Tag Archives: Sub-Saharan Africa

Affordable Housing in Zambia: A Myth or Reality

Daniel Apton Phiri, Associate – AHI Zambia/Southern Africa

In the last 20 years, Zambia, like many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, has experienced a “housing boom” albeit driven mainly by the private sector and individual developers using their own resources.  During the same period very few social housing and upgrading schemes have been implemented implying that nearly 70 percent of the population – mainly the urban and rural poor – have not benefited from this “housing boom”. The government has largely paid lip-service to housing provision, especially for the poor, as reflected in meager budgetary allocations and low prioritization of the sector. The poor have to fend for themselves and use their initiatives to construct homes in informal unplanned settlements which results in a plethora of urban challenges such as poor services and basic infrastructure.

Low Cost Houses built by NGO (Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Zambia)

Affordability is a key issue although the definition of “affordable housing” is clear. There are several on-going housing projects ranging from low cost institutional tied housing to high cost gated estates but most of these schemes are not affordable to the average Zambian. Constructing a simple low cost house requires a minimum investment of US$10,000 (UN Habitat estimate, 2012) while currently a formal low cost house is selling between US$20,000-US$50,000 on the Zambian Market. House prices in new estates are pegged from US$50,000 upwards while incomes for potential home owners remain on average are very low.

Typical House for the Urban Poor in unplanned areas

The demand for “affordable housing” in Zambia still remains very high with an estimated 1, 3 million housing units required to meet the shortfall by 2025- a big challenge for our government. The question that begs answers is “what should be done in terms of policy and other measures to make housing affordable to two-thirds of the population who urgently need decent affordable shelter?”

Low Cost Formal Housing

The future of shopping in Africa: Malls

By Evans Essienyi, AHI West Africa Associate

From Accra, through Lagos, Nairobi, to Cape Town, the way of shopping for the middle class is being revolutionized. The days of the open market will soon be a thing of the past. Malls are taking over from open markets. In major cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, real estate developers are building regional malls to cater to the shopping needs of the middle class. Enclosed malls with clean floors, metal or steel shelves glass doors are competing strongly with the open markets that we have been used to.

Growing up in Ghana, I shopped at Kaneshie, Makola and Sukura Markets for grocery and personal items. At these markets, the sellers, predominantly women, displayed their wares on tables under sheds. Some sellers also put their items like vegetables in baskets and placed them on the ground. One could hear the screams of the women calling in a number of local languages to get the attention of shoppers. Sometimes I returned from the market with different kinds of scents on my body or even my clothes soiled with palm oil or juices from tomatoes. These were the pleasures and hazards of going to the open market.

Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, the middle class is growing in number and in their purchasing power. With increased income comes a demand for a corresponding “NEW” way of life. The shopping malls are fast becoming the “new” way of life for the middle class in Africa. This “New” way of life manifests in forms such as wearing internationally branded clothes, shoes, dressing accessories, home appliances, electronic gadgets etc.

And these are the items that the emerging shopping malls are offering the Sub-Sahara African middle class. Mall shopping is fast becoming a status symbol. For example in Ghana, it is becoming trendy for young men to take their girl friends to the Accra mall to score points.

Developers are tapping into this growing interest, and developing shopping malls across most capital cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some of the mall developments are led by real estate developers ambitious to capitalize on improved investment opportunities, while some are also initiated by established retailers who desire to expand into other countries.

This is especially interesting as an example of multi-national property development in Africa, mainly financed from Southern Africa. While this phenomenon has not reached the affordable housing sector  – yet. As the commercial and luxury markets become more crowded, there might well be business knowledge transfers from these companies into the residential sector.

While their prestige is declining in the developed world, shopping malls seems to be the trend in Africa, and it appears they have come to stay. Given the rate at which malls are springing up on the continent, it is only a matter of time that the malls will supplant the open markets. Whether this is a good thing or otherwise will be judged by posterity.

Traditional building methods in Southern Ghana

Evans Essienyi, AHI West Africa Associate

From the Nzima pile dwellings of Nzulezo in the far West of Ghana near the border with Ivory Coast, to the Ewe villages in the hills of the Volta Region, indigenous people use building methods and architecture which evolved from their environment, receiving their form through the geology, topography and climate of the area, and influenced by the social and historical development of the region. Throughout the rural areas and the fishing communities along the coast, these traditional construction methods are still employed.

Left: houses at Nzulezo
Right: Atakpame house in Ghana

There are three typical types of wall construction in this area, the wattle and daub wall, the Atakpame wall, and the wall from sundried bricks.

The desired shape of the building is marked out with the help of pegs and strings. Holes are dug into the ground at regular intervals along the outline of the building. Vertical posts which are to carry the roof structure are inserted into the holes and stabilized with stones rammed around the base. The framing process is executed with the laying of the floor slab. The horizontal and vertical members of the framework are tied in before the mud is applied. When the framework is completed the roof is built. After the roof, wet molded mud balls are pressed and worked into the framework of the walls to a thickness of 150 to 200mm. Generally, the walls are only smoothened, but in some cases they are rendered with a soft mud and sand mixture. The framing method of construction allows the builder to complete the walls when he has the necessary help in a few days, since he need not wait for each course to set and dry before he lays the next one as in the Atapkame process. The walls also require no cover during rain, as the roof is already completed.

Wattle and daub houses

The origin of this building process can be traced to the town Atakpame in Togo. Although building with molded wet mud balls is common in the northern part of Ghana, the “Atakpame” method refers to a rectangular wall laid out by the builder with pegs and a string. A pit is dug near the building place, the mud mixed with water, kneaded with bare feet, and then molded into balls of about 200mm diameter. Courses of up to 600mm in height are laid, each course covered with palm leaves and allowed to set and dry out gradually before the next course is added. Wet mud cannot bear its own weight and would slump otherwise. Each course is properly leveled out on the top. Openings for windows and doors are noted and left during construction. The wall thickness is generally about 300mm. After five courses a wall height (excluding the foundation) of approximately 2.50m has been reached. When the last course is still wet, holes are made into it every 600mm at the top through which ropes are drawn for fixing the wall plate of the roof framework. Another way of supporting the roof is by driving short forked sticks into the top of the wall over which the framework is laid and tied. Lintels over doors and window openings are pieces of the Fan Palm. The walls are generally not rendered and the pronounced horizontal lines of the courses are clearly visible. Quite often, a plaster mix of mud and bitumen is also used for rendering.

Mud is dug up From a borrow-pit close to the building, mixed with water, and kneaded. The mixture is then pressed into wooden casts. The size of a brick is approximately 200 x 90mm. A drying shed is erected with timber posts, beams and a thatched roof. Under this the bricks are left to dry slowly. This may last, depending on the weather, up to two weeks. The bricks are laid with mud-sand mortar, or a weak cement-sand mortar where cement is available.

Images courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zug55/1903220848/sizes/m/in/photostream/