Non-Aligned Movement has continuously laid stress on the need to protect the environment and ensure sustainability. Management of e-waste is becoming increasingly pivotal in sustainable development policies as initiatives to enhance Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) gain momentum. E-waste encompasses all discarded and disposed Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE), which is defined as equipment dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to work properly and equipment for the generation, transfer and measurement of such currents and fields.
Rwanda is committed to environment protection. Rwanda is a signatory to many agreements and conventions on environmental management. These include support for the provisions of Agenda 21 amongst other declarations and statements of principles, such as the Rio Declaration in 1992 on Environment and Development.
Rwanda is also a party to the Basel Convention on the control of trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, which was developed with purpose to ensure the generation of hazardous wastes and other wastes are minimized; adequate disposal facilities exist for sound environmental management of wastes; and that managers of waste minimize the risk to human health.
It is estimated that Rwanda generates 10,000 tonnes of e-waste every year. Rwanda is among the few countries that have an electronic waste policy and regulations, and is the second in Africa to have a state-of-the-art e-waste dismantling and recycling facility. In accordance with its Vision 2020, which recognizes environmental degradation and climate changes one of main barriers to realizing of medium and long-term development aspirations, Rwanda has formulated a national e-waste management policy.
Rwanda has also developed an ICT for Development (ICT4D) plan, which recognizes the importance of ICT as a key driver for socio-economic development. The plan recognized the need to develop green economy by defining and implementing an e-waste management framework to properly handle the increasing volume of e-waste, increase the capacity for managing and handling e-waste and develop the knowledge on appropriate e-waste treatment technologies. The policy is based on the following principles: 1) Life Cycle Thinking : This entails a reduce, reuse and recycle approach; 2) Resource Recovery: This involves collection and dismantling to recover valuable metals from EEE such as “gold, copper, etc which can be used as input to the manufacturing of other equipment”; 3) Human and Environmental Harms Avoidance: This implies that all hazardous materials in E-waste should be treated properly so environmental and health harms can be avoided; 4) Job creation, with a focus on enhancing employment in the green economy; and 5) Contribute to Sustainable Development of Rwanda.
The framework for Rwanda’s e-waste management policy includes offering financial incentives to individuals who collect e-waste from the community and bring it to the plant for recycling. The incentives are based on weight, with community members offered US$100 for 13–15 kilograms of e-waste collected.
According to Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Baruta, Rwanda’s effective e-waste policies also benefit local economies. Adequate e-waste management allows the recovery of precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, and tin from disposed-of components and also creates new business and job creation opportunities in the e-waste collection and management value chain, while reducing the environmental burden to landfills.
In March 2020, the Rwanda government unveiled a countrywide awareness campaign for establishing an e-waste collection point in every district in a move aimed at building a sustainable e-waste management ecosystem in Rwanda.
According to Charles Gahungu, Director General of ICT at the Rwanda Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, “ICT is one of the pillars of Rwanda’s development. The electronic equipment that we see more and more often in the country is a threat because it is toxic to the environment. This is the main reason why the management of electronic waste is crucial”.
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