The year 2023 is not yet over, but Numbeo already ranks Cairo (Egypt), Lagos (Nigeria) and Nairobi (Kenya) among the most polluted cities in Africa. In its Top10 index of pollution levels, the Serbian platform for statistics on quality of life in the world awards them 1st, 2nd and 5th place respectively.
Other cities such as Marrakech (3rd) in Morocco and Johannesburg (9th) in South Africa did not escape this ranking. However, Cairo, Lagos and Nairobi have featured in most reports on poor air quality in recent quarters, ahead of N’Djamena in Chad, long considered the most polluted city on the continent.
The Egyptian capital, which is also home to a number of factories including those belonging to the French cosmetics company L’Oréal and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi, scores 92.3% in terms of sanitation, noise pollution and other problems. And yet, the country of the Pharaohs, organiser of the 27th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27) on Climate Change, has stepped up investment with the private sector in Cairo in the areas of waste recycling and environmentally-friendly mobility (metro line, electric vehicles).
Nairobi excels in these areas and is well on the way to becoming Africa’s capital of electric mobility. While waiting for this feat to be achieved, given the explosive number of green mobility start-ups, the 5.3 million or so Kenyans who live there have to deal with black carbon (or sooty carbon). This is an air pollutant emitted during combustion reactions, in particular the wear and tear of tyres on the roads. According to a study by a team of Swedish-Kenyan researchers, this is a fairly common occurrence.
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Numbeo’s pollution index (89.45), which is a blow to the image of Lagos, is not surprising given that it is one of the most densely populated cities in Africa, with 21 million inhabitants and intense economic activity. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recorded up to 440,000 air-related deaths in 2012 in President Bola Tinubu’s hometown. That’s why an inter-regional committee of scientists and academics was recently set up to work on “air purification” in five cities in East and West Africa, starting with Lagos.