With fast-growing populations and rapid urbanization processes, many African countries, especially least developing countries (LDCs), face increasing pressure to provide adequate housing for their citizens.
Over the past 10 years since the end of the civil war in Liberia, the country has been vigorously developing its infrastructure, attracting foreign investment, developing production and aiming to achieve long-term peace and stability in order to revitalize the economy and improve livelihoods. As one of the important components in infrastructure construction, the development of civil, commercial and industrial buildings and other projects is essential to improve livelihoods and stimulate economic development. However, the lack of local construction materials and the small size of the manufacturing sector, with only one cement factory in Liberia, have held back infrastructure development. Therefore, there is a great need of support in providing construction materials and skills training. Developing Libera’s infrastructure is essential to revitalize its economy, improve livelihoods, and achieve long-term peace and stability.
Towards a Solution
In 2017 and 2018, the China Africa Business Council (CABC), together with the China South-South Development Center and Hengtong Lux Wood of China, designed an affordable housing construction scheme to address the obstacles and improve the status of Liberian construction, by providing one-stop services, including architectural design, building material production, centralized procurement, logistics and transport, as well as on-site technical training. With innovative prefabricated building skills, the main components of the project include training on walls, floor slabs, windows, doors and structures prefabricated at the factory, where they are assembled quickly, based on drawings.
The programme started with on-site research into prefabricated housing in Liberia, which aimed to identify feasible technologies for prefabricated homes in the country. Demonstration and capacity-building activities were then carried out t in Monrovia using existing prefab projects; finally, experience-sharing and workshops for housing officials and technicians were organized in Liberia and China. The capacity-building workshops were provided to local workers, who were taught building methods and skills through demonstrations of prototypes. The training focused on construction methods, structural stability, waterproofing, moisture-proofing and anti-corrosion treatments.
The programme makes a positive contribution to Liberia’s economic development and improvement of livelihoods. It coordinated the participation of more than 200 people specializing in design, production, procurement, logistics and construction, etc. Furthermore, it created more than 300 jobs for Liberians in fields such as construction, retail, catering and service industries, increasing their average income by over 30 per cent. The project contributed to Sustainable Development Goals 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and 1 (No Poverty). It also contributed to the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) Priority Areas 1 (Productive capacity) and 5 (Human and social development).
The project highlights the advantages of affordable assembly-type buildings in terms of construction speed, comfort, safety, economy and practicality, which constitutes a new construction technology system that is suitable for Liberia and meets the basic demand of the poor both there and in neighbouring African countries. Housing is the basis for a country to improve people’s livelihood and boost economic development, and African countries, taking Liberia as an example, need technological assistance to build their own construction industry.