Such rules can have a significant effect. In the European Union, cars built after 2005 had to comply with so-called Euro 4 standards, which aimed to reduce the most harmful pollutants in car exhaust gases by more than 70% compared to older models. These pollutants, such as fine particles and nitrogen oxides, have been linked to an increased risk of heart attack, lung cancer and asthma. Europe further tightened its pollution rules for new cars in 2009 and 2014.
Most used cars shipped to Africa still do not meet these standards, although 15 West African countries including Nigeria and Ghana recently agreed to adopt the equivalent of Euro 4 rules. for all cars imported from 2021.
Researchers have also found that aging cars with a lot of wear and tear can be less safe to drive and more likely to crash. The report noted that countries with low import restrictions, such as Nigeria or Zimbabwe, have particularly high road fatalities, while countries like Chad which have limited imports of very old cars see considerably fewer deaths.
Even so, the new regulations can be politically controversial. In some African countries, officials have expressed concern that overly stringent restrictions could make cars unaffordable for many people, said Jane Akumu, Africa’s sustainable transport expert at the United Nations Environment Program.
However, Akumu added, countries like Cote d’Ivoire that have restricted trade in older and dirtier used cars have so far not seen their imports drop. “Instead, they saw a move towards cleaner vehicles,” she said.
Rich countries could also carry out more careful quality checks on their exports, according to the report. On Monday, regulators in the Netherlands released the results of an investigation showing that most of the used cars the country exported to Africa in 2018 did not have valid roadworthiness certificates, while some vehicles had their catalytic converters, which filter air pollutants, stripped of their value. metals like platinum.