PRETORIA – Sunday, 13th July, 2014 – THREE private entities have signed a joint venture agreement that will soon see the start of construction of thousands of houses in Zambia every year. The agreement covers the financing and establishment of three factories to manufacture prefabricated housing materials and the construction of low-cost houses in Zambia.
The Zambian Government has, meanwhile, lauded the development pointing out that this will help in ensuring more access to affordable housing and creation of job opportunities for Zambians.
The joint venture agreement was signed on Friday night by Africapaciti Investment Group, EnviroBoard Zambia and EnviroBoard Corporation USA at the Emperors Palace in Johannesburg. The occasion was witnessed by Zambia`s High Commissioner to South Africa, His Excellency Mr. Muyeba Chikonde, dignitaries from the South African Government, the Zambia International Trade and Investment Centre and representatives from different African countries.
High Commissioner Chikonde said Zambia currently faced a housing backlog of over 1.5 million units across the country and that this partnership which was targeting construction of 100,000 housing units annually was important in helping to close-up the gap as well as freeing-up resources that Government has been spending on constructing houses for its people.
He said Government should only play an oversight role, open up serviced land and create a conducive regulatory framework rather than getting directly involved in the actual design, supervision and construction. The provision of housing and other public infrastructure should involve a greater participation of the private sector in order to grow the economy.
He urged government departments and institutions such as the infrastructure Section of the Ministry of Education, the Buildings Department, National Housing Authority, and Local authorities to be more sensitive to the aspect of involving the private sector who are the source of substantial professional services so as to enhance efficiency and the trickle-down effect to local businesses. He further urged professional bodies such as the Zambia Institute of Architects and the Engineers Institute of Zambia to be more proactive and set the pace for Government by contributing to the review of current building codes and planning regulations so that they are more responsive to current global trends as well as the cultural and social economic diversity of the country.
The High Commissioner, who gave the keynote address, said it was important to note that housing finance institutions currently did not always respond adequately to the needs of the population, particularly the low-income group and hoped that the joint venture will address the challenges.
Mr. Chikonde said the Patriotic Front Government was pro-poor and that this was the reason President Michael Sata was never complacent even in the face of the impressive economic growth statistics. Mr. Chikonde said President Sata realised that it was not the statistics that mattered but real tangible benefits accruing to the people and that was why he has continued to prod his officers to work hard.
The High Commissioner said the housing project, which will see the erection of three factories to manufacture prefabricated housing materials, fell within President Sata’s ambitious programme of making Zambia the regional hub through construction of a reliable modern road network which will link it to other countries. He said the Link Zambia 8000; the L2000 and the Pave Zambia were some of the projects that Zambia has embarked on in order to make the country truly land-linked by 2018.
He said Government was excited because the project will also create thousands of both direct and indirect jobs, which was in line with its policies and objectives in sectors such as agriculture as well as the fact that the entire technology being used in the project was eco-friendly.
Mr. Chikonde said as an architect, he has previously been involved with community based projects in some compounds of Lusaka and realised the importance of making available affordable but quality and sustainable housing to the under-privileged.
“I am saying this to show that apart from, Government in general, you have in particular, one from the Zambian diplomatic corps abroad, who is a passionate advocate for shelter for all. This is not just a pilot project but something that will succeed in Zambia.”
The High Commissioner advised the project implementers not to be dissuaded by negative comments or criticism that they would come across in the process of executing the housing scheme in Zambia.
Africapaciti Investment Group Chairperson, Dr. Millicent Mombeshora said the ground-breaking venture was targeting to build of a minimum of 3,000 eco-friendly low-cost houses in its first year of operations. Dr. Mombeshora said the houses will be built with prefabricated building material manufactured from elephant grass and other organic matter such as wheat and rice drops.
She said the technology which has been used in the United States for years will not only help Zambia meet its housing unit shortfall, but also create direct and indirect employment for Zambians through supply chain linkages to the housing material factory and the actual housing construction project.
“This technology has been used for many decades in the United States and now marks a new era for housing development in Africa. Africapaciti Investment Group is proud to be at the fore-front of socio-economic development in Africa, promoting African industrialisation, creating jobs and influencing better living conditions for our people,” Dr. Mombeshora said.
She said Africa has been recording economic growth but at the same time seen an increase in slums. She said the new housing scheme will help reduce on sub-standard housing.
Zambia is the first among African countries to benefit from the project before it is rolled out to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
EnviroBoard Corporation USA Group Chairman, Glen Camp, said his organisation was excited about Africa more than any other part of the world where it has implemented similar projects. Mr. Glen said the UN Habitat for Humanity has signed up with EnviroBoard Corporation to build similar houses in Latin America. The organisation is currently working in 22 other countries.
Mr. Glen said the joint venture marked a huge milestone for new housing technology in Zambia which will help government meet its objectives of providing descent accommodation for its people.
Chief Director for Agro-processing in the South African Department of Trade and Industry, Mrs. UnatiSpeirs said housing has become a major challenge for Africa and noted that the project will be key for the continent as it will benefit a lot of the under-privileged.
“Zambia as a starting point for this project will act as motivation for other countries. We welcome this project in South Africa and I, in my position, will do all I can to support it.”
She urged Zambians to embrace and guard the project jealously.
And Consul-General at the Zimbabwean High Commission to South Africa, Mr. Godfrey Mangweza, praised the Zambian government for being bold enough to allow such a project in the country.
Speaking on behalf of Zimbabwe’s High Commissioner to South Africa, His Excellency Sam Mhango, and Mr. Mangweza said Zimbabwe was anxiously waiting for the housing project to be extended to his country.
He said Africans have, for centuries, been burning grass as a waste without realising that there were more economical uses for it.
And Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI) vice-president for the southern region, Dr. Chabuka Kawesha, said his association was proud of EnviroBoard and welcome them in Zambia.
Zambia National Building Society has already approved financial support for the construction of houses to be built in Zambia after which they will be mortgaged to Zambians.
A team from Africapaciti will be travelling to Zambia next week for a strategic meeting and assessment of supporting infrastructural requirements for the project. Implementation of the project is expected to start within the next 120 days.
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