A huge percent of cars imported into Africa are used cars. In Kenya, used cars imported into the country account for more than 96 percent. The recent report from UN Environment reveals that the neighboring Ethiopia and Nigeria are the largest importers of used cars in the world.

The Ethiopian automotive market is dominated by second hand imported cars which are largely used for commercial activities. This is because of the country’s limited disposable income according to a Deloitte report. In 2014, second hand cars worth US$859 million were imported especially from Gulf States. About 90 percent of these cars were Toyotas. 

Used cars continue to flood the African continued due to lack of any regional or global agreements that would govern such a trade. Many African countries have weak regulations that allow importation of cars of up to 10 years including South Sudan, Benin, Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia. Only 10 countries have a ban on importation and use of cars that are more than 5 years old. However, four countries including South Africa, Morocco, Egypt and Sudan have completely banned the importation of second hand cars. Sadly, countries like Madagascar, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe do not have age restrictions in place for the importation of light duty vehicles (LVDs).

The main exporters of used cars to the African continent include Japan, US and the EU. Japan exports used vehicles to at least 13 African countries through the UAE.  It has established a wide market in Southern and Eastern Africa with Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya being their largest markets. EU follows as the second largest exporter of used cars with markets in at least 15 countries in North Africa. Reports indicate that Germany was responsible for 53 percent (half) exports of EU in 2016.

European companies are reported to be exploiting Africa’s weak quality of fuel by exporting highly polluting fuels that have high sulphur levels than the ones accepted in Europe. Down to Earth reported that such companies were deliberately lowering the quality of fuels imported to Africa in order to maximize on profits. These cars contribute to air pollution by emitting sulphur and other harmful compounds into the air which cause various respiratory complications such as asthma and allergies. In 2015, respiratory diseases replaced AIDS as the major cause of death in Africa which claims about 1 million people per year. The OECD study conducted in 2016 also found that costs associated with air pollution were at the top followed by sanitation and malnutrition costs. The study also concluded that air pollution was the largest cause of premature deaths.