“Dirty Diesel” – How Swiss Traders Flood Africa with Toxic Fuels

It’s urgent – and the solution is well known

Fuels with excessive sulphur content must be banned everywhere and banned now. African governments must quickly introduce strict sulphur standards for gasoline and diesel. This simple measure alone would cut vehicle emissions in half. If, moreover, the many old and highly polluting cars on Africa’s roads were to be replaced with vehicles equipped with catalytic converters and particle filters, emissions could drop by as much as 99 percent. But this only works with low sulphur fuels that do not destroy these technologies.

In 2015, five East African countries drastically lowered their sulphur limits. Additional costs were passed on to international trading companies.

Desulphurizing fuels is by no means unaffordable: lowering the sulphur content from 1,000 ppm to 10 ppm – the European limit – the cost of a full, 50 liter tank of diesel would rise by only 84 cents, that is if the entire increase were to be borne by the end consumers, which does not have to be the case. Five East African countries drastically lowered their sulphur limits in 2015. All of the extra cost in this case was passed on to the international trading companies. The savings on the other hand would far exceed the costs: the World Bank estimates that merely lowering the sulphur content of diesel to 50 ppm would save Sub-Saharan Africa 7 billion dollars in health costs over ten years.

The business model of the commodity trading companies that exploit these weak standards in order to maximize their profits at the expense of the health of millions of Africans is illegitimate.
Civil society organizations from Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, and the Ivory Coast have taken up the fight for strong fuel standards. They are joining us in calling on Swiss companies to stop flooding their countries with poisonous fuel and to start producing gasoline and diesel with the lowest possible content of sulphur and other toxic substances – for Africa as for the rest of the world. They could start doing this today. They know how it works. They do it every day for the well protected markets of Europe.

© Photography: Fabian Biasio, 2016
© Photography: Carl De Keyzer, Magnum, 2016

End the dirty fuel business now.