Friday, July 19, 2024

Sometimes The Grass Is Greener Because It Is Fake


Cars and vehicles have become a very important mobility option. Gone are the days when cars and vehicles were viewed as a luxury as a majority could not afford them nowadays cars are a basic need. In order to meet this ‘basic need’ second-hand cars are flocking a majority of developing countries in Africa. In Nairobi, Kenya the transport sector is growing every single day. With these growths the rise in importation if second-hand cars are off the charts.

Developing countries, in a bid, to change and transform their transportation sector, electric, driverless cars were introduced. A display of these vehicles was witnessed in a conference held in Washington D.C. in contrast, a majority of Africans are more likely to own second-hand cars which are gas-belching and come from these developed countries. The developed countries have found a short term solution to pollution by displacing their problems and as Africans, we have openly accepted the invitation of receiving second-hand cars.

Africa’s number of second hand imported cars exceeds the number of importation of first-hand cars. Out of all the cars imported to the Kenyan soil, a majority are second-hand vehicles either from Dubai or Japan. Experts predict that the number of vehicles in developing countries is likely to scale higher by four or five times by the year 2050.

Figure 2air pollution from vehicles. Image source:

These cars offer an easy and affordable way for the mobility of people in developing countries which can be viewed as a positive impact to the economy as gross domestic product increases as a result of the demand and the sales made. However, considering all perspectives including the effects second-hand cars have on sustainability it is wise to say that sometimes the grass is greener because it is fake.

Some countries however such as South Africa and Sudan do not pave way for the importation of second-hand cars. Maybe because they are well aware of the health risks involved as these vehicles belch their toxic gas into the atmosphere.

Health is a crucial area of focus on the sustainable development goals agenda. Second-hand cars cause more harm than good to the health of a population. Respiratory conditions are caused as a result of inhaling the polluted air.

Air is polluted through the release of particulate matter into the air and people inhale it. The particulate matter is present in the gases released by the second-hand cars.  Conditions caused by respiratory problems lead to more expenses incurred in the health sector. Imagine a situation where a poor Kenyan, who walks to the capital every day inhales the particulate matter from second-hand cars. The particulate matter enters the bloodstream through the lungs. Chances are his condition will prompt him to take some time off work. If admitted in hospital the bills are likely to scale higher and effects felt by the exchequer.

Study shows that pollution from these vehicles causes pre-mature deaths of seven million yearly. Older cars are said to emit more particulate matter. Kenya’s age limit of importation of second-hand cars is eight years.  Logically speaking, this car is likely to be driven for about twenty years. The environmental hazard caused during that period of time is higher and the health effects worse. Older cars fail to meet road standards in most instances and a majority cause road accidents. Getting spare parts of these vehicles proves to be a challenge in most instances.

There is a need to control and regulate the second-hand injection into the country. These regulations will solve one piece of the development puzzle and the environmental puzzle as well.  Kenya is a step forward in solving the second-hand car menace. In mid-2018, the cabinet secretary for industrialization, Adan Mohammed, issued an initiative by the government to block the sale of all vehicles above, five years. This was an aim meant to reduce the hazardous effects of second-hand cars. In January 2019, industry, trade and cooperatives cabinet secretary, Peter Munya wrote a letter to KEBS. He urged the government body to come up with regulations surrounding the importation of second-hand cars as well as the age limit of these cars.

Part of the letter cited the government’s commitment to reviewing the age limit of imported second-hand cars from eight to five and the development of a national automotive policy framework. These effective measures are set to take place in July of 2019. These measures are yet to take place but identification of the effects of second-hand cars is a huge milestone in addition to taking an initiative.

Regulation of vehicles as they enter the country, however, is not enough. Second-hand cars need to be controlled as they are used in the country from time to time. This will ensure that there is minimal pollution as the years go by as some are used for a long period of time. Hopefully, the Kenyan government will see to it that second-hand car effects have reduced as it has been the case in South Africa and Sudan.






Dr. Edward Mungai
Dr. Edward Mungai
The writer, Dr. Edward Mungai, is a global sustainability expert. He is the Lead Consultant and Partner at Impact Africa Consulting Ltd (IACL), a leading sustainability and strategy advisory in Africa. He is also the Chief Editor at Africa Sustainability Matters. He can be contacted via

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