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Parliamentarians from the Nairobi City County Assembly at a workshop on air quality legislation in Mombasa, Kenya, May 2021

Legislation for clean air in Kenya

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Legislation for clean air in Kenya

A long-term partnership with lawmakers in Nairobi ushers in a Air Quality Policy and Air Quality Bill for Kenya's capital.

Published on 2 December 2022

This change story is from our 2021 annual report.

Air pollution is linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year across Africa and is a growing public health issue in Kenya, causing around 18 000 premature deaths annually, as well as millions of cases of respiratory disease. In Nairobi, as in many fast-growing cities around the world, the health impacts of air pollution disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable and are a brake on development and economic progress.

Sustained engagement brings results

The urgency of tackling Nairobi’s deteriorating air quality has spurred policymakers and civil society to act. Since 2016, SEI Africa has partnered with the city on developing policy responses that can tackle the challenge. And last year these efforts bore fruit. The County Parliament adopted an Air Quality Policy,
as well as an Air Quality Bill, which will be taken through the County Assembly in 2022.

The legal and policy instruments were driven forward during a series of workshops for city legislators, run by SEI Africa in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The interactive sessions aimed to empower the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources by providing evidence on air quality in Nairobi, and by sharing lessons from other cities, to support evidence-based air quality legislation for Nairobi.

Commitment to implementation

At the workshops, city parliamentarians and government representatives reviewed the legislative framework, alongside representatives from technical
institutions, national transport and energy sector agencies, and academics from local universities.

The aims were to lay out the legislative framework for air quality management, discuss and agree on the key elements of the Nairobi Draft Air Quality Bill, develop a roadmap and strategy for finalizing and adopting the Bill, and to raise awareness on budgeting for an air quality unit to support the implementation of the Bill once enacted. At the end of discussions, the top leadership of the Nairobi City Council Assembly agreed to the road map and assured the team of its commitment to the draft and its implementation.

Benson Mutura, Speaker, Nairobi City County Assembly

Benson Mutura, Speaker, Nairobi City County Assembly. Photo: Lawrence Nzuve / SEI Africa.

“I used to assume that the issue of pollution is not a big deal, but when we engaged with you, I was quite happy. There is a lot we need to learn and that is why we are back here … when we discuss with our fellow citizens, they can see what needs to be done.”
– Benson Mutura, Speaker, Nairobi City County Assembly

Benson Mutura, Speaker of the County Assembly of Nairobi, said:

“It has been a learning process for us, and I believe that this is one of the areas that has been neglected for too long. I used to assume that the issue of pollution is not a big deal, but when we engaged with you, I was quite happy. We also want to be your ambassadors so that we can articulate issues and that when we discuss with our fellow citizens, they can see what needs to be done. When we have information, it becomes very easy to convince other people.”

Technical support

To support the engagement and capacity building efforts, SEI and UNEP hosted the technical committee that developed the initial draft of the policy and provided technical support in generating air quality data and training for technical officers from the county government’s environment and health units. SEI staff also testified to a sitting of the city’s Committee on Environment and Natural Resources focusing on the Nairobi Air Quality Policy.

Looking ahead

The existence of a new regulatory framework in Kenya will help to promote action on air pollution beyond sectors, such as transport, that are traditionally associated with air pollution. There is great potential to use lessons learned in Nairobi to develop policy on air quality in locations where C40 Cities is active, such as Accra, Addis Ababa, Cape Town, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Durban, Johannesburg and Lagos.

Strategy in action

Priority for change

Enhanced air quality strategies in low- and middle-income countries

SEI has worked with Nairobi City County Government in collaboration with UNEP to share empirical evidence with legislators from Nairobi City County, leading to the development of a responsive regulatory framework for the city.

Type of outcome

Improving decisions, enhancing capacities

Since 2016, SEI has worked with stakeholders in Nairobi to raise awareness of the issue and build capacity among decision makers. The resulting legislative framework will guide decision-making across a range of sectors to cut dangerous air pollution in Nairobi and can serve as a model for action in other Africa cities.

Delivering on our priorities



Philip Osano
Philip Osano

Centre Director

SEI Africa

Lawrence Nzuve

Communications Coordinator


SEI Africa

Romanus Opiyo
Romanus Opiyo

Programme Leader

SEI Africa

Action and accountability

This is an impact story – a highlight of our work from 2021. This story and a selection of others can be found in our annual report.

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