The E-waste management system in Ghana through the Transformative Innovation Policy Lens

Thinking & Analysis

MAY 2019
Wilhemina Quaye, Gordon Akon-Yamga; Adelaide Asante, Chux Daniels

Ghana joined the Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) Africa Exploratory Hub in 2018 with a special focus on the case study of the E-waste management system in Ghana. The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) is a multi-country initiative for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policies that promote transformation of systems and societies to foster environmental sustainability, achieve more equitable income distribution and help address social challenges including gender, inequality, and exclusion. In Ghana, the TIP project is being implemented by CSIR-Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) and University of Ghana (UG) with technical support from the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, UK.

E-waste contributes to air, water, and land pollution, resulting in environmental degradation. Increasing consumption of electronics with its attendant high levels of E-waste has made the management of E-waste in Ghana a societal challenge that requires a new socio-technical solution. The TIP Africa team in Ghana organised a 2-day fieldwork in Accra on 25th and 26th April 2019, as part of the process of finding innovative solutions to the societal challenge of E-waste management. Day 1 of the fieldwork involved focus group meetings with key actors; while Day 2 was dedicated to a full day workshop.

To co-create new narratives and evaluation frameworks for STI Policy, four focused group discussions were held on the first day of the 2-day workshop to unpack stakeholder experiences regarding the evolution and challenges of E-waste management in Ghana over time. The focus group and workshop involved interactions with the various categories of stakeholders, including:

  • Government, policymakers and civil society;
  • Research/academia and development partners;
  • Private sector players;
  • E-waste collectors.

One key finding from the interactions is that, although considered to be a menace by some stakeholders, E-waste can be a useful resource and source of income if well managed. This view was particularly emphasised by E-waste collectors.

In applying the Transformative Innovation Learning Histories (TILHs) Methodology to guide the data collection, multiple accounts from participants on the transformative innovation process were gathered during the workshop. The participants’ accounts were used to construct the timelines of transformative events and an actor-network map of Ghana’s E-waste ecosystem.

Since 2000, a number of policies, projects and activities have been put in place to address the E-waste challenge. Most significant was the promulgation of the Hazardous and Electronic Waste Act (Act 917) and the Hazardous, Electronic and Other Wastes, Control and Management Regulations (LI 2250) in 2016 by the Government. Act 917 provides for the establishment of a national E-waste plant with the involvement of the private waste recyclers to manage and recycle E-waste in Ghana. Also, of significance is that in 2017 the Government signed an agreement with GIZ on the commencement of an E-waste management project. Furthermore, in 2018, technical guidelines on E-waste was established and Société Générale was charged to collect an eco-levy. The national E-waste management system enables the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate actors including collectors and dismantlers along the E-waste value chain.

A summary of the transformative events towards more inclusive and sustainable E-waste management in Ghana is shown in Figure 1 below. As shown in the figure, E-waste management became a major challenge in Ghana in the early parts of 2000 when a Danish Member of Parliament raised the alarm on Ghana being the dumping site of E-waste from Europe. The majority of electronic products are shipped into Ghana as used items, destined for reuse. However, around the year 2000, it emerged that most of these electronic products were already E-waste prior to their arrival in Ghana.

Fig 1: Transformative events towards more inclusive and sustainable E-waste management system in Ghana(source:authors)

e waste ghana


During the workshop, stakeholders identified gaps in the implementation of the ACT 917 and LI 2250. Some the gaps identified include lack of enforcement of laws partly due to political influence, poor attitudes of Ghanaians in waste handling and management, lack of resources from Government, and lack of innovation in the effective management of E-waste. These gaps are in line with the innovation policy framing by Schot and Steinmueller (2018).

From all indications the stakeholders who participated in the workshop were optimistic, stating that E-waste, if properly managed, would be a valuable resource that could generate employment, income and revenue to the country. The 2-day workshop was insightful and offered a unique opportunity for policy learning. Ghana is in the process of finalizing its E-waste policy. We hope that the outcome from the workshop would be a useful input in to the E-waste policy. To this end the CSIR STEPRI and SPRU teams look forward to contributing to the formulation of Ghana’s national E-waste policy.