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Africa Housing Forum 2022: how it went (Day 1)

The first ever Africa Housing Forum took place from 12 to 14 May in-person and virtually from the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi and it was a great success!

The inaugural event saw hundreds of attendees come together discuss solutions and promote low-cost, affordable housing as a driver of economic growth in the African region. From insightful discussions around the biggest challenges Africa is facing when it comes to housing to panels exploring a variety of different topics, there’s lots to be learnt from the event.

Here’s a breakdown of how the first day of the three-day event went.

Thursday 12 May 2022, AM

The first day of the event kicked off with opening address from Maurice Makoloo, Africa Area Vice President for Habitat for Humanity International, and an opening performance by Motra Music. To set the tone for the forum, Maurice Makoloo stated the importance of collaboration to drive the future of decent, affordable and accessible housing for all: “Let us work together towards more resilient homes, and cities.”

Throughout the forum, tracks are weaved into the plenary discussions encouraging speakers to engage and interact extensively in different subject matters.

The first plenary discussion took place where key speakers discussed the topic ‘African Cities’ Pandemic Response – Challenges and Lessons’. 

We were joined by the following key speakers to discuss different examples across Africa as well as highlight the challenges that rural and urban areas faced as a result of the pandemic, the strategies that were employed, and lessons learnt going forward:

  • Maurice Makoloo, Africa Area Vice President, Habitat for Humanity
  • International
  • Marion Rono, Marion Rono, Deputy Director Urban Renewal, Nairobi Metropolitan Service
  • Dr. Catherine Ndinda, Research Director, Human Sciences Research Council (South Africa)
  • Joseph Muturi, Chair Slum Dwellers International

According to a UN Habitat report, urban areas are the epicenters of the pandemic and played a key role in the spread of disease and large numbers of confirmed cases. Without access to safe and decent housing, this caused the disease to spread easily and quickly. In fact, “1.8 billion people across Africa lack affordable housing. By 2050, Africa will have 1.2 billion urban residents” said Patrick Canagasingham, COO  for Habitat for Humanity International. 

Patrick’s statement illustrated the gravity of the housing situation in Africa and was agreed by Joseph Muturi, Chair of Slum Dwellers International who explained the lack of interest in investing in affordable housing due issues around the cost of land, policies, and government subsidies.

In order to tackle these fundamental issues, Maurice Makoloo, Africa Area Vice President, Habitat for Humanity International, stated how “Effective and efficient governments do not just happen, they have to be made. Every voice must count.”

Thursday 12 May 2022, PM

Group breakout panels were organised to explore different important topics and issues surrounding housing in Africa. Here, attendees took part in conversations to tackle topics such as addressing health challenges in urban built environments, and regularization experiences, empowering women through land and housing rights, and building and repurposing climate-resilient housing for the most vulnerable.

In the first panel session, the relationship between urban settlements, housing, and health was explored and through discussion, highlighted just how much of a key player housing places in the spread of disease. In fact, “97% of malaria transmission happens late at night with people in the house,” noted Dr. Eric Ochomo, Senior Research Scientist, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).

Following on in discussing how we can meet the emerging and growing housing needs of youth and women, especially in ensuring equal access to housing. Joseph Muturi, Chair, Slum Dwellers International emphasised how government intervention is needed to ensure access to low-cost housing and making it a reality, while Danilo Antonio, Global Land Tool Network, UN Habitat highlighted the need for “gender responsive policies”.

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Breakout panels on empowering women through land and housing rights further built upon Danilo’s statement by raising the alarming need to address the “glaring” and “deepening” inequality in land ownership.

The final breakout panel of the day focused on building and repurposing climate-resilient housing for the most vulnerable and how integral climate resilience is in not only building but scaling affordable housing in the Africa region. 

In the afternoon, the second plenary discussion was also held in discussing ‘Contributions of the housing sector to Africa’s growing economies’ with speakers:

  • Moderator: Dr. Muhammad Gambo, Shelter Afrique 
  • Zoravar Sigh, Affordable Housing 
  • El-hadj M. Bah, African Development Bank Group
  • Claire Akamanzi, CEO Rwanda Development Board 

Nothing can be placed without land; nothing can be built without land. Humanity, and community cannot exist without land. But we cannot do anything without access to it,” said HRM, King Mfumu DRC, Council of Traditional Leaders Africa. His statement solidified the importance of land to human settlements and highlighted that lack of access is limiting progress in housing in the African region.

Land has large potential and importance in urban settlements including economic growth. The plenary built on this by exploring the role of housing development in economic growth through housing construction, contributing to economic output and job creation, and generating demand for materials and related services.

Following the second plenary, final breakout sessions were held covering housing finance and subsidies,slum upgrading, financing incremental construction, entrepreneurship and innovation, and building materials (green financing). The sessions were:

  • Housing finance and subsidies: pandemic response and recovery & beyond
  • Slum Upgrading – Basic Services
  • Financing incremental construction (construction costs, financing ODC, rental)
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation – Appropriate Building materials (green financing)

Highlights from the session included the ‘Slum Upgrading’ session illustrating the links between housing and the economy as said by Nelson Meson Vusa, People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ): “Poverty manifests itself in proliferation of slum areas.” This was built upon in the session on ‘Entrepreneurship and innovation’ where Etta Madete, Architect and Affordable Housing Lead, BuildX Studio said:“To be resilient as an individual you need to have financial power and accessibility.”