Case Study: How We Can All Work for Better Air Quality in Dakar

Dakar's air quality case study

How Dakar’s Government Uses Air Quality Monitors for Richer Air Quality Data 

  • Topic: Dakar Uses Low-Cost Air Quality Monitors
  • Industry: Air Quality Data, Local Government, Community Development 
  • Author: Adrian Dybwad 
  • Website: 


Senegal is fast-growing to be an urbanized country. However, its air quality is also rapidly deteriorating. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Senegal is the 7th country in Africa with the worst levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Plus, most of this air pollution is concentrated in its city center. 

As such, many of its citizens are experiencing severe health effects from poor air quality. This ranges from asthma to lung cancer to early death. In fact, the same WHO report warns that these levels of air pollution could also affect child development. 

But by building a strong air quality network, Dakar can create a better future for its children. Low-cost air quality monitors make air quality data more accessible. This, in return, allows for more accurate and hyper-local insights for better policymaking.  

In this air quality case study, we'll delve into the air pollution in Dakar. So, you can learn what they’re doing to improve their air with the help of PurpleAir. 

Why Dakar’s Air Pollution is a Major Concern 

Most of Senegal's population and economic activities are concentrated in Dakar. But today, the city’s air pollutant levels have reached alarming levels. 

According to a recent study

  • 80% of Senegal’s economic and industrial activities are in Dakar. 
  • 70% of these industrial activities rely on fossil fuels for energy. 
  • 73% of the country’s vehicles are located in Dakar, and they create excess gasoline and diesel. 

Additionally, the trash burning in the nearby Mbeubeuss dumpsite carries toxic air pollutants into the city, making it harder for locals to breathe. Plus, the ongoing construction of new buildings and infrastructure consistently stirs up dust and emits additional harmful air pollutants. 

With manmade activities contributing to the poor air quality in Dakar, it’s easy to see why its citizens are suffering from air quality-related diseases. In fact, BBC found that Dakar air pollution exceeds the WHO’s limits for PM2.5 by over seven times

This is further worsened by the Harmattan season. That is when the dust from the Sahara Desert travels to Dakar. Not only does the sandstorm increase air pollution in Dakar, but it also causes temperature inversions. Because of this, air pollution remains in the troposphere for longer periods of time. 

What is the Senegal Government Doing About Air Quality? 

In 2001, the Senegal Government issued the Environmental Code of 2001. This code recognized that everyone has the right to a healthy environment. It also stipulated regulations for air pollution, but it only covered carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and smoke opacity. 

It was only in 2009 that the city of Dakar finally invested in air quality monitoring stations.

These monitors are currently located at: 

  1. Yoff Station which measures the regional background air pollution. 
  2. Bel-Air-Station which measures the urban industrial activities near the port. 
  3. HLM Station which measures the urban background air pollution. 
  4. Republic Station which focuses on urban automobile traffic. 
  5. Medina Station which monitors the automobile traffic in the suburban area. 
  6. Guedlawaye which monitors the suburban roadside. 

This means that for 8 years, it was impossible to determine who was not in compliance with the law. More importantly, there was no way to measure the effectiveness of its enforcement. In 2019, the government revised its air quality guidelines, basing them on the data from the air quality monitoring stations and WHO guidelines. 

Despite these, government data showed that the number of bad air days in Dakar increased from 2013 to 2017. Beyond that, Dakar’s annual PM2.5 emissions continue to surpass the WHO and Senegalese standards. 

Here is a comparison chart of the actual PM2.5 levels in Dakar compared to WHO and Senegalese standard.

 Dakar air quality chart

Source: Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development Dakar-Senegal 

This goes to show the need for more air quality data to implement more effective and aggressive policies. That's why the Center for the Control of Air Quality of Senegal (CGQA) is leveraging the latest technology to bolster the city’s air quality data.   

How PurpleAir is helping with Dakar Air Quality 

Although Dakar already has 6 quality monitoring stations, the government recognizes that these aren’t enough to get a detailed picture of local air pollution levels. However, adding more stations to fit their needs may take years as new air quality stations are expensive. 

One alternative that scientists explored was to use satellites for air quality monitoring. But they soon realized that the harmattan season obscures the data. Additionally, on-the-ground air quality data can differ from satellite readings. 

So, they turned to the best thing that technology has to offer—low-cost air quality monitors. 

With low-cost air quality monitors, like PurpleAir, the government can purchase multiple monitors without going over budget. At the same time, they can create a powerful air quality network, which provides them with accurate and hyper-local data. 

This way, they can better identify the sources of air pollution in Dakar together with its impact on communities. Plus, they can build air quality warning systems and forecasts to keep the public informed. Most of all, they can use the data from low-cost air quality monitors to develop better air quality policies specific to their communities. 

Already, the government has invested in 25 PurpleAir monitors and placed them throughout the city. They have already observed air pollution patterns from this, noting that air pollution decreased by 63% on the weekends. 

We look forward to the research and insights that the Dakar government will achieve with PurpleAir. 

About PurpleAir 

Since being founded in 2018, PurpleAir has dedicated itself to providing highly precise air quality monitors that track hyper-local air quality levels in real time. In doing this, PurpleAir is empowering community scientists and helping to facilitate social change through accessible air quality data for all. By working together, everyone is more informed and able to make changes in their local communities.