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80% of African homes needed in 2050 haven't yet been built. How to ensure they are green?

Construction will become a major part of Africa's climate economy. This will impact renewable energy, mining, mobility, infrastructure and carbon markets

Hello – Africa is already the second most densely populated continent. And eventually it will catch up to Asia, given respective population trends.

Where will everyone sleep, eat and work? And what does that mean for the environment?

It would be easy to be gloomy. A building bonanza is needed, consuming lots of resources. Still, more jobs in construction could also boost prosperity, which in turn tends to lower reproduction rates.

Today’s reading time: 5 mins

LOGISTICS UPDATE | Thursday 11 April

📚  Report: AFC’s 2023 Infrastructure Report for Africa

📅 Event: The 5th Africa Climate Talks are happening in Ethiopia (Apr 22)

📈 Job: Standard Bank is looking for a Climate Finance Director


📑 Report: How climate change impacts pastoralism in African drylands

💼 More jobs: Nithio Holdings seeks an investment manager

1.🚁 Heli view: The greening of the third oldest profession 

African construction work is projected to grow from $58 billion annually to $75 billion within five years. 

  • This is driven in part by more than 570 mega projects jointly valued at $450 billion.

  • Many are situated in Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa. 

  • Expect more jobs, more homes, more growth.

The catch: New steel & cement towers will also significantly strain the environment. 

  • Steel and cement industries account for 38% of African greenhouse gases. 

  • Building material emissions will rise from 3.5 to 4.6 Gt CO2eq/year by 2060. 

Dawning realisation: As Africa’s cities grow, they must directly incorporate climate action. Or their vibrancy and promise may falter. 

The underlying driver: Africa’s population will add 1.1 billion people by 2050, or 75% of the global growth. 

  • The result is growing urbanisation. More than 40,000 people move to cities daily. 

  • With ever more Africans in pursuit of new opportunities, the urban populace will double.

  • Or more. Nairobi will likely grow from 5 million to 14 million inhabitants. 

Strain gain: The resulting construction boom means more emissions, sprawl and habitat loss.

  • Estimates suggest 80% of the infrastructure needed by 2050 is yet to be built

  • With more construction, the likely impact of extreme weather also rises.

  • Floods and heatwaves will disproportionately affect populated areas. 

The key question: How can Africa mitigate the environmental impact, foster resilience and achieve eco-friendly urbanisation?

The solutions: By embracing green building practices in three ways: Changing building design, adopting new construction materials and integrating renewable energy.

Building design: Small tweaks could significantly improve outcomes. 

  • Windows are the main culprits with heat loss or gain in buildings. 

  • Developers can reduce air-con if they reconsider window-to-wall ratios.

  • This in turn reduces energy use, especially if fossil fuel driven. 

A new look: The appearance of buildings may evolve. Change will be visible.

  • Green roofs insulate buildings, absorb rainwater and create habitats for birds & insects. 

  • Vertical gardens improve air quality and add a touch of nature.

  • South Africa’s Fynbos building calls itself the first “biophilic living structure” on the continent. 

  • Its “climate control is provided by natural layers. Exterior plantings have a cooling effect.” 

Construction materials: Replacing cement and its cousins is likely to be the biggest lever. 

  • The green building materials market globally is expected to triple to $962 billion by 2033.

  • Key is sourcing locally to reduce the need for energy-intense transport.

  • Local replacement materials include adobe, laterite, termite mound soil, timber, stone, bamboo, sand and dry vegetation. 

  • Revived techniques include rammed earth, sun-dried bricks, compressed earth blocks, wattle & daub, timber-framed construction, sandbag construction and thatched roofs.

Broad support: Jonathan Duwyn at UNEP says, “Locally adapted sustainable design, construction and materials coupled with renewables and innovation represent a great opportunity."

Integrating renewable energy: Without tackling power consumption, progress will be limited.

  • By 2050, about 60% of Africans (1.4 billion people) will live in cities.

  • They’ll consume about 3 times more electricity than rural residents.

No way round: Experts say wind or solar power generation should be added directly into buildings. 

  • Facades, roofs and concourses are obvious places to install equipment.

  • Landlords will see a second source of recurring income on top of rent. 

Prime example: The Sterling Bank Tower in Nigeria sports 3,250 high-efficiency crystalline silicon photovoltaic glass panels, spanning 6,500 sq metres over 17 floors.

  • It’s the largest solar integration in Africa to date, providing 995 kWp to the tenants. 

The upside: Incorporating renewable energy into building design means addressing climate change as well as ensuring reliable electricity supply to an increasingly urbanised continent.

2. Cheat sheet: 6 notable green structures

(i) Burkina Faso: Lycée Schorge Secondary School features nine laterite brick modules encircling a courtyard, offering protection from the elements. The sun-hardened bricks store heat and release it at night. Surrounding eucalyptus wood façades provide shaded areas, shielding from intense heat. Kéré

(ii) South Africa: The Karoo Wilderness Centre meticulously integrates into the site’s topography, water runoff paths, wind patterns, soil type, flora and fauna. Field

(iii) Nigeria: Makoko Floating School was built from local timber on the water of a lagoon but collapsed due to heavy wind and rainfall. Kunle

(iv) Angola: Agostinho Neto University’s design harnesses natural wind patterns for ventilation. Strategic canopies serve as sunshades and airfoils, promoting upward airflow to cool buildings. Perkins

(v) Zimbabwe: Eastgate Centre’s sun-shielding stone features enhance nighttime heat dissipation and daytime heat reduction. Pearce

(vi) Lesotho: Maseru “Stadium of Life” is a 3,000-seat sports facility made from sustainably sourced timber in support of responsible forestry practices. Kick4Life

3. Number of the week

… is the amount of investment that the UK has committed to support South Africa’s renewable energy transition. The funding will finance the implementation of Africa’s largest battery storage system in the country. Last year, South Africa’s economy nearly tipped into recession due to power shortages.

4. Network corner

BURN Manufacturing raised $12 million to expand its clean cooking stove offerings in eight African countries.

Naoya Nishimura appointed as CEO for Africa and India region by EV component manufacturer Musashi.

SunCulture raises $27.5 million in Series B funding to accelerate global expansion and innovation in climate technology.

5. Q&A: Climate leaders with answers

Raphael George is a Technical Operations Lead in West Africa at Energicity, developing solar-powered mini-grids

Q: Which West African country is leading in adoption of green energy? A: I will say Nigeria. It is experimenting with new policies and technology. It’s due to review the 2005 Electricity Act which was last amended in 2023. The act has been a great boost. Before that the transition had been difficult. 

Q: Who is investing? A: The private sector is leading in commercial and industrial solar energy access. The rate at which financial institutions and residential blocks are switching to solar energy is amazing. There is an energy supply gap of 40% that is motivating them. 

Q: That's all it took? A: People have changed their mindsets. They have no problem with solar anymore, even in rural areas. There are a lot of pilot projects across West Africa.  

Q: What about the public sector? A: Governments have been offering incentives for distribution of electricity. We can produce and sell energy to the grid from solar mini-grids. 

Q: What else? Nigeria set up a Rural Electrification Fund offering grants to finance solar mini-grids. Multiple governments are implementing proof of concept projects to create awareness.

6. Media monitoring

  • Alliance: HAU, Meridiam, & EBRD partnered in Egypt to create a platform for investment in energy, food security and water.

  • Boost: IFC will support Standard Bank with a $300m loan to increase access to renewable energy in South Africa.

  • Disaster: Zimbabwe declares a state of disaster to tackle the prolonged drought crisis linked to El-Nino.

  • Policy: Kenya is set to approve its first-ever green mobility policy to drive EV adoption.

  • Controversy: Greenpeace denounces the illicit allocation of a million hectares of forest to an American company.

  • Wildlife: Botswana threatens to send 20,000 elephants to Germany.

Don’t have time to read 100+ media sources every day? We’ve done the reading for you. Check out our full media monitoring here 

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Thanks to the Green Rising team for putting this together.

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