By Peter Musa
Air quality experts have called for locally developed technological innovations such as clean energy and green manufacturing that will enhance Africa’s capacity to deal with every day pollutants, which collectively contribute to global warming.
“Collaboration between governments, academic and research institutions should see the transformation of ideas into implementable technological innovations that can prevent further degradation of the ambient air,” says Dr Andriannah Mbandi, an air quality specialist and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for Africa Technical Coordinator.
This will offer greater resilience to the continent’s air pollution from social and economic activities leading to advancing factors of global warming.
If these technological advances are implemented in a framework of sustainability, they are going to develop the nascent of home-grown control measures which are affordable and manageable by the local communities. Since innovations come with opportunities, they will also create employment and hence build on economic pillar for society’s advancement.
For this to be realised, governments must come up with policies to guide investors on how to mitigate Short Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP) in commercial and industrial sectors, which are currently constrained by finance and limited capacity to use digital technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.
“Currently, uptake of such technologies is confined to research and individual organisations that are driving the agenda on eliminating indoor and outdoor forms of pollutions such as carbon emissions from motor vehicles, domestic fossil fuel and industrial emissions,” says Dr Anderson Kehbila from Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) –Africa Centre, a research organisation which has been focusing on air pollution in Kenya and Africa.
Dr Kehbila, SEI Africa Programme Leader for Natural Resources and Ecosystems, says, after the world conference on rising temperatures related to global warming, Africa should focus on adaptable technologies that can accelerate pollution reduction at local production level.
“Applying industrial gadgets such as scrubbers, which have electrostatic precipitators that suck out minute particulate matter before they are released into the air from industries and factories is safer than waiting until emissions find their way into the ambient air,” he explains.
Dr Kehbila, SEI Africa Programme Leader for Natural Resources and Ecosystems, states having interacted with industrial operators and manufacturers, many have not come to terms with their first role in preventing small pollutants at the level of production. Most lack adequate knowledge about how they can be drivers of the process to minimise emissions.
In addition, government should continuously engage them on basis of technology adoption and offer specific incentives to compensate their production losses as they install gadgets within their factory production lines to control and prevent pollution.
The focus should be preventive; looking at how to reduce black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone, whose lifetime is the order of days, weeks and months, yet they pose significant threats to development, human health and the environment.
“A 2021 study conducted by Sharps and colleagues revealed ozone-attributable wheat yield loss in Africa of about 21 representing a staggering 300,000 tonnes of wheat yield loss per year. On another note, long-term exposure to air pollutants such as particulate matter has been linked to annual premature deaths of 49,000 in Africa, particularly in people with chronic heart or lung diseases,” states Dr Kehbila.
Besides technology, other impediments include lack of good governance and political will, both which play a major part in this effort.
In Africa and most other developing countries, weak governance, weak institutions and weak community organisations are limiting the creation and implementation of national SLCP plans at the national and local levels.
In addition, collaboration across sectors is often fragmented, hindering collaboration across the energy, agriculture and forestry sectors.
Thus, there is need to design a more coordinated strategic plan that will help policy makers devise a more holistic mitigation, which is important to end constraints on planning and implementation.