Why is it costly to build a house in Africa?

There are so many ideals we inherited form our former imperial masters (the evil British and others) without questioning. These ideals are established in infrastructure development standards and they make infrastructure development (home building, roads construction, etc) very expensive. How is this so? Because standards are fundamentally economic instruments of states, they have limited roles in defining quality and functional performance of infrastructure. The British standard is superior to the Rwanda standard and, so, Rwanda cannot supply to the British economy. Unless, of course, Rwanda adopts the British Standard as its National Standard. But this does not mean that goods ordinarily made in Rwanda would kill the British if they consumed them. In any case, what do these British people eat when they visit Rwanda? If you appreciate this and you are an engineer, here is my controversial question; When a structure is constructed out of the limits of standards and it performs its design functions, is it the structure or the standards that are inadequate? 99% of infrastructure on the African continent has compliance issues with international standards, including the most expensive of infrastructure developed by the best of the international construction companies. It’s all because the standard is made for a specific commerce structure which is the ecosystem that defines Europe. The regular professional in Africa doesn’t know the concealed market protectionism and thinks they are wiser because they understand and apply an alien standard. The standard finds conflict on the African continent. We pay heavily for this conflict.

The compliance challenges of alien standards within our commerce structure are triggered by differences in the value ecosystem of infrastructure development. Largely, standards and technologies in Europe are motivated primarily by labour minimization goals. Materials account for about 20% of the project cost while labour accounts for 60%, handling 10% and technology 10%. So, it makes more sense for the European to push for systems, technologies and standards that are extravagant on materials but labour minimizing. And we hopelessly adopt these standards when resource distribution on construction projects in Africa gives labour 10%, materials 50%, technology 20% and handling (logistics) 20%. It makes sense in Europe to have robots doing 3D printing of houses instead of human labour that is expensive. Labour minimization approaches do not offer competitive advantage for the African infrastructure development and innovations in such a direction will end sour. Europe loves that we are lost because we end up being a good market and a dumping ground for their old technologies. But this leaves our costs of construction very high and infrastructure development unsustainable.

So, what should be done? The right approaches to cost reduction and sustainability in construction must start with correctly defining the problems of 1. standards and codes of practice, 2. the commerce structure of our societies, 3. developer aptitudes, 4. the ethical perspective of the architect/engineer, and 5. the African mind that needs decolonization.

EcoConcrete Ltd understands and it taking advantage of these opportunities. We are about leadership in knowledge and technology, tools that we deploy every day for the benefit of you, our clients.

One thought on “Why is it costly to build a house in Africa?

  1. I am thrilled to read this article. This has not only motivated to join the team but enlightened my understating construction from the technical point of view

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