Will Ghana's fridge ban work?


On January 1, 2013, Ghana posted yet another first; the country placed a ban on the importation of used refrigerators when a new law - passed in 2008 but delayed so importers and dealers could adjust - came into force.

But second-hand fridge dealers and  buyers are up in arms against the idea.  Nigeria and Cote D'Ivoire have recently made attempts at banning used refrigerators imports but Ghana has taken a major step by giving cash top-ups for people to buy new and energy-efficient ones under a rebate scheme.  The country is also exploring ways of producing these appliances locally.

The Energy Commission, the body behind the scheme, says these refrigerators are a drain on the country's already over-stretched power grid.

This is aside the millions of tons of poisonous greenhouse gas emissions that they release to deplete the ozone layer.

There is an annual importation of about 100,000 used refrigerators into Ghana, the commission says.

Such economic and environmental damage needs to be mitigated by replacing inefficient, used refrigeration appliances in Ghana with more efficient and environmentally friendly versions according to the Commission.

There are an estimated two million of such inefficient refrigerators in the country mainly dumped from Europe.

These appliances consume an average of 1,200 kWh/per year, three times more energy than the maximum allowed in countries with robust standards.

The man behind the project at the commission, Eric Kumi Antwi-Agyei, tells me that such inefficient appliances result in GH¢100 to GH¢200 per year of potentially unnecessary electricity bills for a typical owner who hardly affords it.

GOG-UNDP Partnership

Some 50,000 energy efficient refrigerators are expected to be sold under the rebate programme over the next three years of the project implementation.

This would save 216MWh of electricity, which is more than half of the electricity that will be produced by the Bui Dam when completed.

The Government of Ghana is putting in GH¢3million to achieve this over the next three years while the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is also providing technical and logistics support through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

Under the arrangement, buyers get up to GH¢200 discount on new refrigerators bought.  What's more? A partnership with Ecobank means that beneficiaries get loans to make up for the difference.

Over 1,200 used appliances have already been traded in for some newly imported ones under the project at the last count and the commission is now scaling up countrywide.

A degassing plant - the first of its kind in Africa - has also been set up in Accra to recycle the fridges turned in.

Killing jobs?

In the heat of Accra's traffic-jammed neighbourhoods of Kaneshie, I meet Kojo Amankwaa, a 48-year old man who describes himself as a busy person.  He imports used fridges from different parts of Europe and employs 30 young men at his shop.

"This year, I would not import any appliance because of the ban and by June, I would sack more than half of the people I work with here because I would have nothing to sell and would not need their services." he says.  Kojo is just one of the many Ghanaians who are not in favour of the idea of banning second hand fridges.

He argues that the policy would put thousands out of jobs and further lead to soaring poverty levels.  Fridge buyers also claim new fridges are of low quality.

Mr. Antwi-Agyei of the Energy Commission believes the ban should rather encourage dealers to import and sell new and energy efficient refrigerators.

"With more than two million inefficient refrigeraton appliances in use throughout Ghana, the economic cost of such inefficiency is many hundreds of millions of dollars to the national economy," he says.

On what people think about the fridges they are importing, he blames it on misconception. "I think with time and more education, things would change, he said.

Source:  Daily Graphic
Date: Saturday, February 2, 2013

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