As a global trend continues to indicate a shift in chemicals production and use from developed to developing countries, Africa’s chemicals sector is expected to play an increasingly important role in several economies. In most African countries, industrial and agricultural production has intensified, accompanied by the corresponding use of chemicals inputs. Hazardous industrial chemicals such as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), pesticides, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury continue to be used with major environmental and health consequences. A range of toxic effluents continue to be emitted directly into the soil, air and water. 


National and local governments are often constrained both in terms of resources and capacity to deal with the rapid increase in volume and type of hazardous waste as a result of economic growth, urbanisation and industrialisation. The negative impacts on the health of surrounding communities, as well as on the local environment, in terms of pollution of land, water and air are becoming more acute. Cumulative exposure to various chemicals and toxins contributes towards a range of chronic illnesses in humans. 


There is a need to increase awareness of the impacts of harmful chemicals and waste to policy makers at the national level, so that sound management of chemicals and waste is fully integrated into national planning. Improvements must be made in the fields of awareness, knowledge, information management and communication on chemicals to support and provide an enabling framework for interventions to be taken.




UN Environment, WHO and the Africa Institute have created a robust partnership which aims at developing integrated guidance to build capacities in setting up an integrated health and environment observatory surveillance and information management system that will enable African countries to establish evidence based policies and make sustainable decisions on sound management of chemicals and related disease burdens. 


The project aims to:

  • Enable countries to meet their reporting obligations under the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, and thus Sustainable Development Goal 12.4.1
  • Promote evidence based policy making
  • Increase investment on chemical and waste infrastructure


These aims are achieved by providing capacity building and technical assistance activities to African countries, to increase the awareness of the health and environment and economic impacts of harmful chemicals which can be communicated to policy makers at the national level. 


Building the Chemicals Observatory for Africa 


The Observatory facilitates the link between diverse sources of information in scientific areas of health and environmental relevance related to chemicals and hazardous waste management throughout their life cycle. Through the provision of information, integration of policy analysis, data and indicators to expand the base of chemicals information not only on their effects on the health and environmental, but also on their production, processes, use, transport and disposal is enhanced. 

 The observatory focuses on chemicals controlled under the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Minamata Conventions and Montreal Protocol as well as those identified as priorities under SAICM, with a view to prevent the exposure of humans and the environment to harmful chemicals and waste of global importance, through a significant reduction in the production, processes, use, consumption and emissions/releases of those chemicals and hazardous wastes. Progressive development of the observatory will provide an opportunity to build human and institutional capacities, and will help in priority setting.


Chemobs Africa Data Sharing Platform 


This website is intended as a data sharing platform to share results, guidance, and resources generated and maintained by the Chemicals Observatory Africa. It is an access point for stakeholders and beneficiaries to access the decision making tools developed for this project, which substantiate the ability to prioritize chemicals and waste management in the decision making process and facilitate integration into the national development plans and processes. These decision-making tools and processes are:

  • The Economic Cost of Inaction Calculator (Pure Earth) to calculate the cost of inaction on chemicals management, with resulting units in DALYs.
  • Risk & Vulnerability Calculator (PAN-UK) to calculate proportionate risk of chemicals exposure with site-level data, and to prioritize sites for intervention.
  • MapX: a UNEP/GRID-Geneva web mapping platform to display results in the form of dashboards, and to assist pilot countries in calculations. 


In particular, 9 pilot countries have been engaged in the project: Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Gabon, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mali.

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