[access-forum] Joost Beuving - INZET's car project
Amsterdam, 21 September 1999
Since only a few weeks ago was I introduced to the SUSTRAN-network.
Regularly I receive contributions from SUSTRAN's participants and the
material I reviewed so far has been interesting, and promising. Therefore
would I like to participate in the discussion group's debates. Through this
email I would like to present some of the themes that characterise my work.
Then I will direct as number of questions to you. But first, allow me to
introduce myself, and my project, briefly.
My name is Joost Beuving and for INZET, a Dutch development foundation I
carry out a project concerned with the trade of used European personal cars
to countries of West-Africa. In 1998 INZET launched the project : Good
Riddance (to Rubbish): The Netherlands and sustainable transport in
West-African Benin. The objective of this project was to structurally
contribute to sustainable transport in Benin. In order to not step into the
pitfall of traditional modernisation approach to development, INZET has from
the onset closely co-operated with three Beninese counterparts.
Practically, this means that INZET and its partners have jointly formulated
the project's terms of reference and co- defined the project activities.
Around the summer the first phase of the project was finalised. And we can
look back with satisfaction, because our joint efforts have brought some
interesting results. In April INZET organised a seminar, where representants
of the car business, environmental and developmental NGOs,
experience-experts and University researchers discussed on basis of INZET's
research paper the scope for sustainable transport in Benin. Two themes were
treated extensively: (1) how can the trade in Dutch used cars to Africa be
improved, and (2) which measures are required to direct contemporary flows
of traffic in Benin versus sustainable transport. Notwithstanding the large
differences among and between the participants, there was a fundamental
agreement about INZET's problem analysis. In our research report we have
concluded that a functional relation exists between the export of used cars
and a range of environmental problems in (developing) countries that import
these cars, such as Benin. The relation functions as follows. Member states
of the EU export used cars to countries all over the world. About one third
of this stock is exported to Africa, and the majority thereof are exported
to sub-Saharan West Africa. These cars are generally old and make use of
outdated car technology. Together with the low quality of fuel (kpayo:
contains lead and is not purified properly) and improper maintenance
(related to lack of spare parts) the ever increasing stock of cars in Benin
produce more and more vehicular pollution. GP's are already observing an
marked increase in the incidence of airpollution related diseases. Another
environmental problem is related to the absence of a recycling industry.
Benin simply lacks the means to collect and demolish car- wrecks in an
environmentally sound manner. As we see it now, the member states of the EU
are transferring part of their waste problem to developing countries such as
Benin under the cover of trade.
All participants agreed with INZET's proposition that environmental problems
in e.g. Benin are related to the export of European used cars. A firm
statement, which offers scope for changes. However, not all participants
agreed on the problem resolving strategy. Key problem here is rooted in the
responsibility that member states of the EU hold with respect to
environmental problems of developing countries. Representants of the car
business and trade firmly denied this responsibility. Others agreed, and
even acknowledged with INZET that we will have to contribute financially to
resolve environmental problems in Benin.
Notwithstanding these differences, short-term action should be undertaken.
That became more than clear during our mission to Benin last June. Our
counterparts pointed at the negative effects of used cars in Benin for
people and environment and underlined the necessity to act swiftly. With
its car project, INZET has reached the national press on a number of
occasions. On basis of the results of the first phase of the project an
extensive article was published in the largest Dutch newspaper.
Furthermore, a documentary was filmed and broadcasted last spring. Finally
the issue was taken up by the Green party, who has directed parliamentary
questions to the Minister of Environment about the expenditure of Dutch
environmental funds to developing countries.
Last September INZET has started the second phase of the car project. In
this phase a number of concrete activities are to be carried out, including
the organisation of a "lead-seminar". This seminar is concerned with the
phasing out of leaded fuel and the introduction of unleaded fuel in Benin.
I would like to share some of the preliminary thoughts we have on this
theme. At present the Beninese government is, under pressure of the
Worldbank and IMF liberalising the fuel market and privatising the
distribution of fuel. Last July the government presented a tender for the
take-over of 55% of the SONACOP (Beninese State Oil Company) shares. Shell
and Elf-Aquitaine have already demonstrated their interest for this market
opportunity. Unfortunately, we don't know what will happen. Negotiations
are taking place behind closed doors and it is not clear when the Beninese
government decides. However, when two dogs fight over a bone....The
negotiations provide an excellent opportunity to demand for the introduction
of lead-free fuel and to negotiate a quality standard for fuel. Preceding
all this, INZET wishes to organise a seminar to discuss institutional and
technical conditions for the introduction of lead-free fuel. I imagine this
to be a highly technical and specialist debate and INZET will have to rely
on external technical expertise. In preparation for the seminar I will study
a number of cases of the introduction of lead- free fuel. The findings will
be published in a brief report, that will provide the material basis for
I would like to get in touch with people, or organisations, that have dealt
with the introduction of lead-free fuel in developing countries. Naturally,
sub-Saharan Africa can not without precautions be compard with e.g.
South-East Asia. Obviously, what we are striving for requires expertise,
knowledge and experience from the international community. Through the
SUSTRAN-network I would like to direct to the international community the
following set of questions: under what technical and institutional
conditions can the introduction of lead-free fuel be successful;
which political hindrances should be tackled in order to effectively
facilitate such an introduction;
when constructing a framework for negotiation: how should Oil companies be
related to it.
Furthermore, I would like to ask you, SUSTRAN's board, to what degree
SUSTRAN maintains its geographical demarcation for the debate. From your
point of view, can I share my experiences with the network's participants,
and contribute to the network's discussions?
I hope you can find some time to answer my questions.
Sustainable Development Programme