A recent report in Nature Geoscience has shed light on the alarming levels of air pollution in African nations and the urgent need for international intervention. Over the past five decades, air quality in Africa has significantly deteriorated, resulting in some of the most polluted cities in the world. Particulate matter concentrations now exceed the recommended levels set by the World Health Organization, and the situation is only expected to worsen as populations increase and industrialization accelerates. Shockingly, Africa receives a minuscule 0.01% of global air pollution funding, highlighting a dire lack of attention and resources. To effectively address this critical issue, the University of Birmingham, the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, South Eastern Kenya University, and the African Center for Clean Air have collaborated to propose collective efforts from African countries, regionally tailored solutions, and global collaboration.
Various factors contribute to Africa’s poor air quality, posing significant health risks to its population. Burning biomass fuel for cooking, heating, and lighting, as well as the crude oil and coal mining industries, greatly contribute to the problem. Additionally, importing old vehicles from Europe further exacerbates the situation. Inhaling this hazardous air can lead to complex and sometimes fatal health issues. Furthermore, air pollution in Africa is not solely a local problem but has global implications. It hampers efforts to meet climate targets and combat the climate emergency.
While some attempts have been made to address air pollution in Africa, such as the signing of the C40 Clean Air Declaration by ten major African cities, much more needs to be done. Initiatives to monitor air pollution levels and collect essential data have gained momentum but require further support. The researchers emphasize the need for coordinated regional and international efforts to achieve significant change. Leveraging existing knowledge on controlling and reducing air pollution is crucial. Several urgent areas of collaboration have been identified, including continuous air monitoring, investment in clean energy, improved solid waste management, adoption of environmentally friendly technology, and infrastructure improvements in the transport sector.
Addressing air pollution in Africa demands ambitious, collaborative, and participatory approaches that involve stakeholders from various sectors. Policymakers, academia, business leaders, and communities must come together to co-design and co-produce context-specific interventions. Increased investment in tackling air pollution is paramount. Africa can seize the opportunity to capitalize on the growing political will and engage its young population to accelerate action according to the five key suggestions outlined in the research paper.
The burden of air pollution disproportionately affects marginalized populations, particularly women and children, who face higher exposure to pollutants and experience more severe impacts. By taking action to improve air quality, Africa has the potential to address some of these inequalities and create a healthier environment for its citizens. Moreover, addressing air pollution will yield benefits for both health and the environment.
Africa’s air quality problems cannot be solved with a single solution. Each region and population will face unique challenges that must be overcome. Tailoring interventions to specific contexts and needs is crucial to achieving long-lasting improvements.
Urgent international action is needed to combat the escalating air pollution crisis in Africa. With its rapidly deteriorating air quality and minimal funding allocation, Africa requires significant support from the global community. By implementing collective efforts, regionally tailored solutions, and leveraging existing knowledge, it is possible to mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution. Africa has the chance to tap into its political will and harness the potential of its young population to accelerate action and make a substantial difference in the fight against air pollution. Through this collaborative approach, Africa can pave the way for a cleaner and healthier future for its people and the world.