African Union for Housing Finance conference – Reflections and takeaways

Posted: 16th December 2022 Olu Olanrewaju, Director

The African Union for Housing Finance AUHF conference, which took place in Cairo, Egypt the end of November, was informative and insightful. The conference provided an excellent opportunity for organisations and individuals involved in the sector to come together to share ideas on how to improve the supply and quality of housing in Africa.

The theme of the conference focused on ‘A green urban future for affordable housing’. Discussions around sustainability and the green agenda inevitably dominated the deliberations and highlighted the challenges of creating a green housing revolution across the continent. But excitingly, the conference also highlighted an enormous amount of positive work, which is already being done and can be scaled up and rolled out across the continent.

Key members of the Altair International team were at the conference to join in with the discussions and connect with colleagues and partners from across the sector. A few weeks on, our team has reflected and pulled together a set of key takeaways from the conference:

  1. The Housing supply crisis in Africa remains a big concern, and the backlog of the housing deficit is growing.
  2. The green housing agenda is in its infancy. New build green housing numbers are pitifully small. Only 300 were recorded by Estate Intel. The IFC edge certification scheme has been a significant catalyst to promote green housing in Africa. A similar initiative is required for retrofitting, which applies to the bulk of housing existing and uncompleted homes that will be around for the next 30-40 years. They are also potentially a significant source of new supply through redevelopment and refurbishment programmes.
  3. The environmental and physical conditions experienced in many African countries are typically an ideal platform to help foster the adoption of renewable technology such as solar panels. However, even the adoption of simple building design techniques (which, are usually more cost-effective) such as solar shading, building orientation and more would be very impactful on future household comfort levels and resilience to climate change.
  4. But new build and retrofitting opportunities in the green housing market are significant. The major challenges to kick start the green housing revolution are huge but not insurmountable with the appropriate leadership, policy framework, implementation plan, institution capacity building and funding.
  5. The enthusiasm, commitment and resilience of colleagues working across the housing value chain in a challenging housing market environment across Africa are very encouraging and inspirational.
  6. A clear recognition that while creating the opportunity for mortgage financing to create effective demand continues to be a priority, we need a solution to financing rental housing on a large scale. Rental housing remains the most significant form of housing tenure in urban housing and unlocking patient capital to finance rental housing remains a key obstacle.
  7. The Egyptian government and World Bank mass housing programme to boost the housing supply is impressive in terms of ambition, scale, and delivery thus far. We need more examples of large-scale demand and supply interventions to provide much-needed affordable housing across the continent.
  8. Whilst there is an appetite to look more into rental as a solution in addition to sales there is recognition that this isn’t without its challenges in areas such as; expectations of consumers (shifting the tradition of home ownership) but also the fact that rental requires more infrastructure in place to be able to manage housing over a longer term. But there are emerging good examples in place in South Africa – plus reference points in UK / Europe which can highlight potential models moving forward.
  9. New actors are coming into the market all the time. It was great meeting a range of research firms, development, and social venture investors keen to participate in the green urban future in Africa.
  10. There is also increasing recognition that there needs to be a stronger collaboration between public and private sectors in enabling more affordable housing – the public sector can support developing the wider ecosystem + contribute to funding and land, whilst the private sector can bring expertise and financing.

Plenty to think about following the conference, and a strong feeling of growing momentum is a real positive to take away. 

We look forward to continuing to work with people across the sector. 

Altair International is one of a few independent consultancies in the world to focus entirely on affordable housing and enabling infrastructure. To find out more about how Altair International can provide support across the whole value chain, contact Olu Olanrewaju


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