A new initiative by Angola’s Instituto Nacional de Habitação is creating new communities, reducing the national housing deficit, and allowing citizens to live with greater dignity
Demographic projections indicate that by the year 2050, the population of Africa will double to 2 billion, with a 20 per cent increase in the number of urban inhabitants. For a developing country like Angola, it means big changes are on the horizon. As its population rises and rural areas begin to urbanise, what is the best way to create the infrastructure necessary to accommodate these changes? In Angola, the way ahead is large-scale ventures with the private sector.
The Instituto Nacional de Habitação (INH), the government agency designed to promote the availability and management of accessible, affordable housing in Angola, works in partnership with private companies such as Kora Angola, Imogestin, and Soares da Costa to boost the country’s housing stock.
To date, the INH has been involved with various massive housing projects, such as the $3.5 billion Kilamba New City development located 30 kilometres (18 miles) south of Luanda, which has been designed to accommodate 500,000 people.
Likewise, the Nova Vida (translated as ‘new life’) project, which already provides around 2,500 housing units 18 kilometres south of the Luanda airport, is undergoing a Phase II expansion to add another 3,200 homes.
Overall, the main objective of the INH is to rehabilitate Angolan infrastructure, including housing and transportation networks, as well as access to basic resources and social services for the needy. By the year 2017, the goal is to provide up to 213,000 new houses in 14 new city centres – an ambitious urbanisation project that prioritises reducing Angola’s large housing deficit.
“Decent housing is crucial for cohesion and for the stability of families,” says José António da Conceição Silva, Minister of Urbanism and Housing. He is emphatic about Angola’s need to reform renting policies, and to better address the needs of citizens with limited access to the type of credit required to purchase a house. Emphasising that Angola’s social and demographic realities need to be more accurately reflected in emerging urban communities, he advocates more flexible housing options that more readily adapt to the needs of citizens from various social tiers.
Likewise, according to Bornito de Sousa, the Minister of Territory, the planning, financing and construction of new centres are a viable opportunity for families – and young people in particular – to access and own more affordable property, and to live with greater dignity. As has already been seen with developments in the centres of Kilamba, Sequele, and the urbanisation of Nova Vida, there are still bumps and challenges in the development process, but officials have learned through previous urbanisation efforts that responding to the needs and desires of citizens is key. Generally speaking, Angolans value modern, affordable, housing that is conveniently located near basic amenities, well managed, and offers adequate resources in terms of education, health, and medical care.
So far, progress has been promising. More than 5,400 people who paid for houses in the Luanda satellite cities have moved into their homes, according to Rui Cruz, CEO of the housing project management firm, Imogestin. At Imogestin’s 3rd International Conference on Estate which took place in June of 2015, he expressed his desire to ensure that Imogestin continued to responsibly and sustainably respond to the housing challenges faced by the Angolan government. Beyond satisfying housing needs, Cruz hopes that further development of the new housing sector will also stimulate the Angolan private sector in the domains of construction, building materials, and estate.
At the same event, Angolan Urbanism and Housing Minister José Silva highlighted the need for continued reforms of urban renting policies, with an emphasis on modernising policies in a way that protects against the risk of a housing shortage.
“The low purchasing power of considerable segments of citizens and the difficulties in the access to credit for the purchase of a home require alternative provision of housing,” said Mr Silva.
He stressed the need for the social and demographic realities of the country to be more prominently reflected in its urban organisation, through the promotion of a housing that allows for the flexibility and mobility that Angolans need. Mr Silva also expressed his desire to continue to reduce the housing deficit of about 1.5 million houses, and given Angola’s predicted economic growth rate – especially in the coastal region and main cities – this should be feasible. According to the Minister, the country is expected to have an urbanisation rate of 72 per cent by 2020.
Interestingly, 68 per cent of the housing programme is based on self-directed construction of sub-programme, accordingW to Mr Silva. In other words, citizens acquire lots with basic infrastructure funded by state resources – complete with water supply networks, energy, sanitation – and after these things are in place, citizens are left to prepare their residencies. They must abide by a certain set of rules and type of housing, but the idea is to allow them to be more involved in the home acquisition process, and more able to customise it to best suit their needs. “Given the scarcity of financial resources, this programme does not have the desired amplitude,” explains Mr Silva, though it is still an ongoing process.
“We recently attended a forum that reunited rural youth and women,” explains Mr Silva, adding that the event was tremendously useful in helping to hone in on the most pressing needs of everyday Angolan citizens. “For us, this type of regular contact with the population is critical so that we can keep on the pulse of what is most needed in different communities,” he says.
The minister cites the Old Candombe project as an example of where the intervention of the INH was responsible for significant change. Recalling his first visit to the area, he is reminded of a deteriorated place where people had no quality of life, and describes how in less than two years, children were growing up in a much healthier environment and with access to clean water.
“Better housing not only benefits our people, but also our businesses,” says Mr Silva, maintaining that improved quality of life is the ultimate way for Angola to position itself as a country of peace, vision, direction, stability, and growth. “We want the world to understand that we are a country of the future that is open to working with other nations in order to improve the lives of younger generations.”
João Destino Paulo Pedro, General Director of the INH, agrees that the human component of his work is the most important, as well as the most personally gratifying. “We are providing people with new housing, without losing the essence of their habitat,” he explains, highlighting an incredibly important element to home building, as housing projects in the past have required residents to be relocated 15 to 30 kilometres away, thereby destroying the essential sense of community.
“For us, neighbours are family,” says Mr Pedro. “African neighbours are like a big family, and their sense of community is very strong – this is true across our country, and even the continent.” He also stressed that in African culture, buying a home is largely preferable to renting a home, as it is seen as a source of stability and security. Nonetheless, because home ownership is not yet within the reach of every Angolan citizen, the State is stepping up to fill in the gaps. After having lived in London with his family for four years, Mr Pedro saw how government-issued housing served even the most disadvantaged populations, and believes that Angola must adopt a similar model. “Angola needs to learn from the UK – we need to understand and impart the “know how” of countries with greater economic power than our own,” he says.
A large driver behind the push for greater access to housing in Angola is the inevitable global trend of urbanisation. As more and more people immigrate to cities, they are becoming increasingly compact places, as a result, housing developers have nowhere to go but up. The need to expand vertically comes with an added advantage, according to Mr Silva, as increased proximity has helped blur the lines of class separation and make emerging cities more inclusive. “This is the future of cities and I think Angola will not escape the rule,” says Mr Silva.
In an effort to ensure that housing development projects in Angola keep up with the pace of globalisation, Mr Silva explains that his country is part of the United Nations Organization for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat). In terms of technical assistance in the formulation of different sector policies, this relationship has proven beneficial, and is part of a larger dialogue encompassing the future of African cities. “The National Programme of Urbanisation and Housing Angola raises international attention and curiosity,” says the minister, explaining that it has attracted interest from the African community and beyond. “Almost all over the world, people want to come to Angola to discuss these initiatives,” he says.
Looming in the background of Angola’s recent bold strides to reducing the housing deficit is of course the idea that the country has only been independent for the past 40 years, and that its national reconstruction process is even younger.
Although rebuilding began soon after the peace agreements were made, even the most basic infrastructural needs had to be addressed before Angolan leaders and policymakers could even dream of instituting a nationwide housing project as the INH has. Provincial capitals were completely disconnected from the capital, roads were virtually non-existent, and the risk of land mines was still a reality. Slowly, and with unwavering faith in a brighter future, it became possible to begin transforming the war-torn and very unstructured territory into healthy urbanised communities where citizens could live safely, in dignity, and with the necessary access to basic social services. “We are talking about the construction of a considerable number of dwellings – the challenge of a million homes,” says Mr Silva. Though an ambitious undertaking, he understands that it is a critical first step in rebranding Angola as a safe, peaceful, and developed nation. “Increased access to housing is the only way to assure that our country will flourish and be a vibrant home for our future generations.”