International Cooperation

EPA Efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa

EPA’s environmental program in Sub-Saharan Africa is focused on addressing Sub-Saharan Africa’s growing urban and industrial pollution issues, such as air quality, water quality, electronics waste and indoor air from cookstoves.  EPA programs in Sub-Saharan Africa are designed to protect human health, particularly vulnerable populations such as children and the poor.

Learn more about our key activities in Sub-Saharan Africa:


Nairobi Water staff pictured with Lek Kadeli, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Research and Development, who gave the conference opening speech.

November 2012: Almost 300 attendees from Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australia participated in the Global Water Safety Conference: Improving Service Delivery and Protecting Public Health (PDF) (3 pp, 759 K, About PDF) Exit in Kampala, Uganda. The conference was organized by the International Water Association (IWA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Water and Sewerage Corporation of Uganda (NWSC), with support from EPA through a grant to strengthen Water Safety Plans (WSPs) in East Africa.
In Kampala, the day before the conference, Nairobi Water Exit was announced as the IWA/EPA East Africa Water Safety Award Winner. Nairobi Water won the award for demonstrated good Water Safety Plan preparation and stakeholder engagement, for having integrated Water Safety Planning in its business plans and budget as well as developing a WSP through their Water Operator Partnership with Moshi Water and Mombasa Water.
Also at the Global Water Conference, the Africa Water Safety Plan Network was launched and held its first strategy meeting, and the WSP Training Package was released. The week also included specific attention to clean water service delivery in informal settlements and women as leaders in water safety.

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Good Environmental Governance

Many countries in Sub-Saharan 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 in partnership with the International Network on Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE),  Exit DANIDA (the Danish aid agency) and the Kenyan Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).  Exit 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.

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Water and Sanitation

Poor sanitation, unsafe water and unhygienic environments are a leading cause of illness and death among children in Sub-Saharan Africa. USEPA plans to improve public health through increasing the capacity of urban providers in Sub-Saharan 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 is being conducted in partnership with the International Water Association (IWA)Exit the World Health Organization (WHO)ExitUnited Nations-Habitat Exit and the Kampala, Uganda, water utility, which has conducted a WSP, to develop water safety plans for other urban water utilities in East Africa.

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.

The goal of EPA and IWA’s East Africa Water Safety Plan program is to establish a sound basis for scaling-up WSP implementation across the Africa region through the implementation of WSPs and the creation of long-term supporting mechanisms to ensure that a significant proportion of urban populations in the African continent are consistently supplied with safe drinking water through the implementation of WSPS.

Project elements include:

boy drinking water
Water Safety Plan Training. Working with the Network for Water and Sanitation (NETWAS), a training institute in Nairobi, over 100 staff from Water Utilities have been trained in Water Safety Plan development. 
Water Operator Partnerships (WOPs). WOPs have been formed with 3 utilities each with the goal of guiding each other in the development of WSPs. Each 18-month WOP has resulted in all utilities creating a WSP. The first WOP was with Nairobi Water Company and Mombasa Water Company in Kenya as well as Moshi Water Company in Tanzania. The second WOP was among 3 utilities that utilize Lake Victoria source water, National Water, Uganda (Jinja), Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company in Kenya and Mwanza Urban Water and Sewerage Authority in Tanzania. A third WOP was launched in June 2014.
The Africa Water Safety Plan (WSP) NetworkExit The Africa WSP Network was launched in November 2012 in Kampala, Uganda at the global Water Safety conference. The mission of the network is to achieve reliable, consistent and equitable supplies of safe drinking water in Africa by promoting the implementation of Water Safety Plans through information dissemination, knowledge sharing and support for capacity building.
Among its objectives include:
  • advocacy, promoting and facilitating the implementation of WSPs in the region;
  • communication and sharing of knowledge on WSPs within and beyond Africa, and,
  • supporting and directing research to evaluate interventions by collecting, analyzing and disseminating independent and comparable data on issues related to WSP implementation.
Members include EPA, IWA, WHO, UN-HABITAT, Aquaya, the African Water Association, GIZ, and Cap-NET (UNDP).  This network builds on the previously established Latin America and Caribbean WSP Network and the Asia Pacific WSP Network affiliated with the World Health Organization and IWA.  
The Africa WSP Network supported a training of trainers workshop in Ghana in June 2014. The objective of the training was to increase the number of local training institutions in the region that are well equipped to provide training on Water Safety Plans. 

An online Water Safety portal for Africa Exit has been developed that gives an overview of the Africa Water Safety Plan program and the Africa Water Safety Plan Network with case studies, tools and the Drinking Water Quality Knowledge and Advisory Service, a peer-peer online advisory service for water professionals. 

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Ambient Air Quality

Growing dirty transportation fleets, expanded and uncontrolled industrial production, and resource extraction are increasingly significant problems in Sub-Saharan 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.

Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles

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.

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.

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Clean Cookstoves and Indoor Air Quality

More than 450 public and private sector organizations working in 115 countries have joined the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air Exit 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.

pot cooking on an open flame

EPA is a charter member of the newly launched Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) Exit . 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 Sub-Saharan 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.

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Climate Change

The Global Methane Initiative 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.

Methane to Markets logo

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.

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Toxic Substances: E-Waste

Sub-Saharan 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.

boy carrying electrical wires

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.

Learn more:


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