Air quality measures could save 100,000 lives across six African cities

An updated analysis of six African cities by The Clean Air Fund has found that that 109,000 lives and $19.2bn could be saved by 2040 if new air quality measures are adopted. 

Last year we reported on ‘From Pollution To Solution In Africa’s Cities’, Clean Air Fund’s report which looked at air pollution issues in Johannesburg, Cairo, Lagos and Accra, and identified its cost of  in terms of both health and the economy.

nairobi, kenya, streets

The report has now been updated and includes two new cities: Nairobi, the capital of Kenya which is home to 5.3 million people (projected to increase to 8 million by 2035) and Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, where 3.8 million people live. In both cities, road traffic is the primary source of air pollution however in Nairobi the second worst culprit is waste mismanagement while in Yaoundé it is the use of biomass fuels.

The population of  Nairobi is exposed to air pollution levels four times the WHO recommended levels and air quality in Yaoundé is nearly twice as bad as that, leading to, respectively, 2,500 and 3,300 premature deaths attributable to air pollution in those cities in 2019.

For each city, the report projects the economic impact of absenteeism and premature mortality between 2019 and 2040 in a business-as-usual scenario and then  modified for a scenario in which a series of measures to reduce air pollution are implemented. In Nairobi for example, the introduction of air quality control measures would benefit the city by around $192m and save around 2,100 lives.

The report suggests that on a business-as-usual path, the financial costs of air pollution could increase more than eightfold by 2040.

Desmond Appiah, CAF’s Country Lead for Ghana, said: ‘Air pollution is the second biggest risk factor for premature death in Africa. This is unacceptable. If we address air pollution now, we can reap the triple-whammy of improved health, climate and economy. This is important as Africa will have 50% of the 10 largest megacities by the end of the century. I urge national and city governments across Africa, and global funders, to cease their “business as usual” approach and put clean air at the top of their agendas now.’

The reports concludes with a series of recommendations aimed at African governments, local leaders, donors and citizens. Amongst these is a call to establish national air pollution experts and to seek out specialist training on topics such as climate law, health impact assessment, and air quality monitoring solutions.

City mayors are encouraged to commit to the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration, while donors are asked to make funding for air quality a stronger priority and not to overlook Africa as a recipient of such funding: Between 2015 and 2021, international development funders committed only $403.6 million to tackling air pollution in the region, representing 3.7% of total air quality funding.




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