Air Pollution and Development in Africa: Impacts on Health, the Economy and Human Capital

07 September 2021
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For the last twenty years, Africa’s growth has been accelerating. Life expectancy is increasing and deaths from communicable diseases are declining.  

However, rapid urbanization and industrialization bring new challenges. Ambient air pollution driven by the burning of fossil fuels is already contributing to premature deaths including pneumonia, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and lung cancer. In 2019, ambient air pollution was responsible for an estimated 383, 419 deaths across Africa. Meanwhile, though household air pollution is declining, it still accounts for 60% of all air pollution-related deaths (1.1 million) across Africa where polluting fuels such as charcoal and kerosene are prevalent. 

The Air Pollution and Development in Africa: Impacts on Health, the Economy and Human Capital Report assess the impacts of both household and ambient air pollution on health and the economy in African countries. Looking to the future economic impacts of ambient air pollution, the authors also examine the projected impact on children’s IQ. The study finds that widespread exposure to ambient air pollution in children across Africa is associated with losses of intelligence totaling 1.96 billion IQ points per year. This is not only of great social importance but economic relevance as high intelligence underpins a country’s human capital.  

This report will help leaders of African countries understand the full health and economic implications of air pollution so they can build human capital and accelerate development.