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Nairobi and rest of Africa deserve fresh, clean air

May 22nd 2022


An aerial view of Nairobi City with a dusty skyline. [File, Standard]


Breathing clean air is a human right. This right was amplified during this year’s Africities Summit going down in the Lake City of Kisumu. More than ten mayors and governors of major African cities signed an ambitious pact to improve air quality and reduce pollution. The African governors now join a network of more than 100 leaders of major world cities, seeking to protect their residents from the harmful effects of polluted environments.

Nairobi Governor Ann Kananu was among the governors who promised urgent action and signed the so-called C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration. The city governor also promised that the Nairobi County Government would come up with air quality regulations and an Act. This would include the installation of air quality sensors and the creation of an emissions inventory to establish levels of air pollutants.

The governor must walk the talk and act swiftly. This is because Nairobi residents are constantly exposed to dirty air and pollutants. There are uncollected garbage heaps, burst sewers and lack of sanitation facilities. The situation is worse in all slums in the city and across other major towns across the country. Putting pen to paper is easy, but follow up after the Kisumu conference will be the real game-changer.

The World Health Organisation warns that an estimated 4.2 million people died prematurely in 2016 due to exposure to dirty air. Africa and most low and middle-income countries suffered the majority of those deaths. This is unacceptable for a continent that is growing and with huge potential to offer the highest quality of life globally. Political goodwill, decisive action and commitment to improving peoples’ lives should guide all African leaders.

In the same stroke, African countries should take measures that complement each other’s response to climate change. Common climate change actions will not only be less costly but also lay the foundation of a united and progressive continent. This is informed by the fact that urban areas in Africa are growing at a high rate, where most people are moving from rural setups and living in cities.

Authorities must therefore expand facilities in towns to accommodate a growing population. The town residents will need proper road networks, railways, decent housing, clean working environment, proper sanitation and recreation facilities. While all these require adequate financial resources, proper planning and visionary leadership will be more important going forward. That is why the 47 governors that will be elected on August 9, should be well exposed, educated and dedicated to community service. They should be men and women of integrity and unquestionable intellect.

African cities must step up their actions towards mitigating effects of climate change and demonstrate ability to overcome modern world challenges.

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