is not that of European countries, or the United States. To put it another way; cars of this nature are eagerly sought after.
The situation is a clear recipe for disaster, with the result being an obvious one. In many African countries air pollution levels are surging, with likewise predictable results. Deaths from respiratory disease, specifically in children under 5, are spiking. To put it into perspective; deaths specifically from respiratory disease, in children 5 and younger, in 2016 sat at 15,000, many of which could have been avoided with stronger regulations on air pollution.
One of the most shocking occurrences in the auto industry in recent years is being referred to as Dieselgate. In 2015 it was revealed that Volkswagen, based in Germany, had intentionally bypassed fuel emission laws. Intentional efforts were made by employees to have diesel engines, created internally by Volkswagen, to show lower toxic emission than were actually being produced. This meant that during testing the engines passed emission laws, but in reality were spewing 40 times more harmful toxins that were allowed, specifically nitrogen dioxide.
Upon the scandal being revealed, not only did Volkswagen suffer an enormous backlash, but the demand and value for diesel engines also plummeted as a direct result. This, of course, led to a massive backlog of unsold diesel engine automobiles. Put two and two together and you’ll quickly realise that many of these are now being imported to Africa, often illegally.
Stronger Enforcement Needed
Following the unprecedented Dieselgate scandal, serious measures were taken by the European Union to ensure that such a massive oversight never happened again. Given that laboratory testing was the previous standard, allowing Volkswagen the opportunity to cheat, road testing has now also been introduced as a standard part of the compliance test. This was confirmed by the European regional lead at the International Council on Clean Transportation.
The fact remains, however, that those same Volkswagen models are now being shipped to Africa, and other parts of the world, where emission regulations are not as stringent, and law enforcement not as fierce. The fact that what was outright illegal in Europe is now being palmed off elsewhere is the very core of the issue.
A Serious Situation
WHO, also known as the World Health Organisation, recently published a shocking report. The report stated that premature deaths related to air pollution sit at around 7 million on a yearly basis. Half of this total can be directly linked to outdoor pollutants, including vehicle emissions. Of this number, 98% is accounted for by cities with over 100,000 residents, in low and middle-income countries. Each of these countries are in excess of guidelines put out by WHO, who specify air pollution standards that should be maintained.
In other words, an already bad situation is being made worse, with a key factor being obsolete automobile imports.