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Africa Housing Forum in Nairobi highlights need for innovative and inclusive approaches to solve housing challenges

  • Africa faces a shortfall of at least 51 million housing units as African cities are now becoming a new home to over 40,000 people every day
  • With over 500 speakers and attendees representing 25 different countries, the forum organized by Habitat for Humanity provides a unique opportunity for a diverse group of delegates to get together and highlight progress, challenges and possible solutions to the housing deficit in Africa.

NAIROBI (Thursday 12 May 2022) — More than 500 people from at least 25 countries in Africa came together in person and remotely today in Kenya’s capital for Habitat for Humanity’s first-ever Africa Housing Forum. Attendees focused on the urgent need  for sustainable and innovative solutions that don’t leave vulnerable groups behind during the forum, which runs through Saturday.

Organized by Habitat for Humanity in collaboration with partners that include UN-HABITAT, the three-day event is part of a global series of regional housing forums where housing experts, policymakers, industry leaders, international non-profits, multilateral organizations, and other major stakeholders engage collaboratively to promote affordable housing.

Participants shared perspectives not only on a decent home as something everyone should have access to in Africa but also how affordable housing brings with it so many other benefits, as a   driver of economic growth, a key to safety and security and — as the continent has learned during the COVID-19 pandemic — a fundamental part of a family’s health

Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said that Kenya is working with the private sector to make affordable housing projects work well, for the benefit of its citizens. Macharia called for cohesion between the public and private sectors to adopt and implement affordable housing solutions for marginalized communities to enhance the quality of life for humanity. 

The conference comes as Africa grapples with an acute housing shortage – a shortfall of at least 51 million housing units – sparked by urbanisation and population growth, leaving governments to struggle to meet the increasing demand for affordable housing. Many of the 40,000 people moving to African cities every day cannot afford basic formal housing or access mortgage loans.

In his opening speech, UN-HABITAT Director Regional Office for Africa, Oumar Sylla said: “The provision of affordable land and housing at scale remains a challenge to most countries, especially those in Africa. While the continent is the most rural region in the world, it is urbanising fast, straining affordable urban land and housing provision in the coming decades. Scaling up affordable housing provision has the potential to contribute to national economies, create jobs, improve the construction industry, and improve the living conditions for the health and wellbeing of all Africans.”

The housing deficit spares few countries in Africa.  A lack of adequate housing  affects 14 and 16 million people in Nigeria. South Africa’s housing shortage is  approximately 3.7 million units. Ghana’s sits at 1.7 million units, with the cost of closing the gap estimated at more than US$50 billion. Kenya, meanwhile, has an annual housing demand of 250,000 units but an estimated supply of only 50,000 units.

“It is critical to recognise housing as a human right,” said Maurice Makoloo, Habitat for Humanity’s Vice President for Africa. “The protection of the human right to housing should always be a priority placed above the use of housing as a commodity. Habitat for Humanity continues to focus on raising the awareness within the affordable housing ecosystem in Africa, especially for marginalized communities seeking to improve their living conditions. We are incredibly grateful for the forum turnout, as it is the stakeholders gathered here this week who, in the months and years ahead, will help address the large gaps in affordable housing in Africa.”

Makoloo added that the forum will also see the launch of Habitat’s ShelterTech sub-Saharan Africa accelerator program which will bring together the most disruptive startups and scaleup addressing today’s affordable housing challenges. ShelterTech is the world’s leading platform for affordable housing innovation, working across sectors, industries and geographies to support and grow cutting-edge products and services that can improve housing conditions for low-income families. Since its first accelerator program in 2017, the platform has already supported more than 70 startups worldwide.

The COVID-19 pandemic also has shown that adequate housing can be a front-line defence against contagious disease.  For instance, when ‘Stay home, save lives’ became a global mantra to contain COVID-19, many low-income and vulnerable families without a decent home saw their living conditions substantially worsened.

The Africa Housing Forum is supported by the Hilti Foundation, the European Union, and the Somfy Foundation. It is the fourth such event held around the world over the past year. The Latin America and the Caribbean Housing Forum kicked off the series in May 2021, followed by the Europe Housing Forum in November and the Asia-Pacific Housing Forum in December.

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About Habitat for Humanity

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in Southern Georgia. The Christian housing organisation has since grown to become a leading global non-profit organisation working in local communities across all the 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.

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