Rwanda has implemented a long-delayed ban on the import and use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases that damage the ozone layer.
The Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) announced this month (19 August) that it had begun implementing a ban on the gases, following legislation originally drafted in 1995.
"There were many other priorities on which we had to put emphasis in environmental protection policy in Rwanda," says REMA director Rose Mukankomeje.
She told SciDev.Net that the country hopes to eliminate the use of CFC gases by 2010, meeting the requirements of the Montreal Protocol — an international agreement started in 1987 aiming to phase out ozone-depleting substances.
The delay in enforcing the 1995 legislation has allowed CFCs to continue being used in Rwanda, despite it being technically against the law. Mukankomeje says that such "illegal" use around the globe could threaten international efforts to reduce their use.
Boubié Jérémy Bazye, of the UN Environment Programme's Regional Office for Africa, says that illegal use of ozone-depleting substances has the potential to undo all gains under the protocol over the last twenty years.
"It took a lot of time for many African countries to enact regulations to control import and use of ozone depleting substances. Even though most countries have now enacted regulations, enforcement is not effective in many countries. I believe this is due to the fact that the depletion of the ozone layer is not a major concern to policymakers," Bazye says.
Bazye oversees the African Ozone Officers Network that monitors compliance with the Montreal Protocol. Representatives from over 50 African countries in the network will meet in Libreville, Gabon, in September to analyse progress and assess the capacity of countries to meet the 2010 target.
Kenya ratified the original 1987 Montreal Protocol a decade ago but only implemented regulations on ozone-depleting substances last year.
According to the Business Daily newspaper, Kenya plans a blanket ban on of all ozone-depleting substances by 2040, although the country's horticulture industry has already stopped using many ozone-depleting gases to conform to European Union standards for flower imports, which forbid the use of CFCs in refrigeration or fumigation.
Malawi was one of the first African countries to phase out ozone-depleting substances. Between 2003 and 2005 the Agricultural Research and Extension Trust in Lilongwe trained customs officials and other law enforcement agents on how to recognise and impound CFC chemicals.
Tobacco farmers in Malawi, who used 85 per cent of the methyl bromide imported into the country to fumigate seedlings and protect them against pests, were trained in alternative methods in the first ozone ban in the Southern African Development Community.