Africa's housing crisis demands urgent attention, with over 230 million people – roughly 50% of the urban population in sub-Saharan Africa – residing in substandard living conditions. Amidst this daunting challenge, Kecia Rust of the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa, together with Ronald Omyonga of iBUILD Global, Wolf Bierens of Easy Housing, and François Perrot of 14Trees, share insights in an illuminating African Business article. Rapid urbanization, exemplified by Kinshasa's population growth of over 410,000 individuals annually, underscores the severe housing deficit. Although the scale of the problem might seem insurmountable, innovative solutions are emerging, fueling hope for change.
The article underscores the importance of focusing on a multitude of solutions and collaborations to tackle this monumental issue. The UN's Sustainable Development Goal of achieving universal access to adequate housing by 2030 is an ambitious target (see iBUILD's contributions here). While large-scale projects are essential, the article echoes Kecia Rust's sentiment that embracing numerous "massive small" initiatives, rather than concentrating solely on mammoth undertakings, can be the key to success. Abhinav Sinha, head of technology and telecoms at British International Investment, acknowledges that Africa's urbanization could drive demand for sustainable housing, making it an opportune area for developers and investors.
Easy Housing, co-founded by Dutch engineer Wolf Bierens, focuses on constructing prefabricated homes using sustainably sourced timber. With a mission to decarbonize Africa's construction sector, the company is seeking to reduce carbon footprints while making housing more accessible. Similarly, 14Trees, a joint venture between British International Investment and cement giant Holcim, explores the potential of 3D printing in constructing affordable homes. François Perrot, the company's managing director, believes that the rapid advancements in 3D printing technology could revolutionize the housing shortage in less than a decade.
The iBUILD platform, co-founded by architect and consultant Ronald Omyonga, prioritizes transparency in the housing sector. By digitizing payment and processes and enabling homeowners to verify tradespeople's credentials, iBUILD aims to bridge gaps within the housing value chain. This transparency not only enhances construction efficiency but also reassures lenders. The platform's collaboration with a Kenyan financial institution demonstrates its ability to verify the appropriate use of construction loans.
While monumental projects are essential, "massive small" initiatives are equally vital. The convergence of innovative construction methods, sustainable materials, and technology can collectively make a significant impact on housing availability. As the continent navigates the complexities of its housing dilemma, collaboration, transparency, and the courage to explore a variety of solutions will be the driving forces of change.