Black smoke billows at all hours of the day in the sky above Accra’s largest slum, Agbogloshie. On the ground young men and boys break apart end-of-use electronics, and melt down electrical cords, wires and computer monitors for valuable metals that small dealers can sell on to larger ones for reprocessing.
The scrap yard looks like a jumbled heap. All the trappings of modern civilisation, the equipment necessary for a good life in the 21st century spilled across this space to be broken down into components. But there is strange sense of order to the yard. Materials are separated and organised in accordance with the value of the metals they contain — car doors and motors, bed springs, iron gates, electrical adaptors, computer chip boards and monitors, fridges, deep freezers and the innards of air-conditioners. Old industrial scales stand outside rusty shipping containers, the depots for the scraps, waiting for dealers to weigh and pay.