Mounting Plastic Crisis in Africa – Sharing Lessons Across the Continent to Avert Disaster

Communities across Africa are watching single-use plastic flood into their countries, piling up as waste, filling drainage systems, and collecting in waterways, lakes, and oceans — and they want to push back.

Public interest lawyers in Africa are looking for solutions and calling on ELAW to help develop cases to rein in plastic, reform laws, and ensure enforcement of existing laws to accelerate the end of single-use plastic.

In February, ELAW launched a series of six webinars to help African advocates gain skills and build a strong corps of lawyers to challenge plastic for years to come. The series was a great success, with 60 advocates from 15 countries joining, including from: Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Ghana, Guinea, Honduras, India, Kenya, Liberia, Mexico, Morocco, Tanzania, Uganda, the U.S., and Zimbabwe.

The webinars brought together panelists from Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Senegal, France, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, and the U.S. to share experiences and strategies, and inspire action across the continent.

Long time ELAW partners Samantha Atukunda of GreenWatch Uganda and Hemantha Withanage of the Centre for Environmental Justice in Sri Lanka shared their experiences litigating against plastics, and challenging the illegal waste trade, respectively.

Moussa Kor of Centre de Recherche et d’Action sur les Droits Economiques Sociaux et Culturels (CRADESC) in Senegal, Melanie Samson of University of Johannesburg, Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network, Innocent Musore of GER Rwanda, and others shared inspiration and expertise.

We were inspired by Innocent’s moving presentation that wrapped up the series this week. He shared lessons from Rwanda’s leadership on plastic rooted in a local Indigenous concept of community work, Umuganda, and described how Rwandan youth do not even know of plastic bags as an issue because the bags are so well regulated.

We are pleased to report that the connections made, and lessons learned through our series have already sparked new legal initiatives and strengthened connections between advocates working on these issues! We will keep you informed of our collaboration with lawyers across Africa to turn the tide on plastic pollution.

Bernard Ngalim
Africa Law Associate
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

P.S. ELAW Director John Bonine was recently awarded with the Normandy Honor for Peace, as a Guardian of Future Generations in a ceremony at the United Nations.

The award recognized the early and daring action to connect a network of passionate lawyers, now known as ELAW, working hand-in hand to mobilize environmental action, defend environmental defenders, and struggle for a dream greater than ourselves.

Congratulations to John for a lifetime of good work, and for this well-deserved recognition.