Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

International Programs

EPA Programs in Africa

EPA’s environmental program in Africa is focused on addressing Africa’s growing urban and industrial pollution issues, such as air quality, water quality, electronics waste and indoor air from cookstoves. EPA expertise is assisting Africa with pollution-related issues before they become overwhelming and before their impacts irreparably damage the African and global environment. EPA programs in Africa are designed to protect human health, particularly vulnerable populations such as children and the poor, and to strengthen good environmental governance.

Learn more about our key activities in Africa:

Each of these priorities are detailed below.

Good Environmental Governance

Many countries in Africa are in the early stages of developing their environmental governance structures. EPA is focusing on strengthening environmental laws and regulations, building capacity for enforcement and compliance, and promoting public participation in environmental decision-making.


EPA is supporting the East Africa Network on Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (EANECE) Exit EPA disclaimer in partnership with the International Network on Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) Exit EPA disclaimer , DANIDA (the Danish aid agency) and the Kenyan Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) Exit EPA disclaimer . Recent and planned activities include:

  • Providing training support in launching the Network.
  • Supporting a Network Coordinator based in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Kenyan National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).
  • Providing support to the national enforcement and compliance networks in the five member countries (Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya) to enable them to strengthen their domestic programs.
  • Providing training in priority areas such as the principles of enforcement and compliance, environmental inspections, and criminal enforcement.
  • Providing web-based and other fora to build relationships among experts in the region for enhanced cooperation and share knowledge and experience.

Water and Sanitation

Poor sanitation, unsafe water and unhygienic environments are a leading cause of illness and death among children in Africa. USEPA plans to improve public health through increasing the capacity of urban providers in Africa to deliver safe drinking water in a sustainable way through piped water supply systems, through the development and implementation of Water Safety Plans (WSPs). This work will be conducted in partnership with the International Water Association (IWA) Exit EPA disclaimer , United Nations-Habitat Exit EPA disclaimer and the Kampala, Uganda, water utility, which has conducted a WSP, to develop water safety plans for other urban water utilities in East Africa.

boy drinking water
Water Safety Plans are a comprehensive, “catchment to consumer” approach, which uses a health-based risk assessment methodology for identifying the greatest vulnerabilities for contamination within a drinking water supply system, thereby allowing the drinking water providers the ability to effectively operate and manage their systems and target their investments to gain the greatest health impact possible. Water safety plans can also be seen as an adaptation of asset management that is used globally, primarily in developed countries, throughout the water sector, both for drinking water and sanitation.

Planned project elements include:

  • Building capacity of drinking water providers in East Africa to develop and implement water safety plans through a regional workshop. The Kampala, Uganda, water utility would participate in this workshop to share information about the benefits of undertaking a WSP, the process used in conducting it and the lessons learned from this approach.
  • Supporting pilot approaches in the use of WPS in selected water utilities. Raise the level of awareness and understanding of water safety plans and asset management through participation in existing or planned African water conferences such as the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) Exit EPA disclaimer and the Union of African Water Suppliers (UAWS).
  • Establishing a regional network of water safety plan and asset management technical experts within Africa who can provide the support throughout the region to those developing and implementing these tools. This network would be linked to a global water safety plan network affiliated with the World Health Organization and IWA.

Ambient Air Quality

Logo: Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles.

Growing dirty transportation fleets, expanded and uncontrolled industrial production, and resource extraction are increasingly significant problems in Africa. EPA is involved in improving vehicle fuels and promoting emissions control technologies to improve air quality in urban areas. As a founding Partner of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), EPA was involved in providing support to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in phasing out of leaded gasoline, which occurred throughout the region in January 2006. Building on this success, EPA is working through PCFV to support Sub-Saharan African countries to lower sulfur in fuels.

Currently in SSA, sulfur levels range between 3,000 to 10,000 ppm which, particularly in diesel fuel, results in the emission of high levels of fine particulates which can be inhaled deep into the lungs causing cardiovascular and respiratory disease. SSA countries have now committed to reducing sulfur levels ultimately to 50 ppm, while at the same time promoting the use of vehicle emission technology. EPA is assisting in the effort by providing funding, technical and policy advice and public outreach information to achieve this ultimate goal.

In Kenya, since October 2010, the sulfur level of all fuel imports has been 500 ppm, which augments the fuel supplied by the Mombasa refinery, estimated to be between 40 to 50% of the total fuel supply in Kenya. The Mombasa refinery has an exemption to produce fuels with higher sulfur levels (8,000 -10,000 ppm sulfur diesel) until they have completed their upgrade. If and when the upgrade is completed, the Mombasa refinery will have the ability to produce 30 ppm sulfur fuels. However, the government, who co-owns the refinery, has yet to decide whether to upgrade it to shut it down. A decision on whether to upgrade is expected in June 2011. The Kenyan government is in the process of segregating the 500 ppm fuel, so that it is not mixed with the higher sulfur fuel, but changes to the distribution system need to take place before this can be accomplished. This will not happen before June, 2011. Once the distribution system can allow this segregation, the Kenyan government would like Nairobi and its metropolitan area to be a clean fuel zone, with only 500 ppm sulfur diesel fuel allowed in the metro area.

EPA is working with UNEP on eliminating lead in gasoline in North Africa, where several countries still use lead in gasoline. At the same time, EPA is providing assistance to the PCFV on promoting clean vehicles technologies, particularly the use of catalytic converters.

Clean Cookstoves and Indoor Air Quality

pot on open fire

More than 450 public and private sector organizations working in 115 countries have joined the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air Exit EPA disclaimer and are contributing their resources and expertise to improve health, livelihood, and quality of life by reducing exposure to indoor air pollution, primarily among women and children, from household energy use.

EPA is a charter member of the newly launched Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) Exit EPA disclaimer . Over the next we months, GACC will integrate PCIA activities, giving GACC time to raise funds, hire staff and grow while PCIA continues to work with Partners to enable them to achieve their respective missions and goals. When the integration is complete, all PCIA Partners will be GACC Partners and GACC will build upon and rapidly expand upon both the ctiities and results of PCIA.

In Africa, PCIA is working to reduce the negative health impacts of indoor air pollution for the more than 75% of Africans who burn wood, charcoal, dung, crop residue and coal for their home cooking and (in some places) heating. EPA is currently managing scale-up projects in Ethiopia (Addis Ababa with Project Gaia) and Kenya (in Kisumu in Western Kenya with the NGOs Solar Cookers International and Practical Action). Prior to these grants, EPA managed pilot projects in Mauritania, Nigeria, and Uganda. The goal of the pilots was to demonstrate effective approaches for increasing the use of clean, reliable, affordable, efficient, and safe home cooking and heating practices that reduce women and children's exposure to indoor air pollution.

Both the scale-up and the pilot projects:

  • reduce exposure to indoor air pollution;
  • improve awareness of the dangers of indoor air pollution and cooking alternatives;
  • result in local artisans and entrepreneurs starting their own clean cook stove production and distribution businesses; and
  • test, improve and market a number of clean technologies, including improved wood and charcoal stoves, and methanol stoves.

In addition to the above results, the pilot in Uganda with Ugastove was the first cookstove organization to be certified under the Gold Standard to receive voluntary carbon credits.

Climate Change

Methane to Markets

The Global Methane Initiative Exit EPA disclaimer is an international initiative that advances cost-effective, near-term methane abatement and recovery and use as a clean energy source. The goal of the Initiative is to reduce global methane emissions in order to enhance economic growth, strengthen energy security, improve air quality, improve industrial safety, and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

The Initiative now focuses on five sources of methane emissions:

  • Agriculture (animal waste management)
  • Coal Mines
  • Landfills
  • Oil and Gas systems
  • Waste Water treatment facilities

The Partnership includes 38 Partner governments from around the world representing nearly 70% of anthropogenic methane emissions. There are currently three African Partners: Ghana, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

Toxic Substances

boy carrying electrical wires

Africa is increasingly becoming a destination for used electronics, with little capacity to safely manage what legally or illegally enters the countries, as well as recycling the electronics that are being used within their borders once they reach the end of their useful life.

Open-air burning and acid baths used to recover valuable materials from electronic components expose workers and nearby communities to high levels of contaminants such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. These exposures, which threaten vulnerable populations such as children and the poor, can lead to irreversible health effects, including cancers, miscarriages, neurological damage and diminished IQs.

In support of the goals of the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship, EPA is working with partners in Africa to develop and support a pilot project on the sustainable management of electronic waste, including:

  • Ethiopia: Through the UNU-StEP cooperation, EPA will initially work in Ethiopia with government officials, as well as industry and NGO stakeholders, to develop a plan for sustainability of a demanufacturing facility that can safely recycle end-of-life used electronics. Other efforts in Africa include strengthening efforts to improve information on the e-waste flows.
  • West Africa: Additional capacity building will involve training local enforcement and customs officials, to develop a network of enforcement/customs officials in West Africa who will share information on illegal shipments to prevent port-hopping, and enhance regional cooperation overall.

Mercury Use in Artisanal Gold Mining

Artisanal gold miners in Mali, who use mercury for gold amalgamation. The bags at bottom left are full of mercury.

EPA has been working with Senegal and other West African countries to reduce the use and release of mercury in the artisanal gold mining sector under the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Global Mercury Partnerships. The approximately 10,000 artisanal gold miners in Senegal use mercury to amalgamate fine gold particles; this mercury is then burned off, resulting in significant exposures via inhalation to miners and their families.

The project is providing information and tools to encourage the development of regional and national action plans to reduce mercury exposures from small-scale gold mining to improve the health of miners and their families, protect the environment in West Africa and globally, and improve the economic conditions in this sector.

An initial workshop was held for Francophone West African countries which brought together miners, NGOs, government officials, local authorities, industry, gold buyers and sellers, medical personnel, and donors to develop a multi-stakeholder “strategic plan” for mercury reduction in the artisanal and small scale gold mining and processing sector. A similar workshop will be held for Anglophone West Africa.


Back to: Africa

For additional information about EPA's work with Africa, contact:
Cristina Mercurio
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: mercurio.cristina@epa.gov
(202) 564-6481

Jump to main content.