Affordable Housing in Africa: Challenges and Potentials by Shem Ikoojo


Africa is proliferating in terms of population; the continent’s population has grown significantly over the years, increasing on average by 2.53 per cent annually between 1950 and 2015 and currently stands at 1.340 billion. Based on recent projections, the continent’s population is expected to grow from its current state of 1.340 billion in 2020 to 2.44 billion in 2050. Most African’s still live in rural areas, the estimate currently stands at 60 per cent, but the rate of migration from rural areas to the urban areas is increasing at an unprecedented rate. It has been stated that over 40,000 people leave the rural areas to the urban centres daily; these also have become a significant challenge across the continent of Africa. Data shows that the rate of urbanization between 2000 and 2015 was at an average of 3.5 per cent; this makes it the highest globally. If the current urbanization trend continues, unabated the share of Africa’s urban population is predicted to surpass 50 per cent by 2037 [1][2].

Africa also has the youngest population of all the continents of the world. The young people of Africa could become either an advantage or a disadvantage, a young population such as those seen across African countries could quickly become a ticking time bomb if not adequately engaged, but then also with such young demography, Africa can harness their strengths to develop economically. Currently, these young populations are driving an urgent need for affordable housing, access to meaningful work and food [3][4]. 

Across the globe, thriving cities are significant drivers of economic development, and the quality of the housing stock in these areas have a long-term impact on any form of comprehensive development. With that in mind, governments across Africa have become increasingly puzzled with not just the challenge of providing affordable housing in the urban centres but also coming up with initiatives that will make the rural areas also attractive, to keep the level of rural-urban migration low [5].

Housing Deficits in Africa

The rate of rural-urban migration and a lack of proper planning have created a vast housing deficit across Africa; the deficit is the difference between the number of households and the number of permanent dwellings. Because of the lack of data across the African continent information on the most accurate numbers may not be readily available, however governments across Africa have released various estimates to show the housing backlog for their countries [1].

 Computed data for the 10 countries with the most housing deficit across the continent of Africa.

S/N Country Housing Deficit Population   Urbanization rate 2000 – 2015 (%) Urban Share 2015 (%)
1 Nigeria 17,000,000 195,900,000 4.78 47.8
2 Egypt 3,500,000 98,420,000 1.70 43.1
3 D.R.C 3,000,000 84,070,000 4.05 42.5
4 Tanzania 3,000,000 56,320,000 5.19 31.6
5 South Africa 2,300,000 57,780,000 2.04 64.8
6 Kenya 2,000,000 51,390,000 4.36 25.6
7 Madagascar 2,000,000 26,260,000 4.60 35.1
8 Mozambique 2,000,000 29,500,000 3.31 32.2
9 Angola 1,900,000 30,810,000 5.34 44.0
10 Ghana 1,700,000 29,770,000 3.78 54.0

The housing deficit in Africa, across the 54 countries stand at an estimated 52 million housing units [7]. The table above reveals a spectrum in housing delivery across Africa. Nigeria is at the top, with a larger population than most African countries, the figures are not surprising, what can be surprising is that fact, that the figure of 17 million housing deficit has been cited since 2010, some stakeholders think that the numbers should be more and have given estimates of around 20 million units. Whatever the case, the housing deficit in Nigeria, requires a more focused approach on housing delivery if the housing deficit is to experience any form of decline in the coming years. [1].

Overall, the housing deficit across Africa and the urbanization rate requires a fundamental change in the housing sector. If current trends continue, we expect the population across Africa to continue to increase along with the housing deficits, leaving governments across Africa without a solution on how to tackle the crisis.

Investment Potential

As African cities experience rapid growths, not just in terms of population but also economically, investors are keen on playing a part and harnessing the opportunities these growths present. The potential impact of investment in housing is noticeable, with the figures of the housing deficit presented from 10 countries of the 54 on the African continent. Affordable housing remains a significant challenge for all stakeholders in the housing value chain. Housing affordability is a function of three things: household income, the price of the house, and the terms of the finance. There is the issue of finance; how can the housing backlog be financed, with the limited resources on the African continent. Then there is the issue of construction; what is the best technology to deploy to achieve high productivity across the entire housing value chain. Though these challenges seem daunting, for investors, it presents an opportunity on which area to participate in housing delivery on the African continent [7].

There is increasing investors interest in the housing market across Africa, with an increasing number of funds set up to pursue housing projects, with collaboration between international and local industry players. However, the current approach seems to be counterproductive, as most investors continue to focus on the high-end housing market, this inadequate market entry approach has resulted in empty apartment buildings across the continent, despite the huge housing backlog.  The affordable housing markets present an immense opportunity for both local and international players to make a profit as well as to bring prosperity to the aspiring sparse African population.

Shem Ikoojo

Across Africa, governments continue to make efforts to solve the housing challenge and are making invests in the sector. Though commendable, without the right partnership, the right results will not be achieved. For example, in Zimbabwe, the government is taking strides to reduce the housing deficits through the roadmap created by Infrastructure Development Bank in Zimbabwe (IDBZ) to raise US$ 100 million for affordable housing across the entire country. In Kenya, the government launched a project to increase the production of Appropriate Building Materials (ABMT) to aid the construction of houses at a lower cost. The government is convinced that the project if successful, will lower the cost of construction, create a safe and more environmentally friendly house, and generally result in higher quality construction. Efforts like these show that governments across Africa understand the need to be deliberate about solving the housing crisis [1].

The private sector and multinational companies are not left out, in May 2019, the IFC, Chinese Multinational Construction and Engineering Company along with CITIC launched a US$ 300 million investment platform, the goal is to increase the affordable housing stock in various African countries. The parties believe that collaboration of this type will go a long way to stimulate other stakeholders in the industry to make similar moves. The scheme will partner with local developers and provide long-term capital to construct 30,000 houses over the next five years. The impact of the project is estimated to result in the recreation of 150,000 new jobs across Africa [7].

Shelter Afrique another housing development financier in Africa has signed an MOU with Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter (TCIS). The agreement will see TCIS partner with Shelter Afrique in raising capital for affordable housing across 44 African countries. The partnership will focus on providing housing loans to low-income earners in the target countries [7].


[1] Bah E.M., Faye I., Geh Z.F. (2018) The Housing Sector in Africa: Setting the Scene. In: Housing Market Dynamics in Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, London

[2] ECA, African Union Commission and UNFPA, “Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development beyond 2014” (2014)

[3] ECA, Industrializing through trade: economic report on Africa (Addis Ababa, 2015).

[4] United Nations Economic Commission for Africa The Demographic Profile of African Countries (March 2016).

[5] Beck, T., M. Munzele, I. Faye, and T. Triki. 2011. Financing Africa: Through the Crisis and Beyond. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.

[6] Buckley, R., L. Chiquier, and M. Lea. 2009. Housing Finance and the Economy. In Housing Finance Policy in Emerging Markets, ed. L. Chiquier and M. Lea. Washington, DC: World Bank.

[7] CAHF. Housing Finance in Africa: A review of Africa’s housing finance markets (2019) CAHF Publications

The Principled Manager: Comprehensive

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development.

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Comprehensive. To find out more, consult pages 174-176 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 136-147 of the Program DPro Guide.


In essence, comprehensive project management involves applying equal rigor and attention to each phase of the project, ensuring that all project components (direct and indirect) are delivered and documented effectively.

For some, the Comprehensive Principle is the embodiment of the challenges facing a Project Manager: the necessity to tackle numerous disciplines, each with different skillsets, with the aim of achieving strength across multiple areas.

Stakeholder management, Risk management, and MEAL planning and implementation are just three of the distinct areas across which Project Managers apply their skills and competencies.  

Comprehensive and Competencies

Given the range of skills involved in managing comprehensively, we advise Project and Program Managers to develop their abilities on the basis of PM4NGOs’ competency framework, which contains competencies relating to the following areas:

  • Technical
  • Leadership and Interpersonal
  • Personal and Self-management
  • Development sector specific
  • Program Management

Across these categories, there are 36 competencies which together comprise the entire skillset of Project and Program Management in the development and humanitarian sectors.

Conclusion: Continuous Development

To become a truly Comprehensive Project or Program Manager requires a commitment to the continuous improvement of skills in a number of areas. Project Managers are therefore lifelong learners who constantly upgrade their knowledge and abilities.   

The Principled Manager: Participatory

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development:

  • Well Governed
  • Participatory
  • Comprehensive
  • Integrated
  • Adaptive

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Participatory. To find out more, consult pages 170-173 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 127-135 of the Program DPro Guide.


Participatory project management sets a foundation for:

  • Managing Expectations
  • Comprehensive Project Identification, Definition, and Planning
  • Clear Communication
  • Project Sustainability
  • Engagement of Stakeholders

Participatory is considered by many to be non-negotiable in the development sector. Projects and programs must often be inclusive of an array of stakeholders incorporating their views, opinions and needs throughout the phases of Project DPro.  

Participatory and Covid-19

Covid-19 has had a drastic impact on the way in which people communicate with each other. In terms of people’s participation in development, NGOs and development agencies are faced with challenges relating to the fostering of “Good” participation.

Especially in the early stages of a project, when diagnosing development contexts and performing needs analysis, “normal” participatory practices would often involve the convening of large meetings and workshops.

The value of such participatory activities not only relates the collaborative construction of knowledge, but also provides a form of social cohesion between the project and its stakeholders.

Conclusion: the greatest challenge?

More than any other Project and Program DPro Principles, and perhaps more than any other aspect of Project and Program Management, Participatory has been affected greatly by Covid-19.

NGOs and Project Managers are faced with finding ways of overcoming the obstacles created by Covid-19, and are endeavoring to answer a number of key questions:

  • How can the benefits of participation be maintained during online activities?
  • How do NGOs overcome the fact that technology accentuates disparities in development settings?
  • Which factors affect decisions over whether to go ahead with face-to-face activities?   

The Principled Manager: Well Governed

Projects and Programs in the development and humanitarian sectors

To complement the processes and tools provided within their pages, Project DPro and Program DPro include a set of five essential Principles for the management of projects and programs in development:

  • Well Governed
  • Participatory
  • Comprehensive
  • Integrated
  • Adaptive

Here, we take a deeper look at the first of those Principles: Well Governed. To find out more, consult pages 166-169 of the Project DPro Guide and pages 117-126 of the Program DPro Guide.

Well Governed

The governance structure of a project/program defines the management framework within which project/program decisions are made.

The governance structure is established during the Identification phase and aims to ensure organizational commitment and accountability within the project or program.

The governance structure works in combination with project tolerances. Once set, tolerances establish when it is necessary to escalate an issue.

Well Governed and Covid-19

The financial effects of the Covid-19 health crisis heighten the necessity to observe tolerance levels and make decisions according to an ever-changing context. Indeed, all aspects of Well Governed across the phases of projects and programs are affected by the covid-19 crisis:

  • Identification: Board and Alignment with program and portfolio structure
  • Set Up: Governance Structure and Tolerances
  • Planning: Communication, Decision Gates and Risk planning
  • Implementation: Issue and risk management, Change Control
  • Closure: Lessons learned

Since an important aspect of Well Governed is to support the Project Managers on issues that are beyond their control, the new reality provided by Covid-19 serves to highlight the importance of an effective Governance structure for programs and projects.

Conclusion: one of five

The Well Governed Principle works in harmony with the four other principles by facilitating and fostering an environment in which those Principles can be practiced more effectively.

Partner course: Powerful Storytelling

If you wish to bring the stories of stakeholders, beneficiaries and participants to life, a new course offered by PM4NGOs partner Bond may interest you.

Taking place in October of this year, the course “Powerful storytelling and ethical content gathering” can help you to harness the power of people’s voices.

The course will also teach you to gather content from the field in an ethical manner. This includes elements such as the key elements of responsible content production and creating a consent form,

To find out more about Bond’s course you can visit their website here.

Projects In Uncontrolled Environments

Peter Marlow, PM4NGOs Board Members, discusses at this PM Today article the unique challenges of managing projects in the humanitarian and development sectors and how a training and certification scheme called Project DPro that’s celebrating its 10th anniversary this year is making a big difference.

He explains why it’s needed, how it’s put into practice, and how you can help.

“Operations keep the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward.” – Joy Gumz

Read the full article at PM Today website

Schedule and Time Management Post-Covid-19

This is the second in a series of articles looking at the effects of Covid-19 on project management in the development and humanitarian sectors. For the first article in the series, take a look at the DPro+ Blog.

How will our experience of coronavirus
affect our approach to managing the time element of projects in future?

Read more

A Post-COVID-19 World and Alternative Development with Project DPro

When we finally emerge from the current health crisis, it will be to a World indelibly marked by the events of 2020. 

The extent of human and economic loss exacted by coronavirus is not yet clear. What we do know is that life will go on and dedicated professionals will continue their work in the humanitarian sectors. But even before current events unfolded, calls for radical change were becoming ever louder as irreversible climate change becomes more imminent. 

I expect this trend to be magnified by the Covid-19 crisis. More people will consider alternatives to mainstream development that focus on culture and wellbeing rather than production based on economic growth. Concepts such as Buen Vivir, Ubuntu, and Degrowth may well become more popular.       

What does this mean for the Project DPro practitioner? Alternative development projects are people-centered and participatory, working on social and cultural issues at grassroots level. Inevitably then, for alternative development projects local knowledge and needs analysis will be more in-depth and complex.  

Read more

PMD Pro Pulse 2019

PM4NGOs has launched the PMD Pro Pulse 2019 – a survey to identify the demand and needs of project managers at the development and humanitarian sectors.

You will be leading the project management tools/guides development in 2020/2021 and providing your opinion and recommendations along with other professionals around the world.

This survey takes approximately 15 minutes. You participation is crucial – the survey findings will not only generate a global report but, more importantly, drive PM4NGOs and its partners efforts to attending professionals and organizations’ project management needs. Please also share this initiative with your colleagues.

Click in the button below to participate on the PMD Pro Pulse 2019.

“How to learn” flowchart

I wanted to share with you this excellent “How to learn” flowchart I saw recently at Tukongote School and Study Centre near the Victoria Falls at Livingstone in Zambia. It certainly applies to learning in general and project management in particular. We can learn a lot from our mistakes!

You can find out more about the School and Tukongote Community Projects at

Peter Marlow
PM4NGOs Board Member