Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Developed countries dumping environmentally-unfriendly goods in Botswana

In its 2014-15 Global Competitiveness Report, the World Economic Forum gives Botswana low marks for sophisticated buying. In one respect, this lack of sophistication manifests itself in the buying of environmentally harmful goods that are actually being dumped here by developed nations and emerging economies.

This startling revelation is made by David Lesolle, Africa’s lead negotiator at the United Nations Climate Change Convention and environmental science lecturer at the University of Botswana. To be clear though, Lesolle doesn’t make the point about sophisticated buying in the WEF report.

Proceeding on a no-names-no-pack-drill basis, Lesolle says that given his position, it would be unseemly for him to mention names of countries whose representatives he may have to negotiate with at the UNFCCC in the future. In his judgement, the dumpers are taking advantage of the absence of climate change law in Botswana.

He adds that there is need for Botswana to import climate-friendly technology but expresses disappointment that while some of this technology is already available, it is more expensive than the old technology that is not climate-friendly. He gives as an example water-saving toilet systems that are sold by Cashbuild stores. Likewise, some furniture shops have started selling energy-saving refrigerators that are more expensive than old models which don’t save energy.

He says that Botswana is having a tough time dealing with this issue because it doesn’t have climate change policy to help it navigate its way through.

What that policy would do, for example, would be to allow customs levy a 20 percent tax on non-energy-saving refrigerators coming into the country. On the other hand, it would rebate energy-saving refrigerators. In the absence of this policy and requisite climate change laws, Lesolle says that other countries are finding it easy and convenient to “dump their technologies in Botswana.”

When such dumping is not done here, it is in neighbouring countries, prompting some (all too often unwitting) Batswana to travel to such countries to procure the goods being dumped because they think they are cheap.

Lesolle says that it would be possible to solve this problem “with a stroke of the pen.” By that he means that the government can introduce climate-friendly laws that would require commercial enterprises to comply with certain environmental standards.

Purchase of environmentally harmful goods would be one manifestation of the lack of buyer sophistication mentioned in the WEF report. On a scale that measures buyer sophistication from making purchasing decisions solely on the basis of lowest prices (1) to a sophisticated analysis of performance attributes (7), Botswana buyers were given 2.9, making them the 112th least sophisticated in the survey sample.  

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