On 19 and 20 January 2021, the EU organised a webinar for officials of Kenyan ministries and agencies which are concerned by the issue of chemical substances. Many countries, both in Africa and elsewhere, are faced with shortcomings and capacity constraints when it comes to the safe management of dangerous chemicals. For instance: the dumping of waste materials -including toxic substances, cyanide or pesticides- is a practice which all too often occurs, resulting in the pollution of soil and ground-water. Border officials are oftentimes unaware –and not properly equipped- to identify and sample chemicals which are forbidden or restricted under international agreements. Furthermore, the storage of chemicals such as flammable liquids in ports poses risks, if not handled properly. A number of dangerous chemicals may pose security threats, if they fall into the hands of non-state actors and criminal groups who intend to produce improvised explosive devices.
In light of the dangers to public health, the safe handling of chemicals –including during storage, transport and disposal- is essential. In line with relevant international rules, governments are obliged to follow strict regimes of management, inspection, transport and disposal of listed chemicals. The EU has been a leader in promoting such rules, for instance the SEVESO III Directive of 2012, which aims at controlling major chemical accident hazards. EU partner countries, including Kenya, can learn from the EU experience. The discussion at the webinar focused on how to strengthen mitigation measures to prevent chemical accidents from happening and to be adequately prepared when they occur.