As the West rapidly shifts to electric vehicles, here’s where unwanted gasoline consumers end up


Rokib Yaya stands on the stony ground of a busy FIFA Park parking lot, haggling for the price of a dark red car. It is his, among hundreds of cars parked in long lines on the sprawling lot, some looking shiny and new, others dented and dusty.

The car Yaya has his eye on is a 2008 US-built Ford Escape that sells for around $4,000. He wants to upgrade from a motorcycle to a car because it is relatively affordable and US cars are cheaper than most other brands. He said he wasn’t interested in the car’s history, he just could afford it.

But how this Ford ended up in one of the largest car parks in the port city of Cotonou is less about how many gasoline-hungry Western cars are starting a second life in West Africa. Helps tell big stories.

The 14-year-old Ford arrived in Benin from the United States last year after winning an auto auction.

The car had three previous owners in Virginia and Maryland and had over 252,000 miles on it, according to CNN’s records of the car. There has been one previous recall regarding power steering, but unlike other vehicles on the premises, it arrived in relatively good shape and no accidents were reported.

The aging SUV is just one of millions of used cars that arrive in West Africa each year from wealthy countries such as Japan, South Korea, European countries and even the United States. Many of these end up in Benin. Africa’s top importer About used cars.

A ship in Cotonou Autonomous Port, Benin, West Africa. Cars arrive here from Western countries, including the United States. – Prosper Dagnitsche/AFP/Getty Images

The flow of used cars destined for West African ports is expected to further increase as the West shifts to electric vehicles. As wealthy countries set aggressive goals to shift consumers to electric vehicles, Reduce pollution that causes global warmingGasoline cars won’t go away.

Instead, many are shipped thousands of miles away to developing countries such as Benin, where populations are growing and demand for used cars is growing.

Experts say the effect would be to divert climate and environmental concerns to countries where climate change is severe. People most vulnerable to the climate crisisundermine their own attempts to reduce global warming pollution.

explosive demand

The global used small car market grew by nearly 20% from 2015 to 2019. Over 4.8 million had been exported. After a slight drop in exports in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic began, the value of exports is now “rising quite rapidly,” UN Environment Program official Rob de Jong told CNN. .

The United States exports about 18% of the world’s used cars, according to UNEP data. These travel around the world, including the Middle East and Central America, but many go to Nigeria, Benin, and Ghana.

Some of these are cars that have been in accidents, flooded, or are too old to be salvaged and auctioned for parts. Others are whole used cars that US car dealers are trying to unload.

An imported car that had an accident is waiting for repair. – Nimi Princewill/CNN

“Many of them will be Hyundais, Toyotas and sedans that are two to five years old,” said Dmitry Sibalshin, marketing director at West Coast Shipping, which specializes in international car transportation. “It’s mostly economy cars that are shipped there.”

Mr. Sibalsingh’s company and others are “like FedEx” for cars, he said. His company typically specializes in luxury cars, but also ships cheaper ones.

In major African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria, more than 90% of passenger cars and trucks are used cars from abroad. In Kenya, where De Jong is based, the number of vehicles in his fleet has doubled every eight years. Streets that were previously car-free are now congested, he said.

The demand for these used cars is very high. “The very young are getting richer and wealthier by the day,” said Etop Ipke, CEO of Autocheck Africa, an online car marketplace. “The first thing they want to do when they can afford things is some mobility,” he says.

However, unlike the United States,, New cars are often out of reach because few prospective buyers have access to credit.

“That’s the fundamental reason why we can’t improve the quality” of the cars that are sold, Mr. Ipke said. “It’s not that people want to be in used cars. It’s a question of affordability.”

Experts say demand for used cars could explode further as the proliferation of electric vehicles in the West increases the supply of used cars to African countries. Nearly one in five of his cars sold worldwide this year will be electric, according to the company. International Energy AgencyAccording to the agency, China, Europe and the US are leading the EV market.

In states such as New York and Florida where consumers are increasingly buying EVs, dealers are looking overseas for older gasoline-engined models, said Matt Trapp, regional vice president of auto auction giant Mannheim. It is said that

These states also have good port operations, making them ideal locations for shipping used cars to Africa. Trapp told CNN that he “has a really complementary dynamic.”

“I am not surprised at how strong export competition has become,” Mr. Trapp said. “We will see more and more of this dynamic. [auto dealers] If we find demand in other markets, we will find a way to move the metal there. ”

From UNEP’s point of view, not all petrol vehicles are of concern. It’s an older car that tends to be more polluted and less safe, De Jong said. There is evidence that more old and salvaged cars are being shipped to the continent these days than 20 years ago, due to the growing demand for vehicles in Africa.

“What we are seeing now is a wide variety of used cars being exported from the north of the world to the south,” de Jong said. “Not only are the numbers increasing, but the quality is declining.”

‘Dirty or unsafe’

CNN found an aged 16-year-old Dodge Charger in a corner of FIFA Park.

“I just sold it for 3 million XOF.” [around $4,500]’ said the seller, who did not wish to be named, of a vehicle that arrived in Benin from the United States two years ago.

Parked across from the Charger is a 24-year-old Ford Winster that was shipped to Benin from the United States last year. It’s a cheaper alternative for low-income car buyers who can’t afford a newer model.

Car dealer Abdul Koura told CNN that U.S. and Canadian cars are highly desirable for importers who often bring in wrecked vehicles.

“They repair these cars and resell them for a profit,” said Koura, whose space at FIFA Park in Cotonou houses more than 30 used cars imported from Canada. Told.

Abdul Koura is a car dealer at the FIFA Park parking lot. – Nimi Princewill/CNN

Victor Ojo, a Nigerian car dealer who frequents FIFA parks, told CNN that a car’s origins can often be determined by what’s wrong with it.

“Most cars that smoke are American,” Ojo said. “The cars from Canada are mostly flooded vehicles and are starting to develop electrical failures.”

Some imported cars are not equipped with catalytic converters, which are exhaust gas control devices that filter toxic gases.Catalytic converters include precious metal obtainable, including platinum up to $100 on the black market. Ojo said some cars are shipped without a catalytic converter or have the catalytic converter removed by the dealer upon arrival.

Millions of cars shipped from the US, Europe and Japan to Africa and Asia are “polluted or unsafe.” According to UNEP. “Faulty or missing components often spew toxic fumes, increase air pollution, and undermine efforts to combat climate change.”

Regulations aimed at reducing pollution and increasing safety in vehicles imported into West Africa tend to be weak. However, recent attempts have been made to strengthen them.

In 2020, Benin and the other 14 members of the Economic Community of West African States Bloc will: Set of automobile emission regulations The region includes an age limit of 10 years for used cars and limits on the amount of carbon pollution a car is allowed to produce.

However, it is unclear how strictly they are enforced.

Used cars lined up at FIFA Park. – Nimi Princewill/CNN

UNEP officials, including De Jong, are also in talks with officials in the US and the EU about introducing new regulations to crack down on the shipment of very old and junk cars to developing countries. These dialogues are in the early stages and have not yet resulted in any commitments.

Still, de Jong said climate change and global emissions have made the used-car conversation “another game.” Rising shipments of old and polluting cars are a big problem not only for the developing countries in which they are driven, but for developed countries as well, he added.

“It doesn’t really matter where the emissions are happening today when climate change is happening,” De Jong said. “Washington, D.C. or Lagos, it makes no difference.”

Ipke believes it is inevitable that Africa will accept all the old petrol cars that the West no longer needs. He expects the continent to move to electric vehicles as well, but that will require significant improvements in charging infrastructure.

“In terms of where Africa is going, the transition should not necessarily be from used cars to brand new combustion engines, but from used cars to EVs,” Ipke said. “I think the continent needs to prepare for EVs, whether used or new, because that’s the direction the world is going.”

But for Jaya, all this seems far away. What led him to his FIFA Park, then an old Ford SUV, was that he had no other choice.

“I can only buy what my money can buy,” he says.

Nimi Princewill reports from Benin, Ella Nilsen reports from Washington DC

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