Nigeria is topmost importer of used vehicles in Africa, 3rd globally: UNEP

*United Nations Environment Programme report called for action to fill the current policy vacuum with the adoption of harmonised minimum quality standards that will ensure used vehicles contribute to cleaner, safer fleets in importing countries

Emmanuel Akosile | ConsumerConnect

A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has revealed Nigeria is the highest importer of used cars (popularly known as tokunbo in local parlance) in Africa and the third-highest destination for used cars globally.

ConsumerConnect learnt the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the highest importing country with 389,302 cars, followed by Mexico with 281,545 and Nigeria coming in third with 203,136 cars.

According to the new report titled: “Used Vehicles and the Environment – A Global Overview of Used Light Duty Vehicles: Flow, Scale and Regulation”, between 2015 and 2018, 14 million light-duty vehicles (cars, SUVs and minibuses) were exported to low and middle-income countries, with more than half going to Africa.

The European Union (EU) was the largest exporter of used vehicles during this period, accounting for 54% of the total, followed by Japan with 27% and the United States with 18%, said the report.

The study, which is the first of its kind, disclosed that the major destinations for used vehicles from the EU are West and North Africa.

Japan exports mainly to Asia and East and Southern Africa while the USA market is mainly the Middle East and Central America, noted the report.

It also found that African countries imported the largest number of used vehicles (40 percent) in the period studied, followed by countries in Eastern Europe (24 percent), Asia-Pacific (15 percent), the Middle East (12 percent) and Latin America (nine percent).

In Africa, the study showed more than 60 percent of vehicles added annually are through the importation of used vehicles although it varies to some extent, from zero in South Africa which has a total ban on imports to 97 percent in Kenya.

The report called for action to fill the current policy vacuum with the adoption of harmonised minimum quality standards that will ensure used vehicles contribute to cleaner, safer fleets in importing countries.

Globally, the transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Vehicle emissions are a significant source of the fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxides that are major causes of urban air pollution, according to the report.

Ms. Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, said: “Cleaning up the global vehicle fleet is a priority to meet global and local air quality and climate targets.

“Over the years, developed countries have increasingly exported their used vehicles to developing countries; because this largely happens unregulated, this has become the export of polluting vehicles.”

The report, based on an in-depth analysis of some 146 countries, found that two-thirds have “weak” or “very weak” policies to regulate the import of vehicles past their prime.

According to the report, poor quality second-hand autos also lead to more road accidents.

It noted that countries such as Malawi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Burundi, which have “weak” or very weak” used vehicle regulations, have very high road traffic death rates.

However, countries that implement age and emissions standards, or other such measures, receive high-quality used vehicles including hybrid and electric cars, and at an affordable rate.

They also have fewer accidents on the road, the UNEP report said.

Ms. Andersen said the lack of effective standards and regulation means that old, polluting and unsafe vehicles are effectively being dumped.

The UNEP Executive Director further stated: “Developed countries must stop exporting vehicles that fail environment and safety inspections and are no longer considered roadworthy in their own countries while importing countries should introduce stronger quality standards.”

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