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I Was Looking for Africa’s Biggest Electronics Dump but Found a Community of Creators Instead

Osman, 65, in his workshop, where for the past 32 years he has melted aluminum cans to make make cooking pots for local women.
After all his monthly expenses are paid (rent, gas, electricity), Abdul Rhaman, 18, gets to keep 300 Ghanaian cidis scavenging for copper among the discarded gadgets dumped in Agbogbloshie.
A local drives past a pile of electronic waste, a ubiquitous sight along the roads of Agbogbloshie.
Spare parts from old electronics represent a major component of Agbogbloshie’s economy.
Abdul Rhaman, 18, searches through rubble looking for copper among the discarded gadgets dumped in Agbobloshie. After all his monthly expenses are paid (rent, gas, electricity), Rhaman gets to keep 300 Ghanaian Cidis. His health is in fine shape, he said, and he doesn’t want interference from the authorities.
Agbogbloshie is also home to a large number of blacksmiths and welders. Here, a young man puts the finishing touches on a residential gate.
A young carpenter works on a piece of wood. Agbogbloshie also has a thriving timber market.
Idrisu, 28, has been working in Agbogbloshie’s e-waste business for six years. A Muslim from Savelugu, in northern Ghana, he told me he is in good health and just wants the authorities to leave the community alone. “We are creators, not criminals,” he said.
Osman (center), with his sons Razak and Sidu. Osman is teaching them how to turn old aluminum cans into cooking pots. At 65, he is ready to let his kids take over the business.
Abdul sits by his stall, where he sells screws made with aluminum from the cans dumped daily in Agbogbloshie. The screws cost one Ghanaian cedi (22 cents) each and provide enough income to feed him and his family.
Although impoverished, Agbogbloshie is home to a great number of traders. Here, a young carpenter (who didn’t want to be named) is busy sawing slabs of wood, which will be sold in the local market.
Atta, 31, has been working with metal scraps for 10 years. Married with two children, he makes around 1,000 Ghanaian cedis ($220) a month.
Mahmud is one of the many mechanics living and working in Agbogbloshie. As I was walking over to talk to him, he said, “You can take my photo, but my master doesn’t want me to talk to you.” By “master,” I think he meant employer.
Left: Razak, 25, at his father’s workshop, puts the finishing touches on a cooking pot. Right: Sidu, 20, works at his father’s workshop.
Agbogbloshie has very limited facilities and very few toilets.

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