Afrique Sub-Saharienne
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About CAI Sub-Saharan Africa
The Initiative focuses on the large cities of Sub-Saharan Africa, which have experienced sustained high levels of urban growth over the last decades.

The Initiative began in mid-1998, in the context of preparation of the Senegal Urban Mobility Project, which included a study on external costs in Dakar's urban transport system. The study clearly demonstrated the growing negative impact of urban air pollution. It was then decided that a specific case study on air pollution in Dakar should be prepared, followed by a national awareness seminar, thus providing the occasion to formally launch the Clean Air Initiative in SSA (Dakar, December 1998) as part of a collaborative effort between the Africa Region and the World Bank Institute (WBI), itself operating in the context of its worldwide clean air program.

The Initiative focuses on the large cities of Sub-Saharan Africa, which have experienced sustained high levels of urban growth over the last several decades. Studies carried out since 1998 in Dakar, Ouagadougou, Cotonou and Abidjan indicate that urban air pollution negatively impacts the economy by 1.8 % to 2.7 % of G.D.P. If nothing is done in the near future, this impact is expected to increase significantly given the effects of urban population growth and increase in car ownership.

In June 2001 the first Regional Conference on Lead Phase-Out was held in Dakar, Senegal, which was attended by delegates from 25 African countries, and had a marked outcome, resulting in a joint declaration on the complete phase-out of leaded gasoline in Sub-Saharan Africa as soon as possible and by 2005 at the latest. In the interim, a recommendation was made for African governments to reduce the lead content in gasoline to an average of 0.2g/l by 2003. The joint declaration not only underscored the resolve of decision-makers to address the problem of leaded gasoline. It was also fully endorsed by the oil industry.


In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rapid increase in pollutants emitted by vehicles is being driven by (a) high rates of growth of (i) urban areas and (ii) urban vehicle numbers and (b) low fuel efficiency due to (i) the predominance of old, poorly maintained vehicles and of two-stroke vehicles (ii) slow speeds due to poor roadway conditions and a low level of traffic management and traffic enforcement. The urban population has been growing at a rapid pace for decades, with most cities experiencing an annual average population growth of 5 percent or as high as 8 percent in some urban areas. Traffic congestion and heavy air pollution has become a daily reality in many urban centers. Technical standards for vehicle performance and emissions and vehicle inspection are nonexistent, fuel quality is low, and public transportation is both undersupplied and unaffordable for many residents.


The impact of vehicle emissions such as particulates and lead on the health of residents of African cities is intensified by the large numbers of pedestrians-40 percent of urban trips are made on foot-and their close contact with vehicle emissions in cities where sidewalks are often missing or in disrepair. Since many vendors and their customers use the roadway as their market space, these vendors, many of which are women, are exposed throughout their working hours and not just when traveling to work. Those at greatest risk are children, especially very young children: their digestive systems absorb lead and other heavy metals much more readily than adults, and these toxins accumulate in the soil upon which they play and which gets on their clothes and toys. The result is not only illness but permanently stunted mental capacity. Adults lose productivity and die earlier because of air-borne toxins.

The poor who walk everywhere because they cannot afford bus fare- for example, 25 percent of families in Dakar and Ouagadougou fall below the poverty line-and the poorest of the vendors with their small roadway stalls, mostly women, are the most exposed to vehicle pollution. Poor children are most at risk because malnutrition intensifies lead absorption. Low income levels have also been an incentive to import older, used vehicles from Europe in recent years, which have swelled the vehicle fleet, to use cheap two-wheelers and cheap fuel, and to postpone vehicle maintenance; all these choices multiply many times the emissions per km traveled of the vehicles in use.


The Clean Air Initiative has been designed in the context of the Bank's overall urban strategy, whose agenda is to work with both national and local governments to develop, inter alia, "livable cities […] ensuring that the poor achieve a healthful and dignified living standard, […] addressing environmental degradation". The Clean Air Initiative's approach also meets FPSI's strategy of reduction of poverty through economic growth and increased involvement of the private sector, in relying on partnership with the oil and automobile industry, local transporters and mechanics, as well as local associations and community groups. It is also in line with the current urban transport portfolio which places pollution control at the nexus of transport and the environment.

The five specific objectives of the Clean Air Initiative are to:

  1. Raise awareness of the dangers of urban air pollution, and its relation to vehicle and fuel choices, on the part of stakeholders involved in the urban transport sector, including those segments of the population at highest risk (children and their mothers, street vendors, and pedestrian commuters);
  2. Measure baseline vehicle emissions, air quality, pollution exposure, and pollution effects;
  3. Identify the most cost-effective measures targeting changes in vehicles, fuels, and traffic management;
  4. Design, implement, and monitor the impacts of Air Quality Action Plans to reduce pollution, including clear, measurable, and enforceable goals for reducing pollutants; and
  5. Strengthen local expertise on air pollution and vehicle and fuel performance.

... For the World Bank CAI-SSA

Franck Bousquet, Program Manager
Sr. Financial Specialist
The World Bank, Africa Region

Eleodoro Mayorga-Alba
Lead Petroleum Economist
The World Bank, COPCO