From Pollution to Solution in Six African Cities

Nov 23, 2023
  • Description

Air pollution is Africa's silent killer. Each year, air pollution kills more Africans than HIV / AIDS and malaria combined. In addition to the 1 million Africans who die from diseases caused by indoor and outdoor sources of air pollution annually, millions more have to live with its devastating consequences. This problem is worse in cities, where highly polluting activities stunt the health of both their residents and economies. Analysis undertaken for the Clean Air Fund by Dalberg Advisors finds that left unchecked, air pollution will collectively cost Accra, Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi and Yaoundé an estimated US$138bn in premature deaths and worker absenteeism by 2040, equivalent to 8% of their current combined GDPs.

The continent's rapid urban growth should not come at the expense of the health of its citizens. African cities can choose to put themselves on the path of green growth, in which investments to tackle the major sources of air pollution bring about benefits to worker productivity, national health budgets and help create healthy, equitable and prosperous places to live. African governments are increasingly aware of this challenge. The Africa Integrated Assessment outlines the steps needed to reach green growth, but realising this blueprint for Africa requires more comprehensive, coordinated and scaled action. This analysis shows that across the six case study cities, actions taken today could prevent 109,000 premature deaths and prevent the loss of US$19bn by 2040.

Drawing on best-practice case studies from across the African continent, this policy brief lays out recommendations that can help governments unleash green urban economic growth. Investments in good governance and legislation, better air quality monitoring, evidence-based emission reduction policies, effective partnership models and training, and improved access to climate financing are essential to meeting this challenge. These recommendations represent the first step for governments to consider as they design and deliver locally-tailored action.