As urbanization in Ethiopia is accelerating, the projected demand for new housing far exceeds the annual supply. As a result, affordability is a major issue in the housing market. Most households cannot afford formal housing solutions, and the high prices of construction materials and land add to the difficulty to low-income urban residents. Furthermore, the local industrial base is weak; the country is dependent on imports for components, parts and raw materials, and the availability of construction technology and expertise does not meet market demand. Therefore, promoting low-cost prefabricated construction technology to improve housing conditions and investment climate in Ethiopia is a key initiative which can help Ethiopia to upgrade industrial construction technology, train related technicians, and improve the local housing and investment environment.
Towards a Solution
Supported by the China South-South Development Centre and implemented by the China-Africa Business Council, the Industrial Construction Technologies in Ethiopia project helped to improve housing conditions and the investment environment in Ethiopia by training construction professionals and promoting low-cost wood-frame housing technologies. The project contributed to the achievement of SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and to the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) Priority Areas 1 (Productive capacity) and 5 (Human and social development).
To ensure the successful implementation of the project, a special committee of five Ethiopian professionals and seven Chinese experts was set up and several meetings and mini seminars were held. The Chinese experts presented the principles of wood frame construction and its application in China. Experts from Ethiopia discussed the types of buildings and building techniques used in their country and the challenges that exist. The project also provided four skilled Ethiopian construction workers with the opportunity to study at the headquarters of the China Construction Group in Guangdong Province, China. During the month-long training, these Ethiopian workers mastered the theoretical concepts of wood-frame construction and were able to perform some practical operations. Upon their return, they conducted technical training for the Ethiopian technicians, sharing the wood construction techniques they had learned in China with the entire team. Huajian also invited three officials from Ethiopia’s Construction and Housing Development Authority and the Ministry of Industry to visit China and discuss rapid manufacturing and low-cost wood housing technologies. Surveys were done to identify viable technologies for prefabricated buildings in Ethiopia. Also, demonstrations and on-site construction practices were performed in the Huajian Industrial Park in Ethiopia to collect feedback and make adjustments and improvements for better wood structure. The project highlights the advantages of cost-effective assembled buildings in terms of construction speed, comfort, safety, economy, practicality, and environmental friendliness. This new timber-frame technology system is applicable to Ethiopia and meets the basic needs of low-income groups in the country and neighbouring African countries. During construction, the project created hundreds of jobs for local workers in the construction, retail, restaurant, and service sectors, and increased their wages by 30 to 50 per cent. It not only boosted local economic development, but also helped the African public understand China and improve public opinion on China-Africa cooperation.
Compared with the existing traditional construction technology in Africa, the rapid production and low-cost wooden house technology has obvious advantages in ensuring construction quality, increasing production efficiency, improving working conditions, reducing the requirements for operators and production costs, and ensuring environmental protection. The technology was presented to government agencies during several workshops. It has helped improve living conditions in Ethiopia and has been recognized by government officials and Chinese companies in Ethiopia. Therefore, the project is sustainable in the long run and contributes to the continued effectiveness of China-Africa cooperation.
In addition, the project is replicable in that it has trained workers in the prefabricated construction industry and promoted rapid manufacturing and low-cost wood housing technology. The project is well positioned for replication from Ethiopia to neighbouring African countries with similar conditions.