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UN cautions against grey imports

UN cautions against grey imports
UNSAFE: Imported cars

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has raised concerns over the exportation of used vehicles to Africa which it deems unsafe and also dangerous to the environment.

The report released by the UNEP recently says millions of used cars, vans, and minibuses exported from Europe, the United States, and Japan to the developing countries are of poor quality, contributing significantly to air pollution.

The report says this then hinders efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and according to the report, between 2015 and 2018; 14 million used light-duty vehicles were exported worldwide.

About 80 percent of these vehicles, which have become largely popular in Botswana due to their affordable prices, were headed to low and middle-income countries, with more than half of them coming to Africa.

These used imported vehicles are said to account for 60 percent of annual car registrations in Africa.

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Only nine out of 54 countries are reported to have a good or very good regulatory framework on used vehicle imports.

The report which is the first of its kind titled, ‘Used vehicles and the Environment – A global overview of used light-duty vehicles; Flow, Scale and Regulation’ calls for action to fill the current policy vacuum with the adoption of harmonized minimum quality standards that will ensure used vehicles contribute to a cleaner, safer fleets in importing countries.

According to the report which covered 146 countries, it was discovered that some two-third of them have weak or very weak policies to regulate the import of used vehicles.

Some of the key concerns raised by the UN regarding these used vehicles are pollutant and climate emissions of used cars, the quality and safety, energy consumption and the costs to operate them.

The UN says this trade needs to be supervised as regulation will ensure the quality of vehicles and reduce air pollution and global climate emissions.

Most developing countries are believed to have limited or no regulations on governing the quality and safety of imported used vehicles, and where such rules exist, they are poorly enforced.

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It is suggested that regulation can be in any form, from complete bans to age restrictions, labelling and awareness requirements.

The report has found that out of the 146 countries surveyed, only 18 have adopted a complete ban on the importation of used vehicles.

Besides protecting their environment, countries which have adopted a complete ban are also doing so to protect their own manufacturing industry and South Africa is one of the few that have done so.

The UN laments that the gap in policy measures between exporting and importing markets has led to global trade in used vehicles which are obsolete, ageing, unsafe, and polluting.

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