CONAKRY - Every year, hundreds of thousands of discarded and polluting cars from all over Europe are shipped from Belgium to West Africa. There the wrecks, which pose a threat to the health and safety of the population, can continue to travel hundreds of thousands of kilometres. Attempts to tackle this trade have come to nothing. Simon Oeyen and Arnaud De Decker went to Conakry, the capital of Guinea, in search of our old wrecks.

The Heyvaer neighbourhood in Brussels, on the territory of Anderlecht, Molenbeek and Brussels City, has been the heart of the used car business since the 1980s. The transport companies in the district are considered institutions in many West African countries. In 2019, 320,000 used cars disappeared via the port of Antwerp, mainly heading for West Africa, a figure that has been rising for years.

But the second-hand vehicles that leave European territory still too often look like wrecks from a previous era, which in theory are no longer suitable for export. In August last year, at the request of the European Commission, a report was published by the Dutch consultancy Trinomics BV, which exposed several shortcomings in the export of end-of-life vehicles. According to the report, an average of four million European end-of-life vehicles disappears from the radar every year. According to Febelauto, the management body for end-of-life vehicles in Belgium, this number includes some forty to sixty thousand Belgian wrecks. "It is not known to what extent these vehicles are exported outside the EU, or treated unregistered within the EU, nor what environmental damage they cause," it says.

In January 2021, Arnaud De Decker and Simon Oeyen went to Conakry, the capital of Guinea, where the car industry has a tight grip on just about everyone and causes a lot of misery. Together with waste incineration, road traffic is one of the biggest sources of air pollution there. In addition, old European cars bring with them another evil: they are killing machines.


Foto: © Simon Oeyen

Team members

Arnaud De Decker

Arnaud De Decker completed his studies in Journalism at the Erasmushogeschool Brussel in 2017, and is currently a Political Science student at the VUB.

Simon Oeyen

Simon Oeyen is a Belgian documentary filmmaker

€ 2.640 allocated on 20/03/2020.


Het autokerkhof van Europa, VRT/Canvas, 10/04/2021. (in Dutch)

'We zijn de vuilnisbak van Europa', De Standaard, 13/02/2021. (in Dutch)

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