3 things every building and construction entrepreneur in Africa must know before laying the first foundation stone

Kenya has a housing deficit of over 2 million houses.

  • Kenya has a housing deficit of over 2 million houses.
  • Home ownership, even in Nairobi’s purportedly affordable satellite towns, is out of reach for most Kenyans.

Slow growth in the sector is preventing Kenya from reaching its economic potential with the key to unlocking the sector’s vast potential being the provision of affordable housing.

In its last Economic Survey Report, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics recorded the annual average employee income in Kenya as 684,097 KES, showing that home ownership, even in Nairobi’s purportedly affordable satellite towns, was out of reach for most Kenyans.

In recent years, global giants, IKEA and Hilti’s foundations have moved into Kenya’s housing sector. Together with Habitat for Humanity, the world’s foremost social-impact organization in housing, and other partners (Pangea Accelerator, BDO and Strathmore University and iBizAfrica) IKEA and Hilti have scouted and are supporting changemakers improving access to housing in Kenya.

Launching the ShelterTech Accelerator in Kenya on Tuesday, Pangea Accelerator and partners selected 24 out of approximately 100 applications to provide expertise, networks and a chance to get up to $100,000 in funding.

From talking to startups making waves in the sector and industry experts, Business Insider SSA compiled tips for aspiring shelter entrepreneurs.

#1. It’s all about the money

“Whether you’re bringing renewable energy in homes or recycling heat in buildings, businesses in this sector need significant capital to survive. On the plus side, there’s less competition: we’re one of 6 similar firms in the country. But the on the flip side, if you’re outside, it’s hard to get in,” Greenhub founder, Brian Ouma, explains.

#2. Know Your Customer

Nawiri, a social enterprise providing shared living spaces for low-income women, mapped out the needs that their target customer faced. In the end, they realized that to remain sustainable, they’d need paying customers and yet their target customer often lacked access to job opportunities.

Therefore, they set out to develop partnerships and skills training with local businesses to provide employment opportunities to their clients, providing both themselves and their customers with revenue and adding value to their product.

#3 Talent Turns Tables

Getting the right people on your team is just as important as having enough capital, especially in this sector.

Pangea Accelerator held #AcceleratingShelter in September, gathering startups in the housing, waste management, water and sanitation and renewable energy ecosystems to discuss and deliberate on startup needs in the industry.

Participating startups noted that getting talent, especially engineering talent, was particularly hard and smaller firms often had a high turnover due to poaching by established companies, leaving them locked in a cycle of recruitment and training.


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