Mapping the invisible and real "african" economy: Urban e-waste circuitry

Richard Grant, Martin Oteng-Ababio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


E-waste is a more than $7 billion industry. Trans-border shipments of e-waste occur in international circuits, typically originating in the United States and Europe, but now also from China, and connect to accumulation sites in particular networked cities in Africa and elsewhere. Debates about the material and environmental weight associated with uncontrolled dumping are now emerging in Africa. We diverge from those debates by concentrating on the economic footprint of e-waste in a Ghanaian context by studying the largest and most prominent e-waste market-Agbogbloshie. This Accra site has achieved notoriety in the global media and among nongovernmental organizations (NGOS), but has received little research and policy attention. In an attempt to remedy this deficiency, a preliminary mapping of e-waste flows of second-hand computers into Ghana is presented. We then map the spatial organization of the e-waste hub and assess meshworks of e-waste activities, elucidating worlds of informal work. This research involved site reconnaissance, 80 questionnaires, and 40 interviews with key stakeholders. Our key finding is that e-waste activities connect Agbogbloshie directly and indirectly to various international circuits, and, most important, thereby articulates a market within a wider urban space-economy. The emphasis is on the intersections of various e-waste conduits as well as shared space within urban informal-formal circuitry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


  • Ghana
  • cross-border trade
  • e-waste
  • global network
  • informal economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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