Ghana to construct 200,000 housing units

Ghana’s Ministry of Works and Housing is set to construct 200,000 housing units in 10 regions across the country next year, in bid to address housing deficit in the country.

Samuel Atta Akyea, the Minister for housing confirmed the reports and said the country is currently facing 1.7 million per annum housing deficit. He further added the government is seeking intervention from the private sector as that the housing sector, was capital intensive and that the government’s sources would not be able to undertake such a venture alone.

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The Minister also clarified that they will not use commercial rate borrowing for the project explaining that most citizens are more interested in getting their own homes, creating a need for mortgage regime.

Funds have been provided for in the 2019 budget for completion housing project left unattended during the former President Kufuor’s era through Atta Mills and John Mahama. The minister said that the ministry is ready to find the remaining private money to complete the housing projects.

The government of Ghana had already secured US $51m in order to revamp affordable housing units initiated by former President Kufor and National Democratic Congress (NDC). More than 2000 housing units are expected to be refurbished and occupied.

Housing projects such as Kpone affordable housing project and others in Borteman, Greater Accra in the Ashanti Region were started at cost of US $300m in the era of Mr. Kufuor’s government. The program launched in 2005 aimed at providing 12,500 low and middle income families affordable homes.

Currently, Ghana’s real estate is supplying 35,000 to 40,000 housing units. The number is expected to rise to 90,000 housing units a year. It estimated that by 2020 the housing deficit would have reached two million. To meet the current demand, the country needs to provide an excess of 100,000 housing units annually.


Indians ”held hostage”over unpaid construction work wages in Ethiopia

Seven employees of a financially distressed Indian company say they are being held against their will by locals in Ethiopia who have not been paid for construction work for five months.

The group, including engineers, was detained after Indian company Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) failed to pay wages at three road construction sites in Oromia and Amhara states.

They have been pleading for help on social media, saying they have been taken hostage.

“Situations are beyond our control, please #help before mishappening, IL&FS misguiding everyone”, tweeted IL&FS employee Neeraj Raghumanshi.

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An official from India’s Ministry of External Affairs told Bloomberg that it was looking into the matter. IL&FS did not respond to the news agency’s request for comment.

According to Bloomberg, the IL&FS’ Indian staff have written to the Indian and Spanish ambassadors and the government of Ethiopia to explain the situation.

The Spanish ambassador was contacted because the road projects are being built as a Indian–Spanish joint venture called IL&FS Transportation Networks. The Spanish companies involved are Elsamex and Ecoasfalt.

Staff said: “Concerns of project termination and absence of senior management from project camps might have triggered panic in local employees and led them to believe confining expat employees might force the organization to pay their salaries.”

They added they were caught in the middle of “corporate disagreements, blame games and bureaucratic issues”, and that local officials and police in Oromia and Amhara were siding with the Ethiopian employees, who are said to number around 600.

IL&FS’ failure to pay wages follows its default on repayments of $12.9bn debt, which caused the Indian stock market to crash on 21 September. The company said it has been trying to send money to pay the back-wages since 16 November, but its default meant that it was prevented from transferring money from India to Africa.



Why CEOs of Government Owned Housing Finance Institutions Must Work Together

A house is one of the most important thing in human life. It provides shelter, pleasure and security to a person in modern life. With the increasing large population year by year, the house demand is also increasing rapidly in Nigeria.

Different figures have been reeled out to estimate the housing deficit in Nigeria, whatever the real figure might be, a large number is accounted for by the economically weaker sections, for whom it is difficult to gather huge sums of amount at once to acquire a house.

Here comes the role of housing financial institutions. Presently, the government owned financial institutions involved in housing finance in Nigeria are the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Family Homes Funds, and the National Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC).

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These institutions have different roles to play in ensuring the provision of affordable housing to Nigerians. Though they have different mandates in the delivery of affordable housing, it is imperative that the heads’ of these institutions must see themselves as partners in progress rather than competitors in the housing finance sector.

The FMBN, NMRC and Family Homes Funds, all work on different aspects of providing affordable housing for Nigerians. Primarily, FMBN is a public sector institution focused on the role of providing mass housing and mobilisation of housing funds for the neediest in society.

FMBN provides long-term credit services to mortgage banks in Nigeria and other mortgage institutions at rates that will allow the mortgage banks and institution grant loans to individuals who want to acquire their own houses. It encourages and promotes the establishment and development of mortgage institutions at federal, state, local, and even rural levels.

It encourages the growth of secondary mortgage institutions to meet the housing needs of Nigerians. The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria gives licensing authority for secondary mortgage institutions in Nigeria.

From time to time, the bank also introduces different innovative mortgage-related programs and products to achieve its mandates. The main goal of the FMBN is to advance home-ownership among every Nigerian by creating mortgage markets with a sustainable financing system.

Loans are directly accessed by Nigerian citizens through the National Housing Fund in accordance with the provisions of the NHF Act. The NHF is also to service the non-salaried informal populace.

On the other hand, NMRC as a secondary mortgage refinancing institution will inject liquidity from the capital market to support mortgage loans accessed through respective financial institutions.

NMRC refinances portfolios of mortgage & commercial banks rather than originating individual mortgages and will cater for financial institutions rather than individual borrowers.

The institution also helps to bring down the cost of mortgage loan by improving market efficiency, lowering cost of funds and allowing for longer repayment tenor period by financial institutions. NMRC as an intervention medium encourages access to mortgage loans from financial institutions at currently approximately 2.5% above where the Federal Government borrows.

Lower income households will benefit from direct jobs created by the construction of new housing units and services required to build a home and deliver it to the final customer.

While, Family Homes Funds will leverage its capital in facilitating access to affordable housing for millions of Nigerians on low to medium income groups. Through strategic partnerships with various players in the sector. The Fund also supports the development of a local content framework for inputs into the house building process, to ensure that up to 80 per cent of manufactured inputs are locally produced.

However, leveraging its capital to support the supply of new homes for families on low to medium income is only a means to an end. The key priority for the Fund is to take advantage of the opportunity a large scale house building programme offers to create jobs which are sustainable and offer families security, improved quality of life and hope.

It is clear that the potential in CEOs of government owned housing finance institutions working together is huge, and it has never been more important for these organisations to be close partners, because much more can be achieved collectively than with a single player.

Heads’ of housing finance institutions must build strong partnerships to maximise this opportunity, unnecessary tensions amongst what should be very strong partners must be eliminated. Instead bridges must be built, and they must work together to provide the safe, decent and affordable housing that Nigerians need.

People must be at the heart of why there must be synergy among these institutions to increase and improve their capacity to provide many more truly affordable homes.

Homelessness in our country is unacceptable, so housing finance institutions need to embrace and appreciate each other’s differences and move forward to deliver stronger, more innovative housing solutions together, by doing this they can make the most of their partnership and start to make a real impact on the well-being of Nigerians.

Source: Affa Dickson Acho

Afreximbank signs MoU with Russian Railways and Russian Export Centre

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) said it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Russian Railways and the Russian Export Center (REC) to cooperate in implementing export and investment projects in the railway sector in Africa.

Under the terms of the MoU, the parties will undertake mutual consultations on export and investment projects abroad and by jointly developing project financing schemes in the sector.

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Afreximbank president Benedict Oramah signed the deal on behalf of the bank in Russia while Oleg Belozyorov, director general of Russian Railways, and Andrey Slepnev, director general of REC, signed for their respective organisations.

Oramah said Africa needed investments of $20-billion a year in the rail sector in order to bring it up to required level.

He said that Afreximbank’s role was to find partners that would help it to deliver the necessary investment and that the signing of the MoU would enable Russia to participate in the opportunities that existed in Africa.

Slepnev said the agreement was a demonstration of practical collaboration among the institutions and expressed confidence that it would bear fruit.

Russian Railways is reputed for developing and advancing technologies and techniques for effectively managing railway systems.

Johannesburg partners private firm to complete affordable housing project

The city of Johannesburg said the first phase of a development in Bramley, in which its planning department had an imput, was now complete. It said Mayor Herman Mashaba would on Monday join Africrest Properties in opening the Village and Spark School Development in the suburb.

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“The derelict and run down 30 000 square metre property in Bramley was developed with eager input from the city’s development planning department,” it said.

“The city saw a great opportunity to have input on the layout and design of the development to ensure a more responsible and responsive end product that strikes a balance between the pressure of the area-based transformation and existing communities.”

Phase 1 of the project includes a school and 200 affordable apartments.

Contract scam:Hospital Exec pleads guilty

A senior hospital executive in Montreal has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes amounting to CAN$10m for helping ensure the contract to build a major new hospital went to a consortium led by Canadian construction company SNC-Lavalin.

Yanaï Elbaz, 49, was the assistant director general of planing and real estate management for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), and sat on the committee charged with hiring the group that would build the CAN$1.3bn so-called super-hospital.

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He pleaded guilty to charges including breach of trust, conspiracy and recycling the proceeds of crime.

In all, it is alleged that CAN$22.5m in bribes were channeled from former executives at SNC-Lavalin, who won the CAN$1.3bn contract to build the new MUHC in 2010.

Elbaz was right-hand man to Arthur Porter, the former director of the MUHC, who died in prison in Panama in 2015, before he could be extradited to Canada where he was charged with orchestrating the scam, thought to be one of Canada’s biggest corruption cases.

According to the Gazette, Elbaz admitted to supplying SNC-Lavalin with inside information, and influencing the selection committee.

Porter and Elbaz set up a system of shell companies to stash the funds, the Gazette said.

After Elbaz made the pleas the judge adjourned for sentencing next week, with the defence and prosecution agreeing to recommend a 39-month prison sentence.

Former SNC-Lavalin chief executive Pierre Duhaime is still awaiting trial, which is set to begin in January, reports state broadcaster CBC.

Councils get mandate to strip dangerous cladding on high-rise buildings

The government has given councils in England the power to strip high-rise residential buildings of their aluminium-composite material (ACM) cladding, and to charge the cost to their private sector owners. ACM cladding is the kind that is thought to have led to the rapid spread of the fire in London’s Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017.

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The announcement was made by James Brokenshire, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government. He said that the government would be “writing to local authorities with buildings where the owner refuses to remediate unsafe ACM cladding, to offer them our full support to take enforcement action.

“This will include financial support where this is necessary for the local authority to carry out emergency remedial work. Where financial support is provided, local authorities will recover the costs from the building owner.”

There are 289 privately owned high-rise residential buildings in England with ACM cladding. Of these, Brokenshire said, only 19 have made “good progress” in changing the cladding. Twenty-one have begun work and a further 98 have announced plans.

The government has now lost patience with the remaining buildings “where owners are not fulfilling their responsibility to remediate unsafe ACM cladding”.

In October, the government banned the use of combustible materials in cladding fitted to some types of building higher than 18m.


How to build sustainable and resilient cities-Graham

Cities already account for approximately 70-80% of the world’s economic growth, and this will only increase as cities continue to grow. In the next 35 years, the population in cities is estimated to expand by an additional 2.5 billion people, almost double the population of China.

As a vital component for connectivity, public health, social welfare, and economic development, infrastructure in all its forms – basic, social, and economic – is critical for the anticipated urban growth.

“Globally, the annual investment required to cover the gap for resilient infrastructure is estimated at US $4.5-US $5.4 trillion,” said Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa. “And while no two cities are the same, more than than 50% of the global population – live in cities – and instrumental to achieving sustainable smart cities, is harnessing a new world of digital technology and communication to first enable a connected city.”

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Building on connectivity

Connectivity is a foundation layer to Smart Cities, both for Internet access and new digital services. A great starting point for cities is to deploy public Wi-Fi. Continues Graham; “Public Wi-Fi is a great way to create a more vibrant community and also connect citizens, businesses and visitors. But the benefits of Wi-Fi don’t stop there. Cities are leveraging smart Wi-Fi for many applications that go well beyond free public access to the Internet such as e-routing traffic, monitoring air pollution, conserving water, improving public safety and encouraging more direct participation, interaction and collaboration with local government offered services.”

In fact, according to an IDC Info Brief, Smart City aspects such as networked LED street lighting can provide a 25-50% reduction in operations and energy costs, connected trash bins can yield more than 50% reduction in garbage collection costs, 20–30% cost reduction can be obtained with smart parking and smart water systems can save 40% less clean water loss due to leaks and burst pipes. Such aspects are key to building sustainable cities and managing resources and services.

Sustainability lens

Alison Groves, Regional Director, WSP, Building Services, Africa, agrees, but cautions that when planning, designing and building infrastructure within the African context, we need to be conscious that we are operating in spaces that sit at two extreme ends of the development cycle.

“On one end, we have cities and urban centres that are faced with challenges of maintaining the capacity of existing infrastructure networks. These nodes still boast long-term infrastructure planning, which includes introducing smart technologies into their city scape that will make these cities more connected, innovative and nimble in the face of future disruption. At the other end of the cycle, however, we have vast areas that are underdeveloped, geographically dispersed, remote, and with limited accessibility to-and-from the nearest urban node.”

Groves believes that to be able to support continued and future growth – of populations, industries and economies – long-term planning must be approached with a vision to compensate for both ends of the development cycle and everything in between. “As we look to build cities and spaces for rural communities that are liveable, resilient to disruptions, and future proofed, sustainability is the way to get there.”

“Sustainability is a lens through which the planning, project delivery, and development processes focus to achieve the needs of the communities today without sacrificing capacity for future generations. A sustainability lens always includes balancing priorities across several areas, including the economy, community needs, and environmental quality, but also equity, health and well-being, energy, water and materials resources, and transportation and mobility needs,” adds Groves.

Resilience and livability

Urbanization, demographic shift, environmental changes and new technologies are reshaping the way city leaders are looking at sustainability as well as creating and delivering on public services to address these new dynamics, and the rise of Smart Cities is the response to these challenges. Smart cities will help address the economic and social inequality that this divide creates, by providing Internet access to all citizens.

“With robust networks in place, bridging this divide will help bring communities closer together and encourage citizens to play a more active role to local councils. Flawless connectivity will improve city infrastructure and make it possible for citizens to engage with their community, such as removing the roadblocks that complicate access to local services. We are already seeing significant foreign direct investment into such key ICT initiatives across the continent, but sustainability has to be at the heart of this if Africa is to create a resilient framework for better cities,” adds Graham.

“In Africa, resilience and liveability must be the desired outcomes sought through planning and design processes. Achieving these outcomes will require respecting and balancing local environmental, social, economic, and climate risk priorities through a robust planning and data-driven design process. And, ultimately the goal should be that we are building liveable spaces that are people-centric, integrated, connected, smart, nimble and resilient – where societies can thrive, well into the future,” concludes Groves.



Park Service campaigns on dangers of bush burning

Conservator-General of the Service National Park Service, Alhaji Ibrahim Goni, says the service will soon embark on campaign against bush burning during the dry season.

According to him, the campaign has become necessary following the onset of the harmattan season, stressing that some herdsmen deliberately set fire around wild parks in a bid to get fresh fodder for their animals.

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“They do this to enable them access Savannah land to influence early regeneration for their animals.

“We also have incidences where people embark on either individual hunting or communal hunting and set the bush on fire to drive out animals, so they can capture or kill them.

“And one of the bad effects is the killing of many animals sometimes in excruciating ways by burning them alive which is among the worst possible deaths.

“An animal that burns to death plausibly experiences a few times more pain than an animal dying in another way, and it is our responsibility to protect and preserve these animals.”

He said that each time you burn the bush or set vegetation on fire, even a standing rock would be weakened, adding “you are not only burning the grasses, you are destroying the soil nutrients.’’

“It also leads to air pollution and increases the carbon content in the atmosphere; and when this happens the ozone layer is destroyed, so you increase the intensity of the heat on the earth.’’

Goni listed some of the measures to guard against uncontrolled bush burning to include the clearing of boundaries around the homes and farmlands.

“At our parks, we ensure that immediately after the rainy season, we embark on boundary clearing, and have graders run across the boundary to create ridges of about six meters in wide.

“This we consider as a fire breaker so that when fire is set outside of our parks, the fire cannot penetrate our parks.’’

Goni, however, said that there were some advantages of controlled bush burning which included stimulating plant growth.

“After controlled bush burning, in the long run, the affected area will invite more sunlight, new grass and fresh vegetation as fodders for animals.”

He explained that the campaign was aimed at protecting wildlife and vegetation during the harmattan season.He cautioned members of the public against uncontrolled bush burning during the harmattan, especially in and around parks. He further called on Nigerians to have respect for the environment.


Morocco to construct US $800m undersea electricity cable

Morocco and Portugal are set to construct an undersea electricity cable connecting between the two countries at a cost of US $800m.

Portuguese Secretary of State for Energy Joao Galamba confirmed the reports and said that the two countries are conducting feasibility studies and upon completion there will be a call for tenders to build the electricity cable.

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“Construction of the 250 kilometers cable will rely on a US $800m investement. The two governments are planning to disburse a budget ranging from US $686m to US $800m and the flows will go in both directions depending on our needs” said Joao Galamba

The electricity project between Portugal and Morocco is the second of its kind between a European country and the North African country after the launch of a subsea electricity project between Morocco and Spain since 1997.

According to Spanish electricity company Red Electrica De Espana, which is linked to the Portuguese system with North Africa, through Morocco, electricity exchange with neighbouring countries provides greater security of supply, increased efficiency and competition between neighbouring systems.

Through the project, Rabat and Lisbon plan to enhance cooperation on renewable energy development. In May, Morocco’s Minister of Energy Aziz Rabbah said that Morocco is committed to reinforcing relations with Spain to benefit from electricity supply to meet Morocco’s demands.

Morocco produces 28,000 GWh of electricity and imports the rest from Spain. Galamba added that after the launch of the project, Portugal will export a little bit more than Morocco but after a few years it will be the opposite.


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