The capability to detect the presence of absorbing aerosols in the atmosphere using space-based near-UV observations has been demonstrated in the last few years, as indicated by the widespread use by the atmospheric sciences community of the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) aerosol index as a qualitative representation of aerosol absorption. An inversion procedure has been developed to convert the unique spectral signature generated by the interaction of molecular scattering and particle absorption into a quantitative measure of aerosol absorption. In this work we evaluate the accuracy of the near-UV method of aerosol absorption sensing by means of a comparison of TOMS retrieved aerosol single scattering albedo and extinction optical depth to ground-based measurements of the same parameters by the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) for a 2-month period during the SAFARI 2000 campaign. The availability of collocated AERONET observations of aerosol properties, as well as Micropulse Lidar Network measurements of the aerosol vertical distribution, offered a rare opportunity for the evaluation of the uncertainty associated with the height of the absorbing aerosol layer in the TOMS aerosol retrieval algorithm. Results of the comparative analysis indicate that in the absence of explicit information on the vertical distribution of the aerosols, the standard TOMS algorithm assumption yields, in most cases, reasonable agreement of aerosol optical depth (±30%) and single scattering albedo (±0.03) with the AERONET observations. When information on the aerosol vertical distribution is available, the accuracy of the retrieved parameters improves significantly in those cases when the actual aerosol profile is markedly different from the idealized algorithmic assumption.