9 Environmental Problems in Africa - Summary

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Planet Earth is in critical condition and the African continent is no exception. Every day the environmental situation worsens and, if we do not improve our habits, the irreversible consequences will be noticed very soon. Africa is the hottest continent, the poorest and the second with the largest number of dangerously polluted cities in the world. Of the more than 1.3 billion people who live in Africa, more than 60% of the population lives in conditions of poverty or extreme poverty and must endure continuous environmental crises that claim millions of human and animal lives each year.

In order to raise awareness, in this Green Ecologist article we will explain the 9 main environmental problems in Africa.

Lack of sources

The scarcity of natural resources essential for life, such as drinking water and fertile land, is one of the main environmental problems in Africa. It affects both human populations and animal populations, which day by day must fight to get water and vegetation to supply themselves.

The shortage of water on the continent is due to the low natural abundance of fresh water, low rainfall, contamination of existing water bodies and poor management of water resources. It is estimated that approximately 60% of the population of sub-Saharan African countries do not have direct access to drinking water.

To learn more about water scarcity, do not hesitate to read the following Green Ecologist article where it is explained what is water scarcity, its causes and consequences.

In the case of land, studies suggest that 65% of the land used for farming in Africa is so damaged that it will not allow for sustainable agriculture in the short term. This degradation of the soil implies that there is not enough arable land to supply the growing African population. If you are interested in knowing more details about this topic, visit the article where we explain what it is and how soil degradation can be avoided.

Air pollution

When we talk about pollution in Africa we cannot ignore air pollution. Many of the countries with the worst air quality in the world are in Africa: Somalia, Kenya, Chad, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria, Congo, Angola, South Africa, Mali, Ghana, Algeria and Egypt are some of African countries where the level of air pollution is so high that it is a worrying damage to health. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), infections and cancers in the respiratory tract are three of the ten leading causes of human death in the world. All these diseases are related to air pollution and, only in Africa, cause more than 1 million deaths each year.

The poor establishment and enforcement of regulations that regulate the emission of CO2 and other harmful gases are the main factor in air pollution in Africa. In addition, various studies indicate that exposure to dust storms coming from the Sahara desert cause more than half a million deaths a year throughout the continent because it causes respiratory, cardiovascular and infectious diseases.

You can find out more about the subject by visiting the following Green Ecologist article we explain Air Pollution: causes, consequences and solutions.

Water contamination

Besides scarcity, there are other problems with water in Africa stemming from pollution. Often times, sewage and improperly treated toxic waste of factories, fields and cities end polluted the scarce bodies of fresh water that is in Africa. This polluted water disrupts food chains and ecosystems and is used by many people for drinking, bathing and cooking.

The consumption of contaminated water is the main cause of contagion of intestinal parasites, bacteria and viruses that cause poisoning and diarrheal diseases in humans. Diarrheal diseases are among the 10 leading causes of human death in underdeveloped countries and it is known that in Africa they are charged between 500 thousand and 1.3 million lives a year. Many of the fish and shellfish traded in Africa have also been shown to be harmful for human consumption because they come from polluted waters.

Learn more about the subject in these other Green Ecologist posts to know what are industrial discharges in water and its treatment or the causes and consequences of water pollution.

Deforestation and infertility of soils

Africa has 6 of the countries with the highest amount of forest areas deforested in the last 30 years globally: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Is massive deforestation is due to:

  • Agricultural overexploitation
  • Livestock
  • House building
  • The timber industry
  • The use of firewood as the main fuel when cooking
  • Illegal plant trafficking

In addition to human incidence, the infertility of the soils is one of the consequences of the geographical location of Africa. Due to the arid or semi-arid nature of the climate, soil erosion and constant droughts, natural degradation and desertification of African soils take place. Soil degradation prevents it from being fertile. Taking into account that the livelihood of more than 40% of the African population is based on agriculture, the increasing degradation and desertification of soils is a huge environmental and economic problem.

You can continue to learn about droughts and desertification in the following Green Ecologist articles where you can find out what drought is, its causes and consequences, and Desertification: definition, causes and consequences.


Africa is home to almost a third of the world's mineral resources. In Ghana and South Africa are two of the largest gold reserves. Specifically in South Africa there is the largest chromium deposit, while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo there is the largest reserve of coltan. On the other hand, Botswana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are home to two of the world's largest diamond reserves. Basically, the African continent has almost 20% of the world's uranium in addition to containing a great abundance of minerals such as iron, copper, cobalt and platinum.

Most of the mining in Africa occurs illegally. These activities are carried out at an unsustainable rate and harm the environment because are not regulated by any government entity. Nor are they advised by environmental organizations or comply with any of the laws for the protection of soils, flora, fauna or natural resources. A large percentage of the profits from mining are embezzled and used to finance armed conflicts and corrupt governments.

If you want to know more, do not hesitate to take a look at this Green Ecologist article to find out how mineral extraction affects the environment.

Poaching and illegal trafficking of African flora and fauna

In Africa, poaching and illegal trafficking of endemic flora and fauna is so high that despite the persecution of hunters and smugglers, more and more species are entering the list of endangered or endangered species. critically endangered. An example of this are tigers: of the nine subspecies of this animal that existed, currently only six remain. It is an environmental problem that enriches a few but harms all of humanity and nature.

In case you want to know more information about the situation of animals in Africa, do not hesitate to read articles such as Endangered Animals in Africa in Green Ecologist.

Poor waste management

In Africa, basic hygiene and sanitation are so poor that they are considered a serious public health problem. There is no proper treatment of solid waste or sewage, which contributes to the contamination of water bodies and the spread of viruses and infectious diseases. The scarcity of economic resources prevents financing urban sanitation projects and water is so scarce that more than half the population does not have showers, washing machines or toilets in their homes.


Africa is considered an overpopulated continent because it is home to more people than its natural resources can supply. More than 40% of the African population is found in extreme poverty situation And because the continent has the highest birth rate in the world (with an average of 4.7 children per woman), the scarcity of natural resources, environmental problems and the poverty rate are expected to increase significantly in the next few years.

In the following Green Ecologist article we will talk about World overpopulation: causes, consequences and solutions.

Climate change

The climate change in Africa it is one of the most obvious in the world. This is reflected in the continuous increase in temperature, the decrease in rainfall and worsening droughts, the rapid degradation of the soil, the flooding of the coasts and the inordinate spread of infectious diseases.

Here you can learn more about the Effects of climate change and Solutions for climate change.

If you want to read more articles similar to Environmental problems in Africa, we recommend that you enter our Pollution category.

  • León, F. M. (2022). What are the most polluted countries and cities in the world? Tiempo.com | Meteored. Available at: https://www.tiempo.com/ram/paises-ciudades-mas-contaminadas-del-mundo.html
  • Aquae Foundation. (2022). The most polluted cities in the world - Fundación Aquae. Aquae Foundation. Available at: https://www.fundacionaquae.org/ciudades-mas-contaminadas-del-mundo/
  • Caballero, C. (2016). Deaths from air pollution. The country. Available at: https://elpais.com/elpais/2016/10/17/africa_no_es_un_pais/1476684000_147668.html
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