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close this bookJournal of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies - Volume 2, Number 4 (HABITAT, 1993, 66 p.)
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View the documentThe Aim of the Network and its Journal
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View the documentWorkshop of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies, Nairobi, Kenya, 6-8 September 1993
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December 1993

ISSN 1012-9812


United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)
Nairobi, 1.994

Skilled labour, durable building materials and appropriate technologies are indispensable for housing construction

The Aim of the Network and its Journal

The Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies has the objective of strengthening local technological capacity through facilitating information flow, regional cooperation and the transfer of appropriate technologies in low-cost and innovative building materials sector in African countries.

The Journal of the Network, currently published biannually, aims to provide a channel for information that is available and could be of use by professionals, technicians, researchers, and scientists as well as by policy- and decision-makers. It is a medium for information exchange and a facilitator for the acquisition of suitable technologies and know-how by needy countries.

Efforts are made to compile, process and publish articles and technical papers originated, mainly, in the African region, however, as deemed appropriate and subject to availability, research findings and technological information from countries outside the African region are also included to stimulate interregional cooperation as well.


The Journal welcomes information or articles on low-cost innovations in building-materials technology. Information in the form of technical and policy papers, illustrations, news items and announcements of events can be sent from individuals or institutions in the private or public sector, from within and outside the African region. All correspondence on the Journal should be addressed to the Chief, Building and Infrastructure Technology Section, Research and Development Division, UNCHS (Habitat), P.O. Box 30030, Nairobi Kenya.

The views expressed in this Journal do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations. Mention of firm names and commercial products do not imply the endorsement of UNCHS (Habitat). The reprinting of any of the material in this publication is welcome, provided that the source is mentioned and one copy sent to UNCHS (Habitat).

National Network Institutions

Housing and Architecture Department
Ministry of Town planning and Housing

Department of Civil Engineering
University of Addis Ababa

Building and Road Research Institute (BRRI)
Kumasi University

Housing and Building Research Institute (HABRI)
College of Architecture and Engineering
University of Nairobi

Lesotho Housing and Land
Development Cooperation
Maseru, Lesotho

Department of Civil Engineering
The Polytechnic
University of Malawi

Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering
University of Malta

School of Industrial Technology
University of Mauritius

Minister of Local Government and Housing

Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI)

Faculty of Engineering
Fourah Bay College
University of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone

Geological Survey Mines Department
Ministry of Lands and Mines

Building Research Unit (BRU)
United Republic of Tanzania

National Housing Authority
Lusaka, Zambia

Ministry of Public Construction and National Housing


The United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s calls on the international community to provide support and assistance in dealing with the critical economic situation in Africa. Africa's responsibility and commitment to specific actions under the new Agenda cover areas such as the promotion of regional and sub-regional economic cooperation and integration, the enhancement of capacity-building, investment promotion, and the promotion of sustainable development and environmental management, among others.

Even though the economic conditions in many African countries are deteriorating, mainly, because of the inadequacy of the external financial flows, economic recovery programmes are being undertaken or planned by most countries. Among the various avenues that an economic recovery programme can make a breakthrough are the increased activities of the construction sector which, not only will expand economic activities in every country and create jobs, but will also improve the living conditions of the majority of low-income people.

The constraints imposed by the current economic situation are, unfortunately, not limited to the countries of the African region, but are indeed a global phenomenon. No doubt, given this situation, the international community, having the mandate of providing support to the developing countries, and to Africa in particular, has to undertake programmes aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of the developing world. A good example of such support can be found in the field of construction and the building-materials sector, where, the basic problems of the low quality, inadequate supply and high cost of materials could be tackled by fostering regional cooperation and capacity-building at the national level.

In the framework of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies and in an effort to expand its cooperation with African countries, UNCHS (Habitat) organized a Workshop on the Network in September 1993 to develop a strategy for strengthening the activities of the Network and also to establish a basis for launching a programme for domestic capacity-building in the building materials sector in sub-Saharan African countries.

I am pleased to mention here that the Workshop successfully achieved its objectives and by devising a set of action-oriented recommendations the Workshop paved the way for future increased cooperation between UNCHS (Habitat) and countries of the African region. In fact the main feature of this issue of the Journal is the report of the Workshop which covers also its findings, and recommendations.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the distinguished representatives of Governments of African countries who attended the Workshop and made it a success. Our sincere thanks are also extended to a number of international agencies such as ECA, UNIDO, Shelter-Afrique, GTZ and other governmental and non-governmental organizations and individuals from the private and public sectors who were represented in the Workshop and made every effort to achieve the objectives of the Workshop.

It is hoped that the report given in this Journal will stimulate and encourage all focal points and national coordinators of the Network to undertake follow-up activities based on the recommendations of the Workshop and will strengthen their cooperation with UNCHS (Habitat) to achieve the overall goals of the Network.

Elizabeth Dowdeswell
United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)

Delapitated shelter needs to be replaced by adequate housing using durable building materials and appropriate construction techniques

Courtesy: Mark Edwards

Workshop of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies, Nairobi, Kenya, 6-8 September 1993


A. Background

Despite some modest gains in production capacities achieved during the 1970s and 1980s, the gap between construction needs and the indigenous capacity for the production of basic building materials remains wide in many countries of the African region. The share of sub-Saharan Africa in the world production of building materials has actually declined between 1975 and 1985. The dependence of sub-Saharan Africa on imports has consequently increased. Between 1975 and 1985, the value of building-materials imports by sub-Saharan Africa increased, in constant terms, by more than a third from $US1019 million to $US 1382 million. These imports were not restricted to finished products such as steel items, chemicals, electrical and plumbing fixtures, but included a wide range of basic building materials. In fact, between 1980 and 1985, imports of minimally-processed mineral building materials rose at an annual average of 33 per cent. In addition to importing finished products, countries in Africa continue to import factor inputs such as machinery, energy and even raw materials. This increasing dependence on imports has imposed additional strain on an already acute balance-of-payment situation and has fuelled inflation in the building-materials sector resulting in cost overruns in public projects and inhibiting private initiative in shelter production.

The Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies was established in 1985 by UNCHS (Habitat) and the Commonwealth Science Council with the objective of promoting regional cooperation through information exchange, and to assist the participating countries in the formulation of standards and specifications for local building materials and technologies. Currently, 12 countries participate in the Network: Cyprus, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The main thrust of the Network activities in the past years has been:

(a) To support countries in the region in their efforts to formulate standards and specifications for locally-produced building materials. A series of country workshops was organized for this purpose in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. Finally, a regional workshop was organized in Kenya in 1989 for the exchange of country experiences in this field. The Network also produced a technical publication entitled Cooperation in the African Region on Technologies and Standards for Local Building Materials. The publication documents some of the recent activities of the Network, particularly for the development of standards and specifications for fibre-concrete roofing, stabilized-soil blocks and lime in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.

(b) To stimulate the exchange of information among countries in the African region aimed at low-cost innovations in the production and use of local building materials, the Network has published a biannual Journal since 1989 disseminating a wide variety of information on the production and use of low-cost building materials, specially focusing on new and innovative technologies.

(c) To act as a databank responding to enquiries from individuals, institutions and small enterprises on new materials, products and equipment, technology sources, technology transfer facilities etc.

In reviewing the activities of the Network, the Medium-term Plan (1992-1997) of UNCHS (Habitat) has stressed the need for expanding its coverage and for a shift in focus from information exchange to increased collaboration in actual implementation of specific field activities. The urgency for consolidating the gains from the on-going collaboration and the need to seek new initiatives for strengthening the domestic capacity of African countries in the production of building materials has also been underscored by the United Nations New Agenda for the African Economic Recovery and Development in the 1990s (UN-NAAERD), through its emphasis on regional and sub-regional cooperation. In the light of the emerging needs of the countries in the region, a critical review of the activities of the Network should provide a useful framework for improving the effectiveness and widening the coverage of future collaboration. The Workshop provided an opportunity for such a review and for the formulation of an action-oriented programme that could be implemented through the Network.

B. Objectives

The Workshop had the following objectives:

(a) To develop a strategy for improving the effectiveness and coverage of the Network;

(b) To establish a framework for launching a programme for domestic capacity-building through strengthened Network activities in the building-materials sector.

C. Outputs

The Workshop produced the following outputs:

(a) A report of the Workshop incorporating its conclusions and recommendations;

(b) A plan of action for launching a programme for domestic capacity-building in the building-materials sector in the participating countries.



Recognizing the urgency and the need to improve the efficiency of shelter delivery in the developing countries, the participants appreciated the efforts made by UNCHS (Habitat) in organizing the Workshop. The discussions focused on: (a) modalities for strengthening on-going Network activities; and (b) the proposed programme of domestic capacity-building in the building-materials sector in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

The participants having taken into consideration the two main objectives of the Workshop and after having discussions and deliberations on the topics presented in the issue paper, formed two working groups in order to discuss separately issues related to the objectives of the Workshop and to present their findings to the plenary session for consideration and adoption. (A copy of the issue paper prepared by UNCHS (Habitat) and presented to the Workshop is given in annex I.) The themes selected for the two working groups were:

Group 1.

Modalities for strengthening the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies.

Group 2.

Domestic capacity-building in the building-material sector - a programme proposal for countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

The reports of the working groups presented to the final plenary session on 8 September 1993 are as follows.

A. Modalities for strengthening the Network

1. Preamble

Participants of the Workshop recognized the importance of the Network in strengthening local technological capacity for the production of building materials through the collection and dissemination of information. They also noted with appreciation the contributions and efforts of UNCHS (Habitat) in sustaining the activities of the Network and its Journal. The Journal, as the main instrument of the Network for information exchange, was considered an important contributor towards facilitating the process of technology transfer in local building materials. The contents of the Journals were found to be very useful and well prepared.

The following were recommendations adopted by the Workshop participants.

2. Objectives

In addition to the initial objectives of the Network, which had been given as promotion of standards and specifications for local building materials and information exchange, it was observed that for effective technology transfer, the Network should undertake vigorous marketing and promotion of all proved appropriate building materials and technologies. This would largely be achieved through field-oriented programmes where pilot demonstration projects would be given emphasis.

3. Membership

It was observed that so far the Network has quite a limited membership, mainly because there is a general lack of awareness of its existence.

To make the Network more effective, there is urgent need to broaden the membership to cover all African countries.

4. Institutional arrangements

In order to strengthen the Network's operations, an appropriate institutional arrangement must be well defined at national and international levels.

In this regard the Workshop raised the following points:

· There is need for the activities and operations of the Network to be well cultivated within member countries so that such agencies can identify themselves with the Network's activities rather than viewing it as a UNCHS (Habitat) matter;

· It was noted that the existing member agencies are, so far, quite inactive and have a very low collaborative spirit among themselves and even in relation to UNCHS (Habitat). Consequently the Network should embark on advertising its services so that more agencies can join it;

· There is also need for individual countries to initiate creation of focal points with their respective countries through which the Network's activities can be channelled.

(a) National level

Arising from the above observations it may be concluded that at the national level a coordination machinery should be evolved which should also appoint a focal point for the Network's activities as well as linking all key actors of the Network. The focal points should be linked to UNCHS (Habitat).

Duties of the focal points

The various identified focal points in individual countries would have duties which should include:

· Soliciting research findings and other information relevant to the Network;

· Periodically calling for exchange of experiences;

· Consulting on standards and specifications and collecting information and articles and disseminate such information, and initiating the promotion of further proved appropriate materials and technologies:

· Giving UNCHS (Habitat) regular feedback from all subsidiary actors for proper monitoring;

· Ensuring that the activities of the Network cover all levels. To this end, they should identify all key actors for the Network activities.

(b) International level

At the international level, UNCHS (Habitat) should coordinate activities of member countries and also the activities of the Network at the regional and international levels.

(c) Financing of the network

Members of the Network should be required to make a nominal financial contribution to assist in the running of the Network. This would make them more committed to the Network.

Arrangements should also be made to have members subscribe for the Journal.

5. Scope of activities

· The Network should be the link between developers and users of innovative building materials and technologies.

· The Network should promote forums for the exchange of experiences.

· The Network should establish databanks at national and international levels.

· The circulation of the Journal should be increased.

· The Network should continue to influence and facilitate the formulation of standards and specifications on innovative materials and technologies.

6. Capacity-building

· Create opportunities for members to have practical field experience on innovative technologies through established institutions. This would be through education study tours, on-the-job training, joint research activities, exchange of professionals, and joint ventures for commercial development.

· The focal points should provide periodical progress reports of their activities to its members and to UNCHS (Habitat).

· The focal points should be responsible for collecting and administrating funds contributed by members.

· UNCHS (Habitat) should be strengthened for an increased follow-up of activities of the Network.

· For launching more field oriented activities it is necessary to involve all key actors, i.e., research institutes, private entrepreneurs, NGOs, cooperative societies etc.

· Education and training programmes should be launched for marketing appropriate materials and technologies at local levels.

· Wherever possible, technical assistance should be solicited from experienced international agencies, e.g., UNIDO, UNDP, ECA. It is further recommended that such technical assistance should be disseminated to individual members.

· Mass-media programmes should be launched to disseminate information.

· National networks should establish contacts with other members and also international agencies including other networks in other parts of the world.

· Operational guidelines should be established to guide focal points' operations nationally and should indicate the desired linkage at international level. UNCHS (Habitat) should coordinate formulation of these guidelines to ensure good inter-linkage among members and with the international coordinating body.

· While the efforts of UNCHS (Habitat) for establishing the Capacity-building Programme are commended, it is recommended, further, that for its effective implementation, it should be coordinated by the same body in collaboration with other United Nations agencies.

7. Improvements to the Journal

· The structure of the Journal should be modified to include a brief run-down of activities of member countries.

· The Journals should have guiding themes and member countries should be requested to submit information in relation to the themes. The theme would be the main feature of any individual issue but should be supplemented with other relevant information.

· The layout of the Journal should be further improved to ensure articles are well laid out and are continuous.

· The secretariat responsible for publishing of the Journal should be strengthened.

· In order to attract a wide circulation, the Journal should be translated in all languages of the African region, i.e., French, English and Portuguese.

· Token financial remuneration should be given to contributors of articles.

· NGOs, and international organizations should be encouraged to use the Journal as a vehicle of dissemination of information.

8. Sustainability of the Network

The Workshop recommended that efforts should be made to ensure the sustainability of the Network's activities at both the national and international levels. The identification and involvement of key actors in member countries, the establishment of properly functioning focal points, and the requirement for financial contributions from members of the Network are considered to be positive steps in the right direction. In this respect, UNCHS (Habitat) should encourage member countries to establish a framework to that effect.

B. Domestic capacity-building in the building-materials sector - a programme proposal for countries of sub-Saharan Africa

1. Preamble

The working group studied and examined the draft proposal of the programme formulated by UNCHS (Habitat). The group noted that the proposed programme is of great importance for the countries of the African region and will play a critical role and contribute substantially in strengthening and improving the efficiency of shelter delivery programmes through a strong building-materials industry. The programme has been comprehensively structured to cover most critical areas of activity and also incorporates necessary flexibility to cater to the varying needs and priorities of different countries.

The programme document as reviewed by working group 2 and presented to the plenary session was unanimously adopted. A copy of the document is attached as annex II.

The following were recommendations adopted by the Workshop participants.

2. Recommendations

1. UNCHS (Habitat) should be the overall coordinator of the programme. Close cooperation will need to be tight among the relevant international organizations, particularly UNCHS (Habitat) and UNIDO, as well as ADB, Shelter-Afrique and the World Bank. This cooperation is necessary in view of the different major areas to be focused on, as spelled out in the programme document to be implemented.

2. Agencies in the United Nations system should join efforts to support developing countries in adopting construction practices in addition to promoting the building-materials industry. UNCHS (Habitat) and UNIDO should initiate a suitable programme with a view to sensitizing policy-makers and planners in developing countries to the need to reinforce domestic capacity in building-materials production as well as sustainable construction activities. In addition, the relationship between industry and housing should be optimized.

3. UNCHS (Habitat) and UNIDO should identify and study the relevant key areas relating to sustainability in the development process of the building-materials industry. The findings of those studies should be taken into account in the preparatory phase for the Regional Consultation on the Building Material Industry in Africa scheduled to be held during biennium 1994-1995.

Slum upgrading as an important means to improve living conditions

Courtesy: Manila, Sean Sprague

3. Observations

1. Implementation modalities are missing.

2. This programme focuses on the supply side and the working group recommends a similar programme be formulated which should focus on demand side.


A. Opening session

Message from the Under-Secretary-General, UNCHS

Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Under-Secretary-General, UNCHS (Habitat) in a message read on her behalf by Mr. Pietro Garau, Chief, Research and Development Division, welcomed the participants and gave a brief background which necessitated the convening of the Workshop.

She argued that many of the shortcomings of the local building-materials industry in the region, for example, its poor productivity and its inability to diversify into new product lines, could readily be traced to its poor technological capacity. Some countries had tried to overcome that barrier by importing large-scale technologies, often through bilateral assistance at the State level. In many cases, those had turned out to be mere imports of production capacity, and because of their "packaged" nature, they had added little to local technological capacity. Those attempts had also bypassed the small-scale enterprises which continued to rely heavily on traditional, and often rudimentary, technologies.

The developing world had to provide shelter to nearly four fifths of the global population although its current share in the world production of building materials remained less than 20 per cent. What was more disconcerting was that the per capita production of building materials had substantially declined in many African countries.

UNCHS (Habitat) viewed the continuing shortage and escalation of prices of building materials with great concern as they eroded the affordability of shelter by the vast majority of population. The Centre believed that the scarcity of building materials would intensify with the years, and would frustrate the objectives of the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 and all efforts of national governments, unless concrete and practical steps were taken at once to make a drastic improvement, the supply of affordable building materials to meet the housing needs.

Another challenge was to ensure the growth of the building-materials sector in a sustainable manner, without excessively depleting the natural-resource base or degrading the environment. Implementing the conflicting objectives of increasing the supply of building materials with those of conserving the natural-resource base would not be an easy task. It would need utmost ingenuity and resourcefulness from industry, governments and the international community.

Concerning the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies, the activities so far had mainly focused on promoting information exchange with a view to facilitating the transfer of technology. Notwithstanding the success of the Journal and its efforts in promoting standards and specifications for some key local building materials in a number of African countries, the Network had to make much greater strides to achieve sustained capacity in the region for the local production of essential building materials.

Opening address by the Minister of Public Works and Housing in Kenya

The Honourable Professor J.K. Ng'eno, EHG, MP, Minister of Public Works and Housing, of the Government of Kenya, stated in his inaugural address that the important contribution of the building-materials industry to capital formation had other important advantages. Through forward and backward linkages and multiplier effects, the industry together with construction generated sustainable incomes and employment.

The Minister emphasized that both low or traditional technology, which used rudimentary methods of production, and high technology, which favoured capital-intensive methods, both had their own disadvantages in the African context and circumstances of scarce capital, the shortage of foreign exchange, a surplus of cheap labour and the existence of plentiful but scattered raw materials deposits. That meant that all efforts had to be made to fill the gap between the very low and rudimentary technology that had been around for so long and the very high imported technology that might not be suitable for local conditions. It was in that context that UNCHS (Habitat) was doing a creditable job that was crucial to the socio-economic development of Africa through the promotion of the development of building-materials industry. The Minister then declared the Workshop officially open.

B. Presentation of UNCHS (Habitat) activities in the building-materials and construction sector

A representative of the Research and Development Division of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) briefly described the major areas of activities of the Centre in promoting the building-materials and construction sector in developing countries.

After briefly describing the mandate of the Centre, he mentioned that recognizing the crucial role that the building-materials and construction sector played in achieving human settlements development goals, UNCHS (Habitat), since its inception, had attached great importance to the promotion of that sector and had carried out many activities in the previous 16 years. Efforts were underway to expand and strengthen those activities in the years to come.

In implementing its programmes, UNCHS (Habitat) focused its efforts, in the building-materials and construction sector, in the following seven critical areas:

(a) Assisting member Governments in formulating and adopting implementable policies and strategies for a sustained growth of building materials sector;

(b) Creating increased awareness and knowledge among professionals and decision-makers on available, innovative and cost-effective technological options;

(c) Stimulating and arranging intercountry, regional and interregional cooperation for facilitating the transfer and absorption of appropriate technologies;

(d) Facilitating the information flow and exchange on different aspects of building-materials production and construction techniques;

(e) Direct technical assistance to developing countries through operational activities;

(f) Developing a domestic technological capacity for improved resource management, use of energy-efficient and clean technologies and environmentally sound production techniques to ensure sustainability of human settlements development, in general, and the building-materials sector in particular;

(g) Promoting or modifying building codes, regulations, standards and specifications to make them adaptable to local conditions.

He then described the establishment of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies and informed the Workshop of the objectives of the Network, its activities and achievements over the past several years.

He continued his presentation by describing the future focus of the Centre and said that as the Centre was in the early stages of the implementation of the 1992-1997 Medium-term Plan, the Centre intended to lay special emphasis on the following areas:

(a) Intensifying activities in the actual implementation of principles and policies that had been developed and tested during the earlier mid-term plans;

(b) Enhancing the capacity of small-scale and private-sector entrepreneurship;

(c) Strengthening the on-going community participation programmes, as well as women's involvement in shelter construction. Throughout those programmes, the Centre was aiming at orienting local governments practices and policies in the provision of community services which includes a massive component of construction activity;

(d) Increased involvement in the promotion of construction policies and programmes for sustainable human settlements development.

Based on the guidance given in the Agenda 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the Centre was planning to undertake a number of activities, in order to enable the building materials sector to meet the human settlements development needs, while decreasing its adverse effects on human health and on the biosphere as well as degradation of the environment. In that regard, the Centre will attach great importance and priority to activities such as:

(a) Development, transfer and diffusion of low-waste and clean technologies;

(b) Promotion of energy-efficient and low polluting technologies;

(c) Promoting use of agro and industrial residues in the building materials production and recycling of used materials;

(d) Promoting sustainable construction policies by formulating or reformulating standards and building regulations.

A second presentation was made by a representative of the Technical Cooperation Division, UNCHS (Habitat). He mentioned that the need of urban population for adequate shelter and services, and the task of meeting those needs and addressing those problems offer an awesome challenge for urban planners and decision-makers in the cities of the developing countries, and especially that of sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of residents were too poor to afford basic services. Governments were ill equipped to act effectively: the legislative and regulatory framework was often outdated and officials lacked the appropriate skills and experience.

While describing briefly the major areas of activities of the Division in general, and some specific technical assistance projects which were being implemented by the Division in African countries in particular, he gave an overview of some of the ongoing technical assistance projects in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Zambia and explained briefly the objectives and activities of each project.

The UNCHS (Habitat) experience regarding the promotion of local building materials and technologies could be summarized as follows:

(a) Building materials and technologies should be considered as components of any national shelter strategy;

(b) The promotion of local building materials not only needed technological upgrading, but also institutional, financial and fiscal measures at the national level;

(c) Craftspeople and small-scale contractors were key actors who made decisions on the use of materials and technologies. They had to be seen as both the target and as partners in any housing and building-materials policy.

C. Presentations made by UNIDO

Two presentations were made by representatives of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

One representative after having extended appreciation to UNCHS (Habitat) of the invitation to UNIDO to participate in the Workshop mentioned that the Workshop underscored the relevance of the industrial subsectors under discussion in the African countries and UNIDO was well aware of the problems besetting the building-materials and construction industries in the developing countries. Success, however, would be derived from the establishment of a coherent policy framework in support of the domestic efforts by public and private sector.

In the search for solutions to the issues, particular attention should be devoted to the small-scale-sector production of building materials. If properly assisted, the small-scale sector could significantly increase its contribution to housing and shelter programmes. In fact, there is a growing awareness in many countries in the developing world for the need to strengthen the capabilities of this sector.

Recognizing the importance of the building-materials industry in general and the key role to be played by small-scale producers, some essential elements of a strategy would be advisable to ensure growth of the industry and reduce the gap between demand and supply in developing countries. Some of those measures would involve a radical change of attitude by governments which might not be easy. The main thrust of a promotional programme should focus on policy, technical and international initiatives.

In the search for solutions to overcome the constraints faced by governments, entrepreneurs and professionals alike, UNIDO had included in its work programme a Regional Consultation on the Building Materials Industry in Africa for the 1994-1995 biennium. UNIDO was prepared to take the outcome of the Present Workshop into account in the preparatory work for that Consultation.

The second representative of UNIDO while giving an account on UNIDO's activity areas in the building-materials and construction sector mentioned that in performing its mandate of promoting and accelerating industrialization in developing countries, UNIDO was guided by the following basic principles:

(a) Developing countries were the directors of their own development process;

(b) Governments seeking UNIDO's cooperation were responsible for the identification, formulation and implementation of their own development programmes;

(c) It was UNIDO's responsibility to provide specific technical services required to support such programmes;

(d) Technical support services were designed to have sustainable impact on the development process.

UNIDO, therefore, strove to base its activities on a clear definition of the recipients' needs and tailored its cooperation services to support an institution's own development programme whether national, local, thematic or sub-sectoral. Activities ranged from micro to large-scale operations cover:

(a) Clay-based products from stabilized-soil blocks to fired-clay products to fine ceramics;

(b) Hydraulic binders from artisanal lime manufacture to multi-million tons-per-year cement factories;

(c) Wood-based industries from sawmills to artisanal manufacture of wooden components to large-scale particle-board products;

(d) Natural-stone products from crushed aggregate to in-situ cut tuff blocks to polished marble slabs:

(e) Cement-based products from fibre-concrete roofing tiles to prestressed-concrete elements;

(f) Products based on vegetable fibres and industrial and agricultural wastes;

(g) The relevant sub-sectors of the plastics, aluminium and steel industries.

In addition UNIDO provided a wide range of non-sectoral industrial services available within its secretariat including:

(a) Feasibility studies;
(b) Investment and joint-venture promotion;
(c) Technology acquisition and negotiation;
(d) Enterprise-to-enterprise cooperation;
(e) Human resource development;
(f) Technology monitoring and management;
(g) Industrial management and rehabilitation.

Most of those activities were available to developing countries free of charge.

D. Presentation made by ECA

A representative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) gave a brief summary of the Commissions' activities in the construction sector and mentioned that the work programme and priorities of ECA were directed towards strengthening the indigenous construction sector through the transfer of appropriate technology, the development of indigenous skills and towards establishing commercial small-scale production units of selected local building materials which would have a direct beneficial impact on housing rural population and the urban poor.

ECA had designed and implemented the programme for the development of building-materials industries in Africa with the assistance of UNDP and other interested agencies. The programme which had been implemented from 1978 to 1983 made it possible to provide considerable assistance to African countries in the areas such as policy and strategy, production of building materials, construction systems and services, research on building materials, information and training.

In 1987, UNDP had provided funds for ECA to undertake preparatory activities for the formulation of a comprehensive project aimed at implementing programmes on the development of local building materials. The findings of the preparatory assistance project had further emphasised the need for a regional approach to the development of the building-materials industry. Close cooperation among African countries and institutions, working on such matters as the sharing of research findings, the development of relevant tools and equipment and training, was recognized to be more cost-effective and expeditious.

On the basis of the preparatory assistance project, ECA had formulated a project proposal for the establishment of pilot production units for the fabrication of soil-stabilized blocks, burnt bricks and tiles, lime and fibre-concrete tiles. The initial draft proposal estimated UNDP inputs for 21 countries, which had agreed to implement a pilot project; however, resources fell far short of actual demand and it was possible to provide inputs to only four countries.

E. Presentation made by Shelter-Afrique

A representative of Shelter-Afrique explained that it was a housing-finance company and financed sites-and-services scheme, housing projects and the building-materials industry. The development of local building materials should go beyond the pilot demonstration stage into industrial production which could attract investments by finance institutions and entrepreneurs. Shelter Afrique, like other investors, could only invest in proved products and not in experimental materials. He strongly urged the joint collaboration of relevant agencies, such as UNCHS (Habitat), UNIDO and Shelter-Afrique among others, to undertake a major project to enable the effective launching of local building materials into wide use in the building sector.

F. Programme of the Workshop

The programme of the Workshop as adopted by the participants is given in annex III.

G. Documentation of the Workshop

The list of documents prepared for the workshop is given in annex IV.

H. Participation

The workshop was attended by 32 participants from 12 African countries, four international agencies, and representatives from a number of non-governmental organizations and the public and private sectors. Representatives of Botswana, Egypt and Zimbabwe apologized for not being able to attend the workshop. The list of participants is given in annex V.

Stabilized earth bricks in construction


New and innovative technologies and transfer mechanisms - presentation by UNCHS (Habitat)

The presentation was made by an international consultant who, among other things, mentioned that the building-materials industry conventionally used up natural resources which could not be renewed. The activities of the building industry also had an adverse influence on the environment. Concern for those adverse effects required the evolvement of a strategy to maximize the use of natural resources and to resort increasingly more to renewable resources and industrial and agricultural wastes. In that regard research had shown how to use industrial wastes from a number of sources.

The consultant then presented an overview of proved new and innovative technologies. Some of the significant ones considered were: ferro-cement products, hydrated lime, pozzolana cement, mini-cement production, innovative use of precast units, wood boards, rice-husk boards, cement-bonded wooden chips to form boards, blocks from mining wastes and tailings, precast stone blocks, funicular shells, precast planks for flooring, fibre-concrete roofing, under-rimmed piles for foundations in problem soils etc. He also urged the participants to make use of those innovations in an attempt to narrow the gap between demand and supply of conventional building materials.

The most thought-provoking aspect of the consultant's presentation was the need to adopt a radical approach to technology transfer. He advocated an integrated inter-sectoral approach to the transfer of technology to the grassroots. This was illustrated by experience, for example, in India where building centres had achieved tremendous success in transferring new technologies to both urban and rural communities. The building centres, which were semi-autonomous units, were responsible for technological transfer from research inititations and centres to the field, training of artisans and contractors, demonstration of prototypes, and the commercial production of new materials. The building centres were under an apex body from various sectors.

Summary of discussions

One participant mentioned that in view of the gap between the supply and demand of building materials in many African countries, governments should help in encouraging the production of building materials without waiting for specifications. In that regard, he questioned, how governments could help to bridge the gap. A response was given that results from research centres should be checked before introduction to the industry. Government could help in various ways. In one particular case, the government had to waive the import duty to reduce the cost of importing machinery required for large-scale production of new building materials. In another situation, specifications for local building materials were provided for incorporation into the contract documents of the Ministry of Works without waiting for official standards. The use of innovative building materials by government in schools and health centres also helped to publicize the materials.

Another participant was of the view that technological transfer depended mainly on the involvement of the target group. In some countries, such as India, building centres were successful because the target group was involved. He provided further illustration of that experience from the United Republic of Tanzania. Road contractors had been trained on a road project and were subsequently given sections of the road for maintenance. He asked about the incentives that were offered by the building centres, for example, in India. The consultant said that to his knowledge the building centres in India were run by local architects. They were semi-autonomous and had been given an initial subvention by government to start them off. Thereafter they were sustained by activities in the areas where they served.

Another participant observed that quite a number of proved new materials had been produced and recognized for quite a long time. However, their widespread adoption by the public had been very slow. He proposed that all relevant international agencies - UNCHS (Habitat), UNIDO, ECA, and Shelter-Afrique - should coordinate their efforts on one town or country and thereby achieve a breakthrough rather than dissipate their efforts piecemeal in ineffective projects scattered over many countries.


Country participants were each requested to prepare response papers addressing a number of issues and questions related to the building-materials situation in their respective countries.

For that purpose, UNCHS (Habitat) had prepared a set of questions, which had been sent to the participants along with the aide-memoire of the Workshop. A copy of the questionnaire is attached as annex VI. The presentations and/or edited versions of papers prepared for the Workshop by participants is given below.

A. Ethiopia

1. The main barriers which hinder the development of the building-materials production, especially in small-scale and informal sectors, are:

- Outdated and rudimentary production processes which do not satisfy the requirements of the users;

- Shortage of skilled workers and professionals in the field of engineering and research to improve the quality of products;

- Restrictions in free marketing and adverse policy which discourages foreign investors from participating in building-materials development programmes in the country and from introducing new technologies.

2. In order to upgrade the capabilities of the small-scale and informal sector, possible modifications in the current approaches to technology development and transfer mechanisms are:

- Modernization of the building-materials industries;

- Training producers and making them acquainted with innovative technologies.

3. To improve the productivity of the industry, governments and international community should focus efforts on:

- Setting up pilot units and constructing demonstration houses using different standards;

- Stimulating foreign investments through free-marketing strategies and by creating a favourable policy environment;

- Assisting small-scale producers by facilitating financial incentives and long-term credits.

B. Ghana

1.0 Constraints militating against the productivity, quality and distribution of building materials

The constraints to productivity, quality and cost reduction in the Ghanaian building-materials and components industry are:

1.1 Reliance on imported raw materials;

Regular supply of raw materials is dependent on the availability of foreign exchange, and the competitiveness of locally-produced materials using imported raw materials;

Cement, for example, is a material, production of which is dependent on imported raw materials.

1.2 Competition for local raw materials by a lucrative export market:

This factor imposes a constraint on productivity, due to limitations of supply arising out of preference for the export market; and it increases the cost of the local building materials produced with such raw materials. A particular case is the processed commercial species of timber, which is predominantly used in building construction in Ghana.

1.3 Non-availability or inadequacy of technical support:

Non-availability of standards results in statutory exclusion of innovative building materials by building codes which inhibit the potential production levels of such materials.

1.4. Lack of financial support:

Absence or inadequacy of financial support constrains investment levels in industry;

Constraints on credit may be due to insufficiency or lack of credit institutions with adequate lendable funds, or due to non-competitiveness of a particular industry vis-is other demands. The insufficiency of credit institutions with adequate lendable funds lies in either inadequate funding mobilization (equity and savings) by the institutions, or the imposition of government credit freezes.

1.5. National fiscal and monetary policies:

National fiscal and monetary policies may contribute to the constraints that affect productivity and cost of production;

The main monetary policies which affect the production industry are:

(a) Credit freezes in an inflationary situation;
(b) High interest rates;
(c) Foreign-exchange value and/or supply level fluctuations.

The fiscal policies which affect the production industry are:

(a) The level of corporate taxes;

(b) Differential import duties on imported raw materials vis-is imported finished materials and components;

(c) The level of excise duties on finished products.

The level of corporate taxes affects the profitability of the production venture to the entrepreneur. Import duties and excise duties affect the price of finished products.

1.6. Market prejudices for the use of particular building materials:

A typical example of such prejudices is the use of sandcrete blocks for walling as against in-situ earth and the avoidance of timber walling and flooring because of the fear of fire. Such prejudices inhibit the potential production levels of the materials in question.

2.0 Mitigation of the constraints

The constraints can be addressed in a number of ways, some of which are discussed in the following sub-section. Governments, international agencies, NGOs, and research and technology development institutions have crucial roles to play in addressing the constraints. The nature of such roles are indicated where appropriate.

2.1 Reliance on imported raw materials:

In situations where there exist potential local resources, the government, in partnership with international agencies, where appropriate, can promote the development of alternative local materials by facilitating:

(a) Foreign technical assistance;
(b) Loan or equity capital;
(c) Fiscal incentives to potential investors.

Where reliance on imported raw materials is unavoidable, government can mitigate the potential fluctuation of imports by:

(a) Avoiding unfavourable differential import duties on these raw materials vis-is similar imported finished products;

(b) Cushion such industries from unstable foreign exchange-value fluctuations with measures such as:

(i) Using a mechanism of differential excise duties reviews;

(ii) Facilitating credit through a mechanism of differential monetary policy reviews, to mitigate working-capital erosion resulting from upward fluctuating prices of foreign exchange.

2.2 Inappropriate scale of production, techniques and processes:

This barrier can be minimized if a prospective entrepreneur is provided with appropriate technical advise. A practical way to make such advise available is to have an efficient technical project-formulation and evaluation consultancy industry. NGOs, research and technology development and training institutions can play crucial role in this regard.

While these institutions are the appropriate actors in addressing this constraint, government and international agencies have a supporting role to play in fostering capacity-building for the direct actors.

2.3 Non-availability or inadequacy of technical support:

This constraint is a major cause of inappropriate and inefficient production techniques and processes. The essential aspects of technical support to address this constraint are:

(a) Ease in understanding and use of quality-control standards;

(b) Availability of and access to reasonably inexpensive and appropriate production equipment and their spare parts;

(c) Access to knowledge on efficient production techniques and processes.

For the small-scale and informal sector, access to standards goes a long way to improving production. Public technology development institutions have a crucial role to play in assuring the availability of simple standards and NGOs are effective instruments in making such standards accessible (i.e., in effecting popularization).

The availability of and access to production equipment and their spare parts is a major requirement for an appropriate production process.

Access to knowledge on appropriate and efficient production techniques can be fostered in a number of ways. In this regard there are potential roles for public technology-development institutions, international agencies such as UNCHS (Habitat), a local technical production management consultancy industry, and NGOs.

2.4 Non-availability or lack of access to financial support:

Financial support, to mitigate the constraint of insufficient equity capital where the problem is rooted in low accumulated-savings capacity of potential entrepreneurs, lies in the fostering of an investment environment which effectively pools equity capital from a number of potential entrepreneurs. Mechanisms in the formal sector include the promotion of partnerships and companies, and are enhanced and supported in the macro environment with the development of a stock market. Mechanisms in the informal sector include the promotion of producers cooperatives.

Since there is always a measure of insufficiency of equity capital, financial support in the form of credit is needed to supplement equity capital. Addressing the constraint on credit, due to lack of credit institutions, calls for the fostering of the development of such institutions.

2.5 The effect of national monetary and fiscal policies:

Government can reduce the effect of the monetary policies of credit freezes and lending interest rates by using judicious differential rates for priority industries so as to strike a desirable balance between industrial growth and an economic disequilibrium situation like inflation. Also, appropriate fiscal policies can be used to promote the development of priority industries. Some such fiscal incentives are corporate tax-reprieves and favourable differential import and excise duties.

2.6 Market prejudice against the use of specific building materials:

Many measures have been suggested to address this constraint. Among them are:

(a) The deliberate use of such materials in governmental and other public buildings and houses. This is considered to be an effective way to enhance the acceptability of the materials and promote the use of such materials by the general public;

(b) Promoting standards and specifications by building-design and construction professional and NGOs, and encouragement of their clients to accept the use of such materials.

3.0 Elements of a national strategy to foster the growth of the building-materials industry

The above discussion of constraints to productivity, quality, and cost reduction in the building-materials and components industry points to the following basic elements of a national strategy to foster the growth of the industry:

3.1 The sponsorship for identification of:

(a) All building materials and components which can be viably produced locally, economically and technically;

(b) All exploitable sources of local raw materials.

3.2 The promotion of the establishment of production outfits:

This includes production units for "finished" building materials, raw materials and production equipment and their spare parts.

Special consideration may be given to small-scale producers, women producers, area-specific location of production units with respect to the raw-material base and market, and environmentally-friendly processes.

The main objective of the strategies is to counter the constraints arising from dependency on imported materials and components. The consideration of area-specificity in the strategy is aimed to achieve the objective of minimization of production and distribution costs.

This strategy also aims at the national developmental goal and income generation.

3.3 Fostering an appropriate technical and financial support environment such as:

(a) Strengthening capacities of technical and financial support institutions;

(b) Promotion of effective technology transfer and diffusion;

(c) Fostering the development of standards and specification for all materials;

(d) The use of favourable legal, monetary and fiscal measure to steer the industry.

C. Kenya

1.0 Introduction

The building and construction industry is one of the most important sectors of the economy and contributes greatly to socio-economic development.

Furthermore, the building and construction industry is extensively linked to almost every aspect of the economy as both a major user of materials and supplier of products and services.

The industry can also enhance export promotion through the production of products for exports and improved transport. Through proper planning, the industry can also contribute to the reduction of the import dependency of the country through the use of appropriate technology.

2.0 The building-materials industry

The timely availability of building materials and components of the required quantity and quality is essential for the efficient implementation of building and construction projects. Shortages, particularly for a long period of time, can cause delay in the implementation of building and construction and the cost overruns. To avoid these negative effects and shortcomings the long-term supply of these materials in relation to demand, and the availability of finance and credit terms need to be studied and streamlined in advance.

The availability of building equipment is also an important factor particularly for small contractors. Some of the equipment, particularly for civil works, can be very expensive and the situation is made worse by shortage of credit. Leasing facilities and local production of these items of equipment and tools require special consideration.

In Kenya most of the permanent and expensive materials in use in the building and construction industry are almost exclusively locally produced or manufactured in large centralized industries or are imported. This category of materials covers Portland cement, steel for reinforcement, glass and asbestos sheets, as well as sanitary ware. The import element and transport cost add greatly to the construction cost.

While considerable research has been going for many years on some materials, such as blocks and tiles, the scope and progress has been limited due, mainly, to limited financing and personnel. The low level of technology in the production process has also been an inhibiting factor.

In addition to research on local building materials, there is also the issue of production processes. Despite the availability of a wide range of building materials dispersed all over the country, construction work, particularly in peri-urban and rural areas, does not indicate adequate development in new design and technology. The prevailing low technology is usually characterized by inefficient use of labour and materials due to the use of rudimentary methods of production.

The other extreme situation is the prevalence of industries mainly in urban areas using large-scale technologies as is the case in the production of cement, steel, aluminium and roofing tiles. These high technologies, although more efficient in the use and conversion of raw materials into finished products, require enormous capital investment and generate very little employment.

Kenya, like many other countries in Africa, is endowed with abundant natural resources that can meet the demand for basic building materials using available surplus labour, particularly in the rural areas. But there is need to employ technologies that could exploit these natural-resource endowments to increase the supply of building materials required by the construction industry.

The need for technology capacity-building in the production of building materials in Kenya can be approached in a number of ways: either by more aggressive research and stimulation of innovation in the indigenous traditional methods of production, or by procuring external but appropriate technologies, or by a combination of both. To the extent that improved technology will provide an opportunity to increase the quality of products at lower cost than the selling price, this in itself will attract entrepreneurs due to possible opportunities for higher profits.

There is, therefore, need to put in place a comprehensive strategy for enhancing the technological capacity of the production of the local building-materials industry. One of the important elements of this strategy should be to strengthen the institutional arrangement to promote research, standardization and coordination of application, to formulate programmes for technology development, to strengthen the channels of regional and international cooperation, to exchange information, and to formulate and promote a programme of monitoring and evaluation to follow up progress in the implementation of policies and programmes.

There is, therefore, good reason for the Ministry to carry out a comprehensive study of the demand for and supply of the building-materials industry, to increase the programme of research, standardization and application, and to promote a programme of technology building in the production of building materials in Kenya.

3.0 Research, documentation, dissemination and training for the building and construction industry

The importance of research and training, documentation and dissemination in the promotion of the building-materials and construction industry cannot be over-emphasized. The development of technology building in the industry will, to a large extent, be dependent on the amount of support given to research, training and application.

In the past, the Ministry has relied mainly on the Kenya Building Research Centre and the defunct National Construction Corporation to provide this service. However, many factors, both local and international, have affected the construction industry and hence the functioning of the two institutions. Since the functions provided by the Ministry through these two institutions are still important for the development of the construction industry, it is considered that this institutional framework be reviewed and improved.

Both the Kenya Building Centre and the National Construction Corporation were established in the late 1960s to assist in the development of the country's building-materials and construction industry. While set up with ambitious intentions and enthusiasm, by the late 1980s both institutions had lost their significance, the NCC having been disbanded completely. Their histories are outlined below.

The Kenya Building Research Centre

The Kenya Building Research Centre (KBRC) was founded in the late 1960s as the Kenya Building Centre. Its main objective was to act as a centre for the documentation and dissemination of information for the benefit of individuals and organizations engaged in the building and construction industry.

In the early 1970s, the Government carried out an exercise aimed at expanding and strengthening the Centre to enable it to support and improve the performance of the growing national building and construction industry. This expansion was carried out with financial, technical and management assistance from the Government of the Netherlands.

As a result of a number of activities, the KBRC was able to initiate a programme of research and standardization related to the development of the building and construction industry. However, the momentum set up under the direction of the Netherlands Government has dissipated and the Centre's activities have stagnated.

The National Construction Corporation

The National Construction Corporation (NCC) was set up to assist, develop and promote contractors engaged in the construction business, with the objective of helping local African contractors to participate more effectively and efficiently in the foreign-dominated construction industry. Established by the Government, with Norwegian aid, as a limited liability company in 1967, it was later incorporated through an Act of Parliament in September 1972.

Realizing the great importance and necessity of assisting African contractors to take part in the competitive but lucrative construction industry, the NCC implemented training and financing schemes. It was apparent that Africans involved in the construction industry were faced with a host of problems such as lack of experience in construction management, tendering estimates, planning and programming as well as insufficient credit. Construction being a risky and sensitive business, banks and financial institutions often refused credit and investment.

4.0 Coordination of research, training, documentation, dissemination and application

At present there are many institutions and agencies involved in research, standardization, training and financing of the construction industry. However, the lack of coordination and monitoring often results in duplication. Some of the local and national institutions currently involved in the industry are:

(a) Kenya Building Research Centre

(b) Housing Research and Development Unit

(c) Materials Branch, of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing

(d) Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute, of the Ministry of Science and Technology

(e) Industrial Promotion Centre

(f) Kenya Bureau of Standards

(g) University of Nairobi

(h) Kenya Polytechnic

(i) Housing-finance institutions

(j) Professional bodies and contractors

(k) Many NGOs and CBOs working in the shelter area.

D. Lesotho

Lesotho is encircled by South Africa and the economic life is greatly dependent on that country. Virtually all building materials are imported from South Africa. Sun-dried blocks (adobe) are used in rural areas. The building industry is dominated by women due to the migration of the men to South Africa. The women need training to improve their performance. An agency needs to be set up to promote the use of local building materials and in this regard, help is required from UNCHS (Habitat) and other relevant agencies.

E. Malawi

Q1. Production is based on traditional techniques and this is not conducive to higher productivity of building materials, and the quality of the products is invariably poor. Although there are standards to control the quality of building materials, these are unknown to building-materials producers and, consequently, there is no quality control. There is lack of finance to small-scale producers to fund the building-materials operations and this limits the productivity. There is also lack of formal training for small-scale producers of building materials and this acts as a barrier to improving their productivity and the quality of their products.

Many materials are produced off-site rather than on or near the construction sites and this leads to double handling and increased costs of production and distribution. The building-materials industry is fragmented and disorganized. There is virtually no interaction between the building-materials suppliers and the users, everything is taken for granted. The users only get disappointed that during the implementation of their building projects there are no materials available of the right quality in the right quantities.

The attitudes and perceptions of users of certain building materials act as a barrier to the production of such materials as cement-and-sand roof sheets because users favour imported iron sheets for covering roofs.

Shortages of firewood have lead to the production of poor-quality bricks.

Q2. Mechanization, for example use of hand-operated machines, can lead to increased production and better quality building-materials produced by small-scale manufacturers and the informal sector. It may also be necessary to train the operatives engaged in the small-scale manufacturing of building products.

Q3. The small-scale building-materials producers should be assisted with training in financial management and business management. They should also be assisted on how they can market their building products. They should be assisted with loans to buy some hand-operated equipment to help them in manufacturing building products.

Q4. The design of government projects where possible should incorporate use of building materials produced by small-scale building-materials manufacturers. When government is promoting use of these materials they should be seen to use them in its own projects.

Planned projects, where these materials are to be used should be made known to the small-scale producers well in advance to gear them for production. Government should arrange training of small-scale producers.

F. Namibia

Namibia, a very young country, gained its independence in March 1990. It is a very large country, covering a land area of 824,296 square kilometres with a population of 1.4 million.

Manifestations of apartheid are evident in the disparities created in every sphere of Namibian life. Economically, about 5 per cent of the population earn a per capita income of over $US16,000 per annum while 55 per cent were engaged in subsistence economic activities and earn a per capita income of less than $US85 per annum. Physically, about 60 per cent of the population lived on land that was formally designated as communal ("Homeland") areas. In the area of human settlements the disparities were even worse. Settlement planning and housing had been used as tools of apartheid to marginalize the majority. All the towns in Namibia are characterized by dual settlements of segregated development; a well-serviced modern part for the minority and poorly serviced "match-box" type houses and shacks for the majority. These conditions made it incumbent upon the newly-independent Government to redress the situation and meet the aspirations of the Namibian people. Therefore, housing was identified as one of the four main development priorities of the Government which would also include building materials.

Namibia had been governed by South Africa until independence. The South African Government had not done much in developing the natural resources of Namibia. Therefore, most building components were imported from South Africa.

Materials like corrugated-iron roof covering, timber for construction, plumbing accessories and piping, electrical material, glazing, paint materials and the like were all imported from South Africa, even the bulk of the ordinary Portland cement, comes from South Africa.

The only factories set up in Namibia were those for manufacturing bricks. Small building-material entrepreneurs were not actively encouraged due to the high standards required by the local authorities. They based their standards on the South Africa Bureau of Standards (SABS) requirements which are very high and have no room for affordable housing.

Although the country has faced all the above-mentioned problems and constraints "there is light at the end of the tunnel".

The National Housing Policy

In February 1990, just before independence, the Minister-designate for Local Government and Housing, visited the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) in Nairobi and held discussions on formulating a housing policy and an implementation strategy for independent Namibia. During that time the following were identified by the Minister as priority areas for which technical cooperation with UNCHS (Habitat) would be required.

(a) Housing-policy formulation;
(b) Credit systems for housing finance and a building-materials bank;
(c) Self-help housing schemes (home-ownership).

It was suggested by the Minister that emphasis should be given to the following:

(a) The tremendous need for improving shelter conditions, particularly in the former "tribal areas";

(b) The importance of involving all segments of the population in the planning, policy- making and implementation processes etc.

A National Housing Seminar was arranged and held in April 1990 with the purpose of assisting the Minister and her colleagues in the Ministry of Local Government and Housing in formulating a National Housing Policy.

In May 1990, an Advisory Board on Housing Policy was established. The Advisory Board was constituted to draw up a National Housing Policy taking into consideration the following:

(a) Community participation in housing development;
(b) Housing finance for low-income groups;
(c) Land surveying and land tiding;
(d) Urban development and physical planning;
(e) Infrastructural services etc.

The first meeting of the Advisory Board took place in June 1990.

In November/December 1990, the draft National Housing Policy was completed and was handed to the Minister for distribution to the Cabinet and others. The Cabinet approved the National Housing Policy in July 1991 and it became an official Government document.

Certain relevant extractions from the National Housing Policy of the Republic of Namibia are as follows:

Housing issues, problems and constraints

Standards, bye-laws and local materials

Local authority bye-laws, and health, building and other regulations are largely inappropriate to the needs of the popular sector's self-building activities. Serviced land is currently unaffordable to the average population.

With very few exceptions, current housing projects employ factory-processed building materials, of which about 80 per cent are imported from South Africa.

Building operations in the housing sector are not sufficiently labour-intensive and are not designed to encourage self-help or community participation in the house-building process.

National housing policy goals

Cost reduction

- Facilitate the development of local building materials in order to reduce dependency on imports and to reduce the cost of housing.

- Encourage the informal sector in the provision of housing by designating accessible land on which it could operate free of development restrictions other than those relating to basic health and third-party safety. Such areas must be supplied with adequate sewerage-disposal facilities and must have access to potable water.

Basic housing-policy principles

Building and construction standards will be revised so that they become performance-based rather than prescribed. Their flexibility will reflect not only geographical variations in climate, soils etc., but also the performance differences required between, for example, completed houses built from permanent materials, and self-help houses built of shorter-life materials.

Local materials

The Government will actively promote the development and use of local materials for the manufacture of building components.

In conjunction with the Ministry of Finance, the formal and informal private sector may be offered incentives such as concessions during the start-up of operations and preferential product use in order to encourage the local manufacturing of building materials. The Government may devise protective measures but will not permit the establishment of local monopolies. A study will be commissioned to investigate how these objectives can best be achieved.

Existing building bye-laws and regulations will be reviewed so as to allow for the extensive use of locally-produced materials.

One of the main barriers to improving the productivity and quality of outputs and to reducing production and distribution costs in the building-materials industry, especially in the small-scale and informal sectors, is the existing high-cost technologies and the low affordability of the people. The existing technologies are very high and the majority of the population in the country cannot afford the cost.

Moreover, some African countries, like Namibia, depend very much on technologies of other countries. For example, in Namibia, as mentioned earlier, most of the goods and services are from South Africa which are very expensive when transport and customs are added.

As mentioned earlier, affordability plays an important role in the production of goods. To this effect, some income-generating activities have been set up, but in some cases this has not been successful due to:

(a) Lack of training opportunities, seminars and mobilization of communities:

The community should be mobilized to take part in decision-making and also be trained and given skills that will enable them to engage themselves in income-generating activities. But the question remains as to who should mobilize and train the community;

(b) Lack of maintenance and sustainability of resources (finance and materials):

"Maintenance and sustainability" refers to the situations where project achievements at any time or stage are upheld with or without donor assistance by the people involved. In other words, "maintenance and sustainability" is formulation and continuation in respect to a project;

(c) Only small loans being given to small businesses;

(d) Lack of government support:

There are some indigenous efforts by local people to develop appropriate technologies affordable to them, but unfortunately these do not win the goodwill of the Government to implement them;

Such goodwill may be in the form of grants to new ideas to be experimented on in proper workshops, or to be tested to acceptable standards, or to put a patent on an invention by an indigenous inventor so that the idea is not copied by opportunists from powerful countries.

The possible changes in the current approaches to technological development, and the transfer and diffusion mechanisms for technological upgrading of the small-scale and informal sector sometimes depends on:

(a) The attitude of people towards traditional materials and methods;

Most people are slow to change from traditional materials to innovative ones, hence, are prone to technological backwardness.

(b) The exposure of people through audio-visual aids of what has been done in other places in order to accept new ideas. Films should be shown and workshops should be conducted at country level so that people can acquire information.

The current efforts of governments, international agencies and non-governmental organizations should be made more effective to improve the availability of cost-effective building materials in the following ways:

(a) To coordinate and distribute resources equally through local authorities;

(b) To distribute donor aid and grants to grassroot level activities;

(c) To promote networking at more regular intervals in which information is snared to effect a positive contribution towards appropriate materials production;

(d) To provide sufficient land and to minimize the cost of land/services for the urban poor;

(e) To allow or permit the urban poor to pay the cost of land in affordable instalments or to be permitted to benefit from any other approaches such as cross-subsidies;

(f) To pay attention to matters of research on and development of building materials based on local resources;

(g) To review building standards which are too high for the development of low-cost houses. The existing building (...) and do not give room for the (...)

(...) national strategy to foster the growth of the industry and to reduce the gap between demand and supply are:

(a) To create income-generating activities through cottage industries and its sustainability so that low-income groups can benefit from these activities as far as housing is concerned. Furthermore, the creation of cottage industries at the community level will minimize the influx of redundant people in urban areas;

(b) The private sector should be encouraged to employ more local people in order to create job opportunities for the people and training skills for job-making rather than job-seeking;

(c) It is also better for the country not to rely on other countries entirely. There is a need to transfer technology where the ideas from technologically-advanced countries should be appropriated to the local situations;

(d) To encourage industries to introduce new technologies which can suit the affordability level of our people;

(e) More important, people should be mobilized to use local resources and materials which are cheaper for them when it comes to affordability.

Namibia is a vast country with an abundance of natural resources. In the south, granite, laterite and marble are found in abundant quantities. In the central areas, there are clay and limestone. In the north, there are sand and clay. There is only one cement factory that caters to only one third of the national demand. For reasons mentioned earlier, the South African Government or the private sector was not interested in developing a building-materials manufacturing industry in Namibia. Therefore, Namibians are very interested in learning from other members of the Network about technologies to exploit Namibia's vast resources - not only to help low-income groups in Namibia, but for the whole Southern African region.

It is planned to carry out a survey and prepare an inventory of local materials that could be used in construction.

The final observations of the Namibian representative were as follows:

Building materials:

Problems and observations

(a) Not sufficient attention has been given to matters of research and development of building materials based on local resources in most countries;

(b) Conventional building materials are either inadequate or too expensive to be afforded by the poor, particularly so with regard to roofing materials and cement;

(c) Generally, hazardous materials find their way into the construction of low-cost housing with disastrous environmental consequences.


(a) Proper research and feasibility studies on local resources for building materials should be conducted;

(b) Government should seriously consider lowering or revolving taxes and duties on conventional building materials, especially roofing materials and cement;

(c) Appropriate concessions should be given to manufacturers of local building materials;

(d) Disposal of hazardous materials which might be used for construction must be watched and controlled and breaches of regulations concerning them punished.

Building standards:

Problems and observations

(a) In most countries the existing building regulations and standards are relatively high for the development of low-cost houses;

(b) The existing building regulations are prescriptive and they do not give room for the alternative.


(a) Building regulations should be reviewed so that they become performance-based rather than prescribed;

(b) Building regulations should be reviewed with a view to lowering them without sacrificing the minimum requirements of health, safety, fire protection etc.

G. Nigeria

1.0 Background

In recognition of the importance of housing in the economic development of Nigeria, successive Governments since independence in 1960 had formulated various policies aimed at improving the housing sector. Among those of interest are the establishment of some large-scale building-materials industries, direct provision of low-cost houses and the provision of basic infrastructure in the sites-and-services programme. The latest and boldest attempt to produce a comprehensive policy was the preparation and adoption of the National Housing Policy in 1991.

On the international scene, UNCHS (Habitat) and the Commonwealth Science Council (CSC) established a Network of African countries to exchange information on innovations in building technologies for low-cost housing in the African region. The Network has played an invaluable and active role in the formulation of specifications and standards for alternative building materials. The effect of these activities was to increase an awareness of the great potential of the innovations arising from building-materials research and development. Notwithstanding the progress made so far, the large-scale use of local building materials, even for low-cost housing, had not been realized.

To address this particular problem, UNCHS (Habitat) is proposing capacity-building in each individual country in the Network. ECA, addressing a similar problem, had proposed a programme to accelerate the widespread commercial production of local building materials in 1987/88. In the present study, UNCHS (Habitat) suggests a more fundamental approach - domestic capacity-building in the individual countries of the Network - and is to be highly commended for this. Capacity-building by comparison with previously tried strategies may have a long gestation period. However, in the long run, the result is likely to be enduring and self-sustaining.

Since the establishment of the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRI) more than a decade ago, building research has been organized to achieve definite national goals. From its very inception, the Institute recognized that one of its main contributions in the housing sector would be the development of cheap but effective alternative building materials from locally abundant raw materials such as clay and agricultural and industrial wastes. In the course of this research, the Institute developed a block-making machine for easy production of cement-stabilized blocks and fired-clay blocks. It has also developed fibre-concrete roofing sheets and tiles. The use of cement-stabilized blocks in a full-scale demonstration building in Festac Town in collaboration with the Federal Housing Authority in 1990 brought down the cost of a self-contained two-bedroom bungalow by 45 per cent. This trend was confirmed by the Borno State Housing Corporation which had used the same material to build 50 houses out of 100 units planned for a housing estate. The Niger State Housing Corporation, as late as February 1993, had reduced the cost of its two-bedroom bungalows by 45 per cent with the use of the same material.

In spite of these achievements, the use of these innovative local building materials has not attracted the expected popular support. What are the factors inhibiting the wider utilisation of new local building materials? This response addresses some of these factors in the subsequent sections of this paper.

2.0 Barriers inhibiting productivity and quality of local building materials

2.1 Raw materials

Large-scale production of any local building material is possible only if the raw materials are easily available in adequate quantities. This obvious fact is often not given due attention and its neglect leads to difficulties at the commercial production stage. Production centres should be sited near locations where large deposits of the raw materials have been identified. In the case of solid deposits, it may be necessary to undertake a special soil survey. This is because most normal geological surveys concentrate on deposits of soils and minerals of economic importance. The 1983 Bangkok Report on low-income housing identified this problem as one of the constraints against widespread production of local building materials. A raw-materials survey should give the location, the sizes of the deposits and classification of the contents of the deposits for easy use by various agents and industrialists.

2.2 Choice of available technology

In the building-materials industry, there exists a wide choice of technologies for the production of structural components of immediate impact on low-cost housing. For instance, there are many block-presses available for producing blocks for walling. There is a choice between the simple manually-operated machine, the semi-automated and the wholly mechanically and electrically automated type.

In the late 1970s when the brickmaking factories were established in Nigeria, wholly automated and sophisticated technologies were adopted. These were established during the economic boom period of the oil era. However, it has been difficult to sustain their use during the current depression period because of the high cost of the spare parts which have to be imported with scarce foreign currency. It has become now apparent that a simpler technology should have had more impact.

It is, therefore, essential in the choice of technology that a careful consideration is given to the peculiar technological environment, especially the level of technological knowledge and expertise and the level of local demand. Wherever possible, technologies that can wholly be fabricated locally are to be preferred to turn-key varieties that require imported back-up services for their future maintenance. Thus, in the case just mentioned above, the large-scale production of clay bricks will require the use of down-draught kilns and a movement away from clamp kilns. A down-draught kiln can easily be maintained without recourse to the assistance of foreign experts. Indeed, the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute has just completed a down-draught brick-making kiln to promote this approach.

2.3 Viability of the building-materials industry

Before engaging in the large-scale production of a building material, it is necessary to ascertain the economic viability of the commercial venture. Any venture that folds up because of financial losses has serious consequences in the industry for the particular building material. On the other hand, a success story has a chain-reaction effect, encouraging similar industries to be set up in other areas.

A proper feasibility study is necessary for a large facility before it can attract the ready support of conventional banks and financial houses. Conducting such a study can be costly. However, in the building industry, where the local demand can be easily recognized, what is required is a simple but accurate assessment of production costs and sales in a given period. Currently, the production of fibre-concrete roofing tiles at a small-scale or informal-sector level is known to be profitable and is steadily spreading. The rate of spreading would have been higher but for difficulties in raising capital.

2.4 Finance

Probably the greatest barrier to the commercial production of local building materials is the great difficulty in raising capital in Nigeria today. For the small-scale cottage industry, the entrepreneur finds it difficult to raise a loan from conventional banks and finance houses. Apart from the high interest rates, he finds it impossible to provide acceptable collaterals to support his loan. For him to break even, quality is often sacrificed leading to poor quality in the finished product.

2.5 Poor management and technical skills

One of the most serious and significant causes of poor financial performance of some local industries is the poor management of finance, human resources and materials. This is particularly noticeable in the informal sector of the building industry where the entrepreneurs are mostly not literate enough to understand simple commercial procedures.

Closely related to good overall management is the lack of the technical skill to run the industry. It is necessary to employ technically competent staff to undertake production activities. Usually at the inception of an industry, proper technical training is provided, the production process is smooth and the quality of the product is high. However, in the course of time as the operators move away to start their own personal industries or are attracted to rival companies due to higher remuneration, production operations suffer and the quality of the output falls. This local syndrome means that entrepreneurs should provide a continuous training scheme within or outside the industry to maintain the production level and the quality of the finished products.

2.6 Socio-political barriers

Although the Federal and State governments have made explicit statements supporting the wider use of locally-produced building materials, the Federal Government and most of the state governments have failed to take corresponding concrete actions to promote these materials. In this regard, it is recalled that the large-scale use of sandcrete block in the 1940s by the Public Works Department in government-owned buildings accelerated the use of these blocks by the people. It was government support for the sandcrete blocks that led eventually to the rapid eclipse of fired-clay bricks. This is because, given the socio-economic environment in a developing country, government patronage is regarded by the public as confirmation of the good quality of the material concerned. In the three states where government parastatals have used alternative local building materials in their housing estates, these materials are now receiving ready acceptance by private individuals with consequent encouragement to the establishment of commercial production units. The Federal Government and other state governments should use local alternative building materials in their building projects where these materials are most economical and appropriate.

3.0 Structure of building-material industry

As far as production is concerned, the existing structure of the building-materials industry is dominated by large-scale industries. These industries thrived during the 1970s and 1980s when the Government's industrialization policy was hinged mainly on import substitution. Except for the cement industry, all the industries relied on imported raw materials, machinery and technology and to a less extent, on human resources. Major building materials, including aluminium and asbestos roofing sheets, steel reinforcing rods, sanitary wares, floor tiles and paints, to name a few, were produced by these industries. In the case of cement, the main raw material of limestone was obtained locally and the gypsum was imported.

Since the production of building materials was dominated by large-scale industries, they exercised a certain amount of monopoly in the sector. By virtue of their size, they were limited in number and were forced by circumstances to serve a wide area. This contributed to distribution costs. Added to this was the instance of these industries in transacting deals only with medium-size dealers who purchased the building materials in large bulk to re-sell to retailers at an uncontrolled profit margin. The practice has resulted in the "middle-man" syndrome and consequent astronomical increases in retail prices of may building materials. There is, therefore, a need to encourage the establishment of many small-scale building industries all over the country wherever they are possible and viable so as to reduce distribution costs.

While the high value of the naira was maintained, the large building-manufacturing industries dominated the building industry, and small-scale industries were marginalized. However, with the oil glut of the 1980s, and consequent fall in foreign-exchange revenue, all large-scale industries in the country came under great strain. One of the consequences of this situation, which was disastrous for the building sector, was the reduction of capacity utilization which dropped to 40 per cent (Aribisal 1993). This was the beginning of the steady increase in the prices of conventional building materials which finally reached disproportionate levels at the introduction of the current economic structural adjustment programme.

The main aim of the structural adjustment programme was the restructuring and diversification of the productive base of the economy. One of the strategies to achieve this goal is to encourage the greater use of local raw materials and less reliance on imported ones. Without going into a prolonged and detailed review of the industrialization process in Nigeria, it may be stated here that most of the objectives of the structural adjustment programme have not been realized probably because of ineffective implementation.

Currently, the prices of conventional building materials are out of the reach of the general population. As a consequence, for the first time, some state housing corporations have resorted to the use of proved alternative building materials such as cement-stabilized blocks and fibre-concrete roofing tiles being promoted by NBRI and some research centres in Nigerian universities. These corporations produce the building materials themselves. Direct production by the corporations contributes significantly to the reduction of building costs.

4.0 Technology development and upgrading of small-scale industries

Technology is concerned with producing industrial goods. Therefore the type and level of technology developed in a given socio-economic, political and cultural environment will largely determine its appropriation and widespread use.

It is difficult to be dogmatic on providing guidelines on the development of technologies that can attract ready acceptance. Some research findings have in fact surprised their originators because of the revolutionary effect of these findings in their relevant industrial sectors. However, in the African context, one can safely suggest that research and development organizations should develop all possible grades of technology for a particular product. (The term grade as used here refers to degree of complexity and sophistication.)

In terms of large-scale production of building materials, a range of available technologies makes it easier to choose a technology most suitable to the economic and technological environment. In assessing the environment, due consideration is given to facility in obtaining capital and engineering infrastructure for the maintenance of the machinery used for production.

In the informal sector, technology that is one or two steps above traditional technology is easily assimilated and indigenized. On the other hand, a press-button technology for the same process may at first be most welcome but cannot be sustained because of inability to maintain the process during subsequent breakdowns.

The most effective method of transferring a technology from research organizations to the small-scale industrialist is through conducting a practical workshop. In such a workshop, every participant is given an opportunity personally to make the product concerned. In addition, simple information leaflets giving, step-by-step, the method of production should be provided. This ensures that, at later date, the entrepreneur does not deviate from the correct procedure when engaged in his own production.

Other methods which can be used by the extension service section is the use of the media, especially where television is available. In this regard, video tapes can be most effective because they can be reproduced and widely distributed throughout the country.

Perhaps the most effective methods of transferring technology, especially in small communities, is the construction of a building in which members of the community participated directly. In one single act, the technology is taught and any resistance to the new building material is easily broken down by personal involvement. Such an approach may not always be within the financial capability of research institutes and development centres but is possible in collaboration with outside international organizations.

5.0 The role of government, international agencies and NGO's in assisting low-income groups

For the low-income groups to benefit from the new, low-cost alternative building materials, they need to have access to adequate finance to produce these materials themselves or buy them at affordable prices from commercial producers. The direct production of building materials, say in the rural areas, requires the use of simple technologies. The purchase of the building materials from commercial firms, say in urban and semi-urban areas, is simplified with the establishment of small-scale industries. To realize any of these approaches and to achieve other objectives indicated so far in this report, government, international agencies and non-governmental organizations have vital roles to play. Some of the contributions they can make are summarized below.

5.1 Funds

Entrepreneurs interested in the establishment of small-scale building-materials industries should have access to soft loans and capital at a low interest rate. Since conventional banks charge high interest rates, national governments should establish avenues to provide for raising soft loans. In this regard, international agencies such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the African Development Bank (ADB) should collaborate with national governments. Whatever schemes are developed should be assiduously implemented.

5.2 Incentives - taxation and effective protection

To promote industrial production, national governments should provide financial incentives by means of taxation, effective protection and other relevant fiscal measures. Under taxation, pioneer status may be granted to small-scale industries whereby they are granted a tax holiday for five to seven years. Carefully developed effective protection should be provided to local building-materials industries in selected areas such as walling and roofing.

5.3 Management and technical skills

Most small-scale industries have failed mainly because of ineffective management and poor technical skills. In view of the low capital investment of small-scale industries, government should be responsible for running courses in management and the acquisition of technical skills. These courses should be devised to meet the means of the industries and located within reach of the production centres.

International organizations, tertiary institutions and NGOs have the capability of helping with management courses and the imparting of technical skills, and national governments can collaborate with them in this regard.

5.4 Development of industrial estates

State and local governments should establish small-sized industrial estate in rural areas to encourage small-scale industries. The lack of basic infrastructures such as power, water and telephone are known to have inhibited the development of such industries in the rural areas.

5.5 Dissemination of relevant information

National governments must take a leading role in providing relevant information on investment opportunities in the building-materials industry. There is a serious information gap on the sources, prices and quantities of raw materials for particular industries. It is this information which will mainly decide the possibility of a particular industry.

The next important item of information needed by the entrepreneur is on the technology available. Entrepreneurs should have adequate information on the type of technology, cost of acquisition and the operating costs. In the use of indigenous technology, they need assurance on the effectiveness and durability of the technology.

In all these respects, national governments can play a leading role by creating a national organization to be responsible for collecting and collating such information with regional centres for effective and wide dissemination.

5.6 Technology

The choice of technology in the production of building materials is the most critical factor in ensuring profitability and subsequent sustenance of the industry after its establishment. At the early stages, a simple technology is advisable and thereafter the technology can be updated or modified in the light of increased demand and available technical staff to sustain the expansion. In this regard, indigenous entrepreneurs should obtain all available data from appropriate information centres and seek technical advice from professional experts before taking a final decision on the choice of technology.

5.7 Adequate financial support for research and development

National governments should provide adequate financial support for research and development in the continuous quest for cheaper and durable alternative building materials from abundant local raw materials. A sustained implementation of such a policy will lead to the development of indigenous technology and provide a firm basis for sustainable development in the building industry.

5.8 International organizations

International organizations, such as UNCHS (Habitat), UNDP and UNIDO, are important sources of knowledge based on their experience world-wide. They are, therefore, in a position to assist in the development of the building-materials industry in Africa, especially in the following areas:

(a) Exchange of information;
(b) Available technology;
(c) Domestic capability-building in specific areas;
(d) Collection and management of data;
(e) Inter-regional cooperation.

5.9 Sustained implementation of Government policies and legislations

For more than a decade, various policies have been adopted at both the international and national levels. Most of these have not been adopted and implemented at the national level. In those cases where national legislation has been passed, it has not been implemented in a sustained manner. Most African national governments lack the political will, motivation or managerial skill to implement their many laudable policies and related legislation.

For instance, some countries have passed legislation providing financial incentives to small-scale industries. In most cases, they have not only implemented them poorly but have eventually, by default, abandoned them altogether and thus the expected advantages have not been realized. National government should be urged to device effective methods of implementing legislation meant to advance small-scale industries in general and the building-materials industry in particular.

6.0 A national strategy for the growth of the building-materials industry

Elements for a national strategy for the growth of the building industry can be derived from various issues addressed in the preceding paragraphs. However, in considering this matter, the main goal should always be kept in view, namely, the provision of affordable housing to the people. A national strategy for the development of the building-materials industry should, therefore, be part of an overall national housing policy.

Basically the local building-materials industry will only grow in response to a nationwide and positive demand for affordable houses which can be realized within a favourable economic and technological environment. One of the key factors in ensuring such a climate is easy access to soft loans for affordable houses. Assuming that such a climate exists, the strategy for the growth of the building-materials industry should, among other considerations, cover the following:

1. Identification and location of suitable raw materials in adequate quantities;

2. Existence of suitable technologies that can, where possible, be easily fabricated and maintained locally;

3. Access to capital to establish building-materials industries;

4. Financial incentives to encourage the establishment of building-materials industries;

5. Effective implementation of a deliberate policy to encourage the establishment of small-scale industries in preference to large ones;

6. Siting of industries close to deposits of raw materials;

7. Development of management and technical skills;

8. Effective dissemination of the advantages of proved local building-materials, including full-scale building demonstration;

9. Formulation of standards for newly developed building materials to facilitate official acceptability;

10. Adequate financial support to sustain continuous research on the development of new building materials from local raw materials.


ESCAP/UNIDO (1987): Symposium Report on Building Materials for Low-income Housing, Bangkok, January 1987.

Aribisala, O.A (1993): Raw Materials Revolution and Impact on Industrialisation in Nigeria (Lagos, Mednet Ltd.).

H. United Republic of Tanzania

Experience has clearly shown that the cost of shelter construction is largely determined by the cost of building materials. In urban areas the most reliably available materials are galvanized-steel roof sheets, concrete blocks and high-grade timber, all of which are expensive and unaffordable to the majority of the urban population. There are, however, many possibilities for developing durable and affordable building components using locally-available raw materials. Technologies for the production of stabilized-soil blocks and micro-concrete roofing sheets have been well-researched but have yet to be disseminated on any scale. The proved low-cost technologies for the production of fire-clay bricks and roof tiles have yet to be put into operation on a scale worth mentioning. Further, the potential for using local stone and lime resources, and secondary timber species for construction purposes has yet to be explored. The Building Research Unit of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has undertaken considerable research into materials for more than two decades and the current need is to have the results of this research disseminated and made easily accessible to potential users.

In situations where the system is in place to provide for the production of basic building materials, there are barriers or constraints which can be classified as follows:

Barriers to productivity and quality include the following:

(a) Lack of appropriate tools:

(b) Lack of technical guidelines;

(c) Use of inappropriate methods and obsolete technology;

(d) Inadequate dissemination of appropriate methods and technical guidelines in areas where they exist;

(e) Poor regulatory arrangements for quality control;

(f) Inadequate and inappropriate training arrangements for the informal sector.

Barriers to reducing production and distribution costs include the following:

(a) High costs of materials produced by the formal sector most of which are still publicly owned;

(b) Low productivity due to installation of inappropriate machinery and lack of spare parts to cater for frequent breakdowns in the plants;

(c) High transport costs coupled with a poor transport infrastructure network;

(d) Location of industries producing basic building materials in relation to important consumer centres. For example, the country has three big cement plants intended to produce cement for export and local consumption;

(e) High rate of inflation. The formal sector is further constrained particularly by;

(f) High costs of energy;

(g) Inadequate support services, particularly spare parts.

In a number of situations, domestic policy environment contributes to barriers mentioned above. Examples of domestic policy considerations include:

(a) Lack of or outdated building regulations and standards: A quote from a SIDA evaluation report on the development policy and Nordic support to the construction sector in the United Republic of Tanzania -1975 -1990 sheds light on this aspect:

"Government agencies have set unrealistically high standards for building materials and construction designs. Many of these have been imported from developed countries or formulated by people educated in the West. Such regulations have often not been appropriate to local conditions. They have limited the number of homes that could be built, raised the cost beyond the reach of the poor, and prevented use of local resources and labour. Standards for building materials have sometimes made it necessary that these materials be produced by large-scale facilities, with the attendant requirements of imported machinery, and skilled workers. Codes are intended to ensure an adequate standard. For many projects in Tanzania the problem is rather too high a standard in relation to the function."

(b) Lack of effective control mechanism;

(c) Inefficient operations of the formal sector mainly due to operations that until recently have been linked with the public sector;

(d) High cost of energy which heavily relies on non-renewable resources especially wood, and also dependence on imported energy sources, in particular oil.

Donor support has in certain cases provided constraints in the development of the industry/sector. For example, quoting from the SIDA evaluation reports, it is stated:

"Donor policy and the relations between donor agencies and Tanzania officials, may contribute to the tendency to choose costly unsuitable designs, high standards and expensive materials. Normally this combination of interest leads to import-intensive undertakings. Donors tend to select - or push - technology from their countries. To the extent that Tanzania authorities expressed any preference, they were almost consistently in favour of high technology, without any consideration of how to adapt and assimilate it into the Tanzania economy."

The above mentioned barriers and constraints are known to the Government and efforts are being made to remove them. While working on the National Strategy for Sustainable Human Settlements Development in the United Republic of Tanzania, which is in the final stages of preparation, the Government has decided to address the constraints through the following:

· Conducting a study of the building-materials industry with a market orientation to determine a strategy for developing building materials. The emphasis will be on the economic, financial and marketing aspects and on prospects for employment creation through the private sector;

· Introducing appropriate and affordable standards for housing construction which permit the use of low-cost technologies and local materials. Simple guidelines will be produced for particular groups in their specific areas of operation;

· Undertaking an exercise to identify and classify the country's raw materials resources, their locations and suitability for exploitation for construction purposes;

· Adopting specific fiscal measures which favour the use of locally-manufactured building materials. Such measures would include removing tax exemptions and other preferential measures which result in components with a high import content having advantages over locally-produced materials. This need not imply over-protection but can provide local building-materials industries with a climate which allows them to develop and expand. If it is necessary to import technology, such technology should be adapted rather than adopted;

· Introducing measures to shift demand towards local building materials. These would include the reduction of the price of locally-produced materials. The Government will promote the use of local materials by using only locally-produced building components in official projects such as public and community buildings. In addition, building bye-laws and regulations will be modified so that they are based on technical performance specifications which can be met by locally-produced materials;

· Introducing measures to increase the supply of local building materials. These will include incentives to encourage the development of large numbers of small-scale, local enterprises conveniently located for customers who wish to purchase small amounts of locally-produced building materials frequently;

· Undertaking market-oriented analysis of the building-materials industry to make recommendations on appropriate technologies, market acceptability and the technical assistance and training requirements of local enterprises. As part of the analysis, demonstration programmes of eventual dissemination and replication will be undertaken. Action will be initiated particularly in low-cost technologies for the production of fired-clay bricks and tiles, and the use of secondary timber species in the manufacture of building components. As far as possible training will be conducted on-site;

· Assisting in the establishment of support industries which will produce necessary equipment, tools and spare parts;

· Influencing international agencies to understand the local situation and focus support towards small-scale building-materials producers, in particular those undertaken by private and cooperative initiatives including NGOs. Further, they should support on-site research and training geared towards improving existing production of local materials, quantitatively and qualitatively. On the question of the transfer of technology, they should support initial ventures in partnerships between external and local entrepreneurs.

I. Tunisia

During the Consultation on the Construction Industry held in Tunis, May 1993, with contributions from UNCHS (Habitat) and UNIDO a set of recommendations was formulated with the view to developing the construction industry in the developing countries in order to solve housing problems, particularly for the low-income sector of the population.

The Consultation was very important and had allowed a fruitful exchange of ideas and experiences in achieving self-reliance in the area of building-materials production for the construction of decent housing and shelter.

Tunisia is one of the few developing countries which has encouraged the setting-up of production units for construction materials. Since independence in 1956, 300 units (for bricks, tiles, sanitary ware etc.), six cement factories with a capacity of 6 million tons/year, more than four gypsum production units and 2000 quarries for aggregates had been set up.

Several bye-laws and other measures had been formulated since independence with the objectives of encouraging private initiative, cost liberalization, and reduction of customs duties on exports, in addition to import facilities regarding spare parts.

Financing facilities through appropriately created institutions were also provided. Tunisia exports cement, gypsum, ceramic and cement tiles and sanitary products. Efforts have also been made by Tunisia, during the last 10 years, to conform to international standards. In this respect a national institute of standardization and industrial property has been created.

Moreover, continuous efforts are being made to promote the local building-materials industry in order to respond to the high demand for housing and shelter in Tunisia. Referring to the questionnaire attached to the aide-memoire of the Workshop, the following proposals were made:

I. The small-scale informal sector has numerous problems stemming from the lack of materials, means and human resources:

(a) Specific constraints derived from the lack of materials are: (i) poorly developed production techniques based on artisanal construction; (ii) lack of preventive maintenance (only emergency repairs can be provided); and (iii) equipment is left in poor working condition thus not allowing the sector to reach nominal capacity, to maintain quality and to be competitive.

(b) The lack of technical staff brings about another set of constraints such as: (i) no production control that could ensure quality products; and (ii) no control of energy consumption which could reduce production cost.

(c) The small-scale sector has a small market range as a result of which it is marginalized and does not have the same access to credit as do enterprises in the formal sector.

II. In order to improve the capacity of the small-scale informal sector it is necessary to undertake the following: (a) to rehabilitate the existing obsolete equipment; (b) to reduce waste in the production process; (c) to ensure quality in the production process; and (d) to use local raw materials in order to reduce inputs of imported materials. The local materials should be compatible with the production process.

III. The measures that should be taken by governments, international agencies and non-governmental organizations with a view to improving cost-effective building-materials production, must focus on both technical and financial assistance: (a) technical assistance is essential and could help reduce waste, improve quality and control energy consumption; (b) financial assistance is necessary to help implement, among other things, new cost-effective production techniques.

IV. The national strategy that should be developed for reducing the current demand-supply gap should be based on the following:

- Use of local raw materials;

- Reduction of transport costs:

- Encouraging new projects having a positive impact on product costs;

- Promoting competitiveness through quality assurance;

- Apply price control through a National Social Level Association and try to keep a balance between quality and price.

J. Uganda

The building industry can be broadly classified according to the major sources of raw materials as: those based on imported materials and technology; and those which rely entirely on locally-available materials. The former category caters for modern constructions mainly found in urban areas and constitutes up to 60 per cent of the imported materials, while the majority of the structures in peri-urban and rural areas are, basically, of local materials.

Meanwhile, virtually all the industries in both classes operate at less than 50 per cent of their installed capacities. Consequently, material and construction costs are beyond the reach of the low- and middle-income communities who form the majority of the population.

The main barriers to improving the productivity and quality of outputs and reducing production and distribution costs in the industry, especially in the small-scale and informal sectors, have been identified as follows:

(a) Policy

There have been no deliberate policy guidelines which explicitly address the critical issues pertaining to the malfunctioning of the informal sector. Much of the resources have always been directed towards the formal sector leaving the other sector apparently absolutely run by the private sector.

(b) Institutional set-up, capitalization and management

Coincidentally, most of the small-scale and informal sector enterprises are family -based or are founded based on intimation, a situation which propels their operations to work in an isolated manner from other organizations.

Because of the limited share-holding, most of these enterprises are rendered unworthy to access loans from financial institutions to expand their activities. On the other hand, management competence is rarely considered because of the family nature of the units.

(c) Technology

The sector, and in particular the informal sector, has continued to rely on traditional technologies in part due to the limited exposure to new technologies as well as the extremely low level of innovation.

(d) Dissemination of information

Despite the large amount of research work done and the vast information on suitable technologies developed worldwide, not much information on these has reached the target beneficiaries. There still exists a lot of gaps in the network for dissemination of this information.

The current structure of the industry, which still continues to depend on foreign inputs like raw materials and spare parts in addition to rehabilitation of the already obsolete factories, has persistently suffocated the activities of the informal sector which has continued to operate in the dark.

The following suggestions may be considered for possible changes in current approaches to technology development, transfer and diffusion mechanisms for technological upgrading of the small-scale and informal sectors:

(a) The initiated technology should be based on the traditional technology as much as possible. It should, thus, ensure maximum exploitation of local potentials;

(b) Compatibility should be emphasised at all stages and in all aspects, especially, machinery and spare parts, manufacturing processes etc.;

(c) Where there is need to change from one form to another, there should be a smooth gradual transition through a well-tailored process which encompasses regular training and monitoring of the activities;

(d) A systematic network has to be developed to enhance the dissemination of information on new or appropriate innovations.

The current efforts of the Government, international agencies and non-governmental organizations to improve the availability of cost-effective building materials to house builders in low-income groups could be made more effective by streamlining the roles of the key players as follows:

(a) Government

Government should desist from direct/actual production and utilization of building materials and instead play an enabling role through which the main actors in the building-materials market are enhanced, among other ways, by training, and a guarantee to concessional loans from financial institutions (particularly for procurement of basic inputs such as tools, equipment and for promotion of local innovative technologies). This should be tied to appropriate policy guidelines.

(b) Non-governmental organizations

Several projects which have been and are currently being handled by NGOs have always produced exemplary and commendable results. Key among their roles has always been the successful mobilization and involvement of the community; and provision of the basic inputs which are not locally available. In each case much emphasis has always been put on labour-intensive processes which have the dual advantage of tapping the idle workforce and employment creation.

In collaboration with the Government, NGOs should assist in the identification of viable projects.

(c) International agencies

In addition to financial and technical assistance towards preparation and development of a comprehensive national programme, the international agencies should often prop up project implementation to ensure sustainability after the formal project cycle.

In recognition of the crucial role that the building-materials industry plays in national development in general, and in shelter delivery in particular, the essential elements of a national strategy to foster the growth of the industry and to reduce the current demand-supply gap have been identified as follows: (Source: National Shelter Strategy for Uganda 1992).

(a) Enhancement of small-scale producers to import the relevant inputs especially equipment and spare parts through concessional financial mechanism;

(b) Mobilization of the informal/small-scale producers to form creditworthy institutions and promotion of their skills through training workshops/seminars;

(c) Liberalization of trade, but with special reservations for local industries;

(d) Establishment of experimental units based on improved local materials;

(e) Reinforcement of R and D activities and, specifically, establishment of an inventory on local building materials and related production technologies available;

(f) Formulation of an appropriate investment policy which encourages both foreign and local investors to invest in the industry.

K. Zambia

Some of the barriers against production identified by the representative of Zambia were the poor level of expertise in the small-scale sector, poor management skills, use of obsolete equipment or advanced technology, high transport costs, concentration of the building-materials industry in urban areas resulting in high distribution costs to other parts of the country, lack of standardization, thus, restricting purchases to particular suppliers, ignorance of standards, lack of international support and the low production capacity of the industries.

Suggested recommendations include the establishment of a national steering committee to promote local building materials, fiscal measures to encourage the building-materials industry, a training programme for the small-scale sector, courses in local building materials in technical colleges, an inventory of raw materials for the building industry, inter-regional cooperation and adequate support of research on local building materials.

A cement coating on the mud brick walls protects the outer surface of a new low-cost house, Senegal

Courtesy: Sean Sprague/Earthscan


A representative of UNCHS (Habitat) made a presentation on the need for strengthening local capacity for the production of building materials in sub-Saharan Africa. After describing the background and importance of capacity-building in the building-materials sector to achieve the goals set in Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 he highlighted the key areas of shortcomings in the sector and elaborated on the basic elements of activity which would support the initiatives of governments and UNCHS (Habitat) to strengthen the local capacity.

While developing countries, taken together, have doubled their production of building materials, in the past decade or so, sub-Saharan Africa has raised its production level by less than a third. Moreover, the share of sub-Saharan Africa in world production of building-materials has actually declined in the same period. As a consequence, the dependence of sub-Saharan Africa on imports has increased drastically. In fact, between 1980 and 1985, imports of minimally processed mineral building-materials rose at an annual average of 33 per cent.

The constraints which are most responsible for the poor performance of the sector are: (a) inadequate government policies; (b) over-reliance on public manufacturing enterprises; (c) wrong technological choice; and (d) structural deficiencies in the industry, to mention only a few. For productivity improvements in the industry, therefore, concerted and well-coordinated efforts will be required in the following key areas:

(a) Modernization of the industry;

(b) Improving allocative efficiency of investments in the sector;

(c) Restructuring the industry with increased vertical and horizontal integration through sub-contracting, industrial estates etc.

Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa lack the necessary industrial extension services required by the building-materials industry, especially in the following vital areas:

(a) Credit support, particularly, to small enterprises;
(b) Marketing support to small enterprises;
(c) Provision of technical advice;
(d) Assistance in the procurement of raw materials and equipment.

He then elaborated the broad objectives of a programme proposal with a view to briefing the participants on the aims and expected outputs that the programme can achieve.

He, further, invited the participants to take into consideration during their discussions, the proposed elements of the programme and areas of technical assistance that could help in tackling the problems of poor performance by the industry, and urged them to deliberate on the key areas of activities proposed in the draft programme document.

The programme document, after having been reviewed and modified by Working Group 2, was presented to the plenary session and was adopted unanimously, as shown in annex II.

Summary of discussions

Several participants highlighted the widening gap between the supply and demand of building materials and noted the several barriers which prevented improvement in the productivity of the building-materials sector. Those barriers were common to most developing countries and there was urgent need to review governmental policies, to improve access to new technologies, to encourage the small-scale and informal sector to raise productivity levels and to strengthen dissemination of information and technology transfer mechanisms in the sub-Saharan countries, particularly, and in other developing countries generally.

One of the participants emphasised the need for improvement and modification in traditional building-material technologies to ensure maximum utilization of local resources. Introduction of new technologies should be expedited through proper training at different levels in the building-materials and construction sector.

All participants unanimously agreed to set up (if non-existant in any country) and to strengthen the existing Network for dissemination of information on new building-material technologies.

The participants were generally of the view that governments should not involve themselves in the direct production of building-materials but that their role should be to create an enabling environment so that the key actors would be able to contribute effectively in enhancing overall productivity in the building-materials sector. Governments should assist by improving the policy framework. That would improve access for the producers and users of building materials and prospective entrepreneurs to capital, raw material resources and innovative technologies.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which were active in the areas of building-materials, housing and building-construction sectors should help in dissemination of information on new technologies, their cost-effectiveness and potential application areas.

The participants were of the unanimous view that there was a need to set up a national-level apex mechanism in the respective countries which would formulate and operationalize an integrated approach for growth of the building-materials industry and effect coordination with all the concerned departments in such matters as industrial promotion and financial institutions and R&D, and standardization and construction organizations for transferring appropriate technologies from laboratory to site and from other countries to ensure steady growth of the domestic building materials.

One participant suggested that the national strategy to foster growth of the building industry should include mobilization of small-scale producers to form creditworthy institutions, liberalization of trade with appropriate policy back-up for local industries, demonstration of improved building-material technologies, preparation of an inventory of local building-materials, and formulation of a favourable investment policy framework, to encourage indigenous and foreign investment in the building-materials sector.

Most participants agreed on the need to review existing bye-laws and regulations in their countries with a view to modifying the same so that use of locally-produced, cost-effective and innovative building-materials would be permitted.

It was suggested that current approaches to technology transfer should be modified so that the various actors in the building-materials sector were encouraged to change their strong attachment to material- and energy-intensive methods of production in favour of innovative, energy-conserving production methods for building materials, particularly those based on the use of industrial wastes and agricultural and forestry residues. The national standards and codes of practice on building materials should also be reviewed to cover the use of such alternative and other local building materials.

Most participants highlighted the main constraints to improving the productivity of building materials: poor quality, high distribution cost, use of imported raw materials, reliance on large-scale production units, inadequate technical support for the informal and small-scale sector, difficult access to capital, lack of governmental fiscal and monitoring policies and local prejudices against alternative building materials.

One participant identified the constraints to raising the productivity of the building-materials industry as use of inappropriate technology; lack of appropriate tools and equipment; lack of suitable guidelines on application of alternative materials; poor quality control in small-scale production units; the high cost of raw material; high energy costs; outdated building regulations (which favoured import-based building materials); and availability of support of international agencies only for high-level technologies. A suggestion was made that each country should have an accurate survey of the location of deposits of raw materials and their suitability for commercial production and whether sufficient, appropriate and cost-effective technologies were available in the country which, if adopted, would help in raising the productivity and efficiency of small-scale building-materials sector.

National governments should evolve policy measures for extending the benefits of duty and tax exemptions that would provide suitable incentives and protection to the small-scale sector for building-materials production. The international agencies and the recognized NGOs should arrange training programmes for improving the management and technical skills of entrepreneurs in the informal and small-scale sector.

All the participants felt rather strongly that development of local building materials and adoption of innovative cost-effective building-material technologies which had been amply demonstrated should be taken beyond the state of demonstration and experimentation to that of industrial production. The necessary steps ought to be taken with urgency to evaluate and validate the new building materials and their production methods, appropriate to the respective countries, so that the building-materials sector could attract investment by entrepreneurs, and so that such new technologies were also well received by financial and industrial promotion institutions to permit commercial investment in their production.

The representative of Lesotho mentioned that a major constraint specific to that country situation was that the building-materials industry was dominated by women due to migration of their menfolk to South Africa for employment and, therefore, that there was a need for introducing special training programmes for women to improve their performance in the building-materials sector.

Most participants agreed that at the national level, an apex institution should be identified to be the focal point that would ensure effective coordination of the Network's activities within the country and would also maintain continuing interaction with UNCHS (Habitat) increasing the flow of information and feed-back between the local organizations and UNCHS (Habitat). In that context, it was suggested that the scope of the activities of the Network should be enlarged in order to cover, inter alia, establishment of a databank, promotion of the exchange of experiences, and exchange of experts between the member countries and other countries as well.

The participants unanimously suggested that there was a need to improve the Network's Journal so that it would be a more effective medium for sharing of information, experiences, sources of technologies and R&D advancements within the member countries. It was further recommended that all important papers included in the Journal should be made available in three languages, namely French, English and Portuguese until such time that the Journal could be regularly published in the three languages.

A representative of UNCHS (Habitat) mentioned that for improving/modifying/sustaining the Journal of the Network, there was an urgent need for closer cooperation between national focal points, NGOs and other international agencies involved in the building-materials sector and UNCHS (Habitat). He mentioned also that lack of feedback from national focal points and lack of publishable material could jeopardize the sustenance of the Journal. He then urged the participants to consider this issue seriously and to submit to the editor of the Journal information and articles on innovations in the building-materials sector for inclusion in forthcoming issues of the Journal.

Stabilized soil block laying - Nazareth, Ethiopia


In the afternoon of the last day of the Workshop (8 September 1993) a closing ceremony was organized during which the Director of the Office of the Executive Director and Special Programmes, UNCHS (Habitat), referred to the statement by the Minister of Public Works and Housing of Kenya which had focused on the need to develop a coherent strategy for the sustainable growth of the building-materials sector. The Director found it very heartening to learn that wise counsel had been taken to heart and that the participants had put in considerable effort to identify the key issues and problems that needed to be overcome to speed up the development of the sector. He then applauded the work of the two working groups that had taken considerable pains to work out detailed recommendations to strengthen the Network and to launch an intensive programme for the development of the building-materials sector in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

At a time when the United Nations system was working under tremendous resource constraints, it was even more important that all the agencies in the system coordinate their efforts among themselves and also with other international agencies to achieve the most out of the limited available resources.

He urged the participants to carry the message of the Workshop back to their respective governments and to act as facilitators in translating the recommendations into implementable government policies and programmes that could enhance the sector's performance in their respective countries.

After the closing remarks made by UNCHS (Habitat) representative, a closing message from the Honourable Professor J. K. Ng'eno E.G.H.M.P., the Minister of Public Works and Housing of Kenya was read by an Assistant Permanent Secretary of the Ministry.

In a message to the Workshop, the Minister of Public Works and Housing said that at a time when developing countries, especially those in Africa, were making considerable efforts to meet their basic needs for shelter, infrastructure and services, in an increasingly difficult economic climate, it was more important than ever for cooperation between countries, especially regionally where constraints and other problems were usually similar.

Currently, despite efforts by the various parties involved in the building-materials and construction industry, the gap between output and demand for construction materials was widening. The fragmented nature of the industry, in addition to the lack of interaction among the main actors, including ineffective organizational support, were major factors inhibiting the performance in the construction sector.

Kenya would like to see the activities of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies expand. While its main activities had mainly focused on facilitating the transfer of technology through the promotion of information exchange, its scope could extend to include field application of some of those technologies in selected areas, in collaboration with the local institutions. In Kenya, the lack of continuous linkages between research and development, specialized institutions and field operations was recognized as a major obstacle to improving the performance of the construction industry in areas such as technology innovation, productivity and quality assurance.

Finally, the Minister expressed the hope that the conclusions and recommendations of the Workshop would be followed up and implemented as much as practicable by all those concerned.

He then declared the Workshop officially closed.

Women producing stabilized soil-block

Annex I


Prepared by UNCHS (Habitat)

A. Background

1. As part of its continuing efforts to strengthen domestic technological capacity in the building-materials sector, UNCHS (Habitat), in collaboration with the Commonwealth Science Council (CSC), established the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies (NACLBMT) to promote the transfer of technology and to facilitate the formulation and adoption of standards and specifications for local building materials and technologies.

2. The Network was established at a workshop organized by UNCHS (Habitat) and CSC in Kampala in 1985 at which 11 countries were represented. Later, in March 1987, the Workshop on Standards and Specifications for Local Building Materials was organized jointly by the African Regional Organization for Standardization (ARSO), CSC and UNCHS (Habitat). That Workshop was attended, among others, by representatives from nine African countries which were then participating in the Network. The main objectives of the Workshop were to identify the constraints which made it difficult for countries to formulate or promote standards for local building-materials and to devise strategies for tackling that gap.

3. Following up on the recommendations of the 1987 Workshop, and in the framework of the Network's mandate, three national workshops on standards and specifications for selected local building-materials, such as fibre-concrete roofing, lime and stabilized-soil blocks were organized in Accra, Ghana in July 1988, in Blantyre, Malawi in September 1988 and in Nairobi, Kenya in May 1989. Finally, a regional workshop entitled Cooperation in the African Region on Technologies and Standards for Local Building Materials was jointly organized by UNCHS (Habitat) and CSC in Nairobi in June 1989. The Workshop was attended by representatives from 11 member countries and a number of NGOs which expressed willingness to use the Network and its Journal for disseminating information on new and appropriate technologies in the region. The Workshop devised a set of recommendations and action plans on how to sustain the Network, its activities and the Journal.

4. The first issue of the Journal, which is the main instrument of the Network in facilitating the flow of information, was published in 1989 and three other issues were published and disseminated during the biennium 1990-1991. Four issues are being published during 1992-1993 and plans are underway to publish four more issues in the biennium 1994-1995.

5. Activities of the Network also led to a pilot project in the United Republic of Tanzania. The objective of the project was to demonstrate effective approaches in the transfer of technology and to identify areas for further cooperation in the region. In January 1990, a mission consisting of 12 international experts in various disciplines of building-materials production and UNCHS (Habitat) staff visited the United Republic of Tanzania and made an appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the building-materials industry there and proposed a strategy for improvement of the sector. Later, in May 1990, an international Workshop on Cooperation for Technology Transfer was organized at Riga, Latvia, to assess the feasibility of transferring selected technologies from India and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to participating countries and to prepare a framework for implementing specific projects. The Workshop was attended by more than 25 participants from 14 countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Workshop led to the establishment of bilateral contacts among several participant countries and specific proposals for the transfer of technology.

6. It is against this background that this Workshop has been organized. The Workshop is expected to advise the Centre on possible modalities for improving the effectiveness and coverage of the Network and the basis for launching a programme for domestic capacity-building in the building-materials sector in the sub-Saharan Africa.

B. Introduction

7. The building-materials and construction sector plays a leading role in the improvement of socio-economic conditions and the built environment in every country. The sector is an important contributor to capital formation and the rate of activities in the sector is a major indicator of the health of the economy.

8. In almost every sector of the economy, there is a component of construction and building materials constitute the single largest input in most construction items. In fact, building materials account for 50 to 70 per cent of the total value of construction, and their regular supply in adequate quantities and affordable prices is crucial for meeting the requirements of the construction sector.

9. The Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1988, calls for a shift in government's role from the provider of housing to an enabling one. The Strategy also recognizes building materials as one of the key physical resources in the production and improvement of shelter and identifies several priority action areas in support of local production and the use of indigenous building materials. These include policy formulation and policy adjustment by national governments to promote local factors of production; supportive governmental measures to facilitate increased private investment in the building-materials industry, especially in the small-scale sector; the promotion of technological innovations, the induction of appropriate technologies and local capacity-building in small-scale enterprises (in both the formal and informal sectors) and related institutions.

10. Many countries in the African region and elsewhere are busy formulating and implementing national shelter strategies based on the guidelines of the Global Strategy for Shelter. The ramifications of this shift in government policies are bound to be felt in the building-materials sector. First, the implementation of enabling strategies will lead to progressive decentralization of shelter production through private initiatives and cooperative efforts. Therefore, the demand for building materials and technologies that are more suited to small-scale construction, as opposed to mass-housing schemes, can be expected to rise. In the changed context, small producers of building materials, including those operating in the informal sector, will have more ready markets servicing the needs of individual or cooperative house-builders. The distribution and marketing aspects also will assume greater importance than before in determining the availability and prices of building materials on a retail basis. These are some of the considerations that must be reflected in national enabling strategies and in their implementation, if the shortage and high cost of building materials are not to prove bottlenecks in the provision of shelter.

11. This issue paper is designed to provide a brief overview on the status of the building-materials sector in the African region and major constraints the sector faces that make it difficult for low-income house-builders to have easy access to low-cost/locally-produced materials. For the convenience of participants and for effective and fruitful deliberations, some key areas for consideration have been included in the last section of this paper.

C. Factors contributing to inflation in the building-materials sector: analysis of current trends

12. Several supply-side constraints put inflationary pressure on the sector. Some of these relate to factor inputs such as technology and skills, entrepreneurship and finance, while others are more the result of structural deficiencies in the sector and infrastructural constraints that are imposed from outside. Some of the important considerations in this context are discussed below.

1. Government policies for the building-materials sector

13. Government policy actions set the economic environment in which the building-materials industry operates. Wide-ranging government policies such as those on import tariffs, distribution and pricing control and tax incentives to the industry determine to a great extent the availability of building materials and their prices. Government policies also determine standards governing the use of building-materials. Local-authority regulations often explicitly ban the use of certain low-cost building materials such as earth construction in the formal housing sector. The creation of a conducive policy environment is, therefore, an essential prerequisite for the healthy growth of the building-materials industry.

2. The need for productivity improvements in the industry

14. In most countries of the African region, the low productivity of the building-materials industry has been a major obstacle to improving its production capacity so as to keep pace with the rising demand. The main barriers to improving the productivity of the industry are: (a) the poor technological capacity of the industry; (b) over-reliance on public manufacturing enterprises; and (c) structural deficiencies in the industry. Removing these constrains will require the sustained effort of all those associated with the industry, supported by international cooperation. The important areas of intervention are discussed below.

(a) Technology transfer and diffusion in the small-scale sector of the industry

15. The poor technological capacity of the industry, particularly of its small-scale sector, has directly contributed to low productivity. Past attempts in many countries to break this technological barrier mainly relied on imports of large-scale technologies which were, in most part, mere imports of production capacities aimed at bridging the demand-supply gap in the short term. Aside from the fact that in most cases even this short-term goal was not fulfilled, these technologies added little to local technological capacity because of their "packaged" nature.

16. These attempts also bypassed the small-scale sector of the industry which continued to rely on traditional, mainly rudimentary technologies, with little innovation or incremental upgrading of its existing production facilities. Instances of diffusion of new technologies to small enterprises have also been few and far between over the years. Many factors have contributed to this technological stagnation of the small-scale sector, principal among which are: (a) the lack of access of small entrepreneurs to information about new and appropriate technologies; (b) a general dearth of technology suppliers catering to the small-scale sector; and (c) inadequate industrial extension support services to the sector.

17. Given the severely limited technical, financial and managerial capacity of the small-scale entrepreneur, especially the micro-enterprises operating in the informal sector, national institutions will have to play a crucial role in strengthening the technological capacity of the industry. For example, the research, design and engineering (RD&E) institutions may have to reorient their research programmes to specific technological needs of the small-scale sector and strengthen their design and engineering capabilities to assist the industry to commercialize new technologies through product development and engineering, pilot-plant investigations, production trials to deal with start-up problems etc. In may countries, local capacity-building will be necessary for evaluation of new technologies. Similarly, the training needs of the industry may have to be reviewed with emphasis on improving the productivity of traditional operatives and entrepreneurship development in the small-scale sector. Improving the access of institutional credit to small entrepreneurs, especially to meet the needs of venture capital, will require special attention.

18. Strengthening industrial extension services will be particularly crucial to technological upgrading of the small-scale sector. Innovative mechanisms could be considered for technology transfer and diffusion to the small-scale sector using North-South cooperation. Equally important will be the sharing of the experience and expertise of developing countries in the development and transfer of new and appropriate technologies through South-South cooperation.

(b) Attracting private investment in the small-scale sector

19. In many countries, governments have taken on an entrepreneurial role through State manufacturing enterprises and have relied on centralized production and distribution to meet the country-wide demand for basic building materials. For a variety of reasons, most of these production facilities have failed to take advantage of the economies of scale and with gross under-utilization of installed capacity, these have turned out to be a major drag on the exchequer soon after commission. The under-utilization of installed capacity is mainly due to the uncertainties of volatile markets, frequent break-downs because of poor maintenance, high distribution costs, and the level of efficiency of State enterprises.

20. Of late, there has been growing recognition in many African countries that improving the overall productivity of the sector will call for stimulating increased private sector investment in the industry and a corresponding diminution of the role of the State enterprises in the private sector. There is, nevertheless, the need to sensitize government policy-makers and professionals associated with the industry to the urgency for concerted action to improve the allocative efficiency of investment in the building-materials sector through suitably designed incentive schemes.

(c) Improving structural linkages in the industry

21. In most African countries, the building-materials industry functions in a disjointed manner. There is little interaction between the modern large-scale enterprises and the vast array of small enterprises, even though much scope remains for intra-industry transfer of technology, managerial expertise and skills. Another special feature of the industry is the large informal sector which continues to operate at the subsistence level, unable to improve its productivity and quality of outputs, and which has little access to support services extended by the formal institutional network. Vertical integration of the industry through strengthening links between the modern sector and the small-scale enterprises through such mechanisms as sub-contracting arrangements, and horizontal integration of the micro-enterprises in the informal sector through industrial cooperatives, producers associations etc. could go a long way to improving the overall productivity of the industry. Diverse experiences of developing countries provide ample scope for South-South cooperation in this area.

3. Distribution and marketing of building materials

22. Transport and distribution costs can claim a significant share of the total cost of a building material. Usually, the larger the scale of production, the greater is the cost for transporting and distribution of the material to the end-user. In developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, distribution costs can be disproportionately high because of run-down infrastructural facilities and high trucking costs. For example, in the United Republic of Tanzania, the price of cement could be seven times higher at a remote location than the ex-factory price. Small-scale producers, however, can meet the needs of proximate markets with price advantage. Therefore, policies and promotional measures supportive of the small-scale sector could help bring down prices of basic materials used by the shelter sector.

23. Micro-enterprises operating in the informal sector make a particularly valuable contribution to the supply of low-cost building-materials to house-builders in low-income groups. Their strength, essentially, lies in keeping overheads and distribution costs low. Nevertheless, they are lacking in managerial and marketing skills and also market information for progressive market penetration through forward planning and product diversification. Local-government authorities and non-governmental organizations could help the enterprises to expand their market share through training and marketing-assistance programmes.

4. Demand-management in the low-cost building-materials sector

24. An important reason for the high prices of traditional basic building-materials is the lack of suitable alternatives to substitute these materials. Where such substitutes exist, either production systems for such materials are not well-established so as to increase the supply of such alternative materials, or these materials do not find proper acceptability with end-users or regulatory authorities. For example, production technologies for alternative binders such as lime and pozzolanas that can replace cement in most applications are already available in many countries but they have not found wide-scale use because of user prejudices. Few government housing projects use these binders to demonstrate their cost-effectiveness vis-is cement. Similarly, a variety of earth-based technologies are available to replace bricks and concrete blocks but after years of research and development these technologies still remain confined to few, often unimaginative and poorly organized, demonstration projects that fail to inspire the confidence of private house-builders.

25. The lack of appropriate standards for these alternative materials is a major stumbling block to their wide-scale adoption by the housing market. In the absence of such standards, these materials are seldom included in specifications for government housing projects which continue to remain biased towards import-intensive, often costlier building-materials.

26. The inflexibility of existing building regulations is another barrier to the increased utilization of these alternative building-materials in shelter production. For example, the introduction of innovative building materials like the fibre-concrete roofing tiles and stabilized-soil blocks has been delayed by several years in many African countries because of restrictive building bye-laws.

27. Of late, mostly through the intervention of international development assistance agencies, some countries have adopted separate building regulations for low-income urban settlements. Formulation of standards for new and alternative building materials is also receiving attention in some countries. However, the pace of change is often too slow and uneven among different countries. Regional and international cooperation could be particularly useful to sharing and replicating the experiences of successful country initiatives in this area.

D. Conflicts between the building-materials industry and the environment

28. Building-materials production requires inputs such as raw materials, energy, machinery and skills. In fact, all of these inputs are crucial, with the first two of them being those which have direct impact on the natural environment and the ecosystem of the planet. Even though it is rather difficult to monitor in a quantifiable manner the amount of physical disruption caused by building-materials industries, there is growing concern, in many countries, about increasing environmental degradation caused by indiscriminate land use, quarrying of metallic and non-metallic minerals, use of non renewable energy sources, deforestation, atmospheric pollution etc.

29. Building-materials production and construction activities contribute to loss of soil and agricultural land in several ways. Agricultural land is often lost through the activities of quarrying and mining for the raw materials used in the industry; it is lost when agricultural land is converted to other uses, e.g., urbanization, road building, dams etc., and it may also be degraded as a result of the local pollution or waste generation associated with building-materials production.

30. The building-materials industry similarly contributes to the loss of forests and wildlands by their conversion to other uses. It contributes to the loss of forests by the unsustainable use of forests for building timber, and bamboo and other raw materials for construction; and by the use of timber as fuelwood to provide energy for building-materials production.

31. Building-materials production contributes to air pollution at all levels. It creates air pollution at a local scale through emissions of dust, fibre, particles, toxic gases, nitrogen and sulphur oxides in building-materials production processes. It contributes to pollution on a global scale in two important ways. By the use and release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in buildings contributing to the depletion of the atmospheric ozone layers, and by the emission of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases". The greenhouse gases are emitted in the processes of combustion which take place in the production of many building materials, and in transporting materials; additional carbon dioxide is also produced through the chemical reactions which occur in the manufacture of cement and lime. An additional further enormous contribution to the total global emission of greenhouse gases results from the energy consumption of buildings in use.

32. The building-materials industry, finally, is a major user of non-renewable energy sources and minerals. Apart from its share of fossil-fuel and firewood use, the industry is a heavy user of several metals which have limited remaining exploitable reserves, notably lead, copper and zinc.

33. It is clear that a continuation of practices along existing lines will intensify all these areas of environmental stress, some of which are already critical. But it does not need to be assumed that future practices will inevitably continue present patterns. There are many ways in which the industry could adapt its practices in such a way as to bring about a substantial reduction in the resulting environmental impacts. These include:

(a) Appropriate selection and substitution of building materials;

(b) More careful land-use planning, both in the siting of new developments and the extraction of raw materials;

(c) Reutilization of wastes both from within construction and other industries and from agriculture;

(d) Adoption of new energy-efficient, low-polluting and materials-conserving technologies;

(e) Adopting building forms which reduce in-use energy consumption.

34. Indeed, because of the diversity of construction methods in use, there is already much experience available in all these matters which could be used as a guide. But changes in practice which are desirable in relation to environmental goals are often not made because of a lack of appropriate policy guidance or appropriate government regulation or other initiatives: or through the resistance of commercial interests. (For a more detailed treatment of this subject, please see background and issue papers on promoting sustainable construction-industry activities, prepared by UNCHS (Habitat) and presented to the First Consultation on the Construction Industry organized jointly by UNIDO and UNCHS (Habitat) held in Tunis, Tunisia, in May 1993. These documents are distributed to the participants of the workshop).

E. Proposal for a regional agenda for action for of the low-cost building-materials sector

35. The 1970s and 1980s have seen African countries stepping up efforts to bridge the gap between construction needs and the domestic capacity for production of basic building materials. Despite these efforts, prices in the building-materials sector in many countries have risen at a pace faster than the general inflationary trend in the economy. This has depressed the effective demand for housing, particularly among the low-income groups, widening the gap between housing needs and availability. Determined national action, with a clear set of priorities and a practical time-bound action plan will be required to reverse the current trend. The international community also must sharpen the focus of its aid programmes in the shelter sector to help increase the availability of basic building-materials to low-income groups.

36. An important reason for the lack of success of previous efforts has been the ad-hoc manner in which the problem has been approached with piecemeal, uncoordinated efforts at both national and international levels. In many countries, policy-level functionaries are yet to be fully sensitized to the ramifications of chronic shortages of building materials on the shelter-delivery process as well as on national development efforts. Where a policy framework has been put in place, often policy-level initiatives have not been translated to adequate programme action because of, among other things, the lack of adequate institutional capacity or motivation. No doubt, the restricted availability of trained labour and facilities has been a major obstacle to providing effective institutional support, but little effort has been made to optimize the utilization of available labour and facilities through improved coordination at national and local levels. An important shortcoming in the process has been the failure to recognize that the entrepreneur is the central actor and the driving force behind the growth of the sector and to mobilize the commitment of the entrepreneur through close participation in the decision-making process.

37. International development agencies also have mostly relied on a short-term, project-based approach in tackling the sectoral problems in an isolated manner, and have failed to create an industry-wide impact. The reasons for such failure are not far to seek. First, the multiple interventions required to create an industry-wide impact are difficult to design within the parameters of a single project. Secondly, many of the processes, such as improving the policy environment or technology diffusion in the local industry, require longer-term commitment than is possible within the restricted span of a project. To an extent, some of the international NGOs, such as appropriate technology development agencies operating in the building-materials sector, have shown longer-term commitment in the sector. However, the restricted scale of their operations has got in the way of their contribution making a significant impact in the industry.

38. The experience of UNCHS (Habitat) in promoting the building-materials industry in African countries over the past decade clearly indicates the need for a strategic approach in tackling the problems of the sector through coherent and coordinated action by all the concerned parties in a time-bound manner. In this regard, formulating and adopting a regional agenda for action addressing key issues for the development of the basic building-materials in a sustainable manner, could be one important step towards improving the productivity of the sector.

F. Points for consideration

39. In the light of the considerations outlined above, the participants are invited to deliberate on the following issues.

1. Substantive issues related to the building-materials sector that affect availability of basic building materials for shelter delivery

(a) Factors contributing to demand- and supply-side constraints in the building-materials sector

(i) Government policies

1. Which are the important public policy areas that affect the performance of the building-materials sector and price movement of basic building materials? How could they be grouped and graded according to their impact on the sector?

2. To what extent do policies in other sectors affect the building-materials industry? What practical mechanisms have been attempted or could be suggested to strengthen inter-sectoral policy coordination to reflect the needs of the building-materials sector?

(ii) Technology transfer and diffusion in the industry

1. Which are the critical areas in the building-materials industry where introduction of new and appropriate technologies could improve the overall productivity of the industry, especially the small-scale enterprises?

2. What are the principal constraints to technology transfer and diffusion in the building-materials industry? What should be the most effective modus operandi for technology transfer to the small-scale sector?

3. What new and innovative ways of technology transfer can be suggested in the light of emerging experiences in other developing countries? For example, in what ways could an enterprise-to-enterprise level of transfer of technology be stimulated in the small scale-sector? Also, what role can NGOs, such as appropriate technology development organizations, play in this regard?

(iii) Role of State enterprises in the building-materials industry

1. To what extent has the government, as an entrepreneur, succeeded in the wide-scale adoption of low-cost building-materials in African countries?

2. What are the main constraints that affect increased private-sector investment in the building-materials industry, especially, in the small-scale sector?

(iv) Improving structural links in the industry

1. In what ways could horizontal and vertical integration of the industry be used to improve domestic production capacity? What role could industrial co-operatives and producers associations play in improving the access of the micro-enterprises in the informal sector to input services and markets?

2. Sustainability of the building-materials industry

1. In what ways can governments create a policy environment that promotes investments in energy-efficiency and environment-friendly production of building materials?

2. Given the severe resource constraints in the building-materials industry in the African region, what regulatory measures can be realistically introduced to promote the increased use of energy-efficient designs and materials and to discourage the use of non-renewable resources?

3. What are the experiences with economic incentives designed to promote energy-efficient and environment-friendly production of building materials?

4. How can industrialized countries help developing countries improve energy efficiency and reduce pollution in the production of building materials by:

(a) Information exchange and transfer of appropriate technologies?
(b) Institutional capacity-building?

3. Domestic capacity-building in the building-materials sector - A programme for countries of sub-Saharan Africa

One of the important objectives of the present Workshop is to establish a framework for launching a programme for domestic capacity-building in the building-materials sector through strengthened Network activities.

1. To what extent does the programme proposal presented to the Workshop address the key constraints to improving the performance of the building-materials industry in your country?

2. What suggestions could be provided to improve the scope and effectiveness of the proposed programme?

3. In what ways can the international and donor community support national efforts to enhance the domestic capacity of the building-materials industry in the region?

4. Modalities for strengthening and expanding the activities of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies

Recognizing the importance of the Network in facilitating the exchange of information on technological aspects as well as research findings in the low-cost building-materials sector, and taking note of its past activities and achievements.

1. What measures should be taken to expand its scope and launch more field-oriented activities? To what extent and by what means can technical cooperation among member countries be made more effective in improving the productivity of the sector in each country? What major role can the Network play in facilitating such cooperation?

2. What measures should be taken to improve the effectiveness and coverage of the Journal? What should be the role and the commitment of member countries as well as UNCHS (Habitat) in this regard?

Women can contribute more, even in actual construction, if they receive well training

Annex II


A. Background and justification

1. Throughout the world, developing countries are facing severe problems with the supply of building materials. The scarcity of building materials has not only got in the way of realizing national development plans in every sector, from agriculture and industry to health and education, the steep rise in prices of building materials in recent years has effectively removed housing from the reach of low- and medium-income groups in most developing countries.

2. The 1970s and 1980s have seen developing countries stepping up efforts to bridge the gap between construction needs and the domestic capacity for the production of basic building-materials. But production gains have been highly uneven, with major gains restricted to oil-rich Western Asia and newly-industrializing East Asia. The share of sub-Saharan Africa in the world production of building materials has actually declined between 1975 and 1985. During the same period, while developing countries, taken together, have doubled their production of building materials, sub-Saharan Africa has raised its production level by less than a third.

3. The dependence of sub-Saharan Africa on imports has consequently increased. Between 1975 and 1985, the value of building-materials imports by sub-Saharan Africa increased, in constant terms, by more than a third from $US 1019 million to $US 1382 million at 1975 constant value. These imports were not restricted to finished products such as steel items, chemicals, electrical and plumbing fixtures, but included a wide range of basic building materials from lime, cement, bricks and asbestos sheets to stone, sand, gravel and dolomite. In fact, between 1980 and 1985, imports of minimally-processed mineral building materials rose at an annual average of 33 per cent. In addition to the imports of finished products, countries in sub-Saharan Africa continue to import factor inputs such as machinery, energy and even raw materials. This increasing dependence on imports has imposed additional strain on an already acute balance-of-payments situation and has fuelled inflation in the building-materials sector (see table 1).

Table 1. Rise in prices of building materials in the United Republic of Tanzania

(Base year 1982 = 100)

Percentage change 1988-1989










































C. I. Sheet






G. I. Pipes












Source: Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, Review of the Economy, 1988. (March 1989)

4. In sharp contrast to this picture of scarcity and import dependence, most countries of sub-Saharan Africa are endowed with abundant natural resources that can meet the demand for basic building materials using largely indigenous factor inputs. Many of these countries have extensive deposits of limestone, gypsum and pozzolana sufficient to meet local requirements of cementitious materials while several of them are endowed with abundant primary and secondary kaolin deposits, forest resources and a variety of agricultural wastes. Yet, much of these natural resources currently remain unexploited.

5. In the 1980s, the efforts of UNCHS (Habitat) to assist national governments of sub-Saharan countries in improving the supply of building-materials were mainly directed to: (a) the transfer and diffusion of new technologies to the local industry; and (b) the formulation of standards and specifications for low-cost, locally-produced building-materials. In the area of technology transfer, noting that the flow of information and know-how was crucial to local technological capacity-building, the Centre, in association with the Commonwealth Science Council (CSC), organized a network of African countries to collaborate in the exchange of information on local building-material technologies. Currently, 12 countries are participating in the Network and its Journal is disseminating a wide variety of information on the production of building-materials.

6. Additionally, to promote the transfer and diffusion of specific, appropriate technologies to local industries in African countries, the Centre commenced a collaborative project with the Governments of India and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1989. Taking note of the special problems faced by those countries, the project developed a model technology-transfer mechanism and identified a package of technologies appropriate to them which were disseminated to a number of developing countries through an international workshop organized in 1990.

7. During this period, the Centre, in association with CSC and ARSO, also assisted African countries in the formulation of standards and specifications for locally-produced building-materials with a view to promoting increased utilization of these materials in construction. An African regional workshop organized in 1989, with the participation of 10 countries from sub-Saharan Africa, prepared a plan of action for the promotion of standards, based on the experience of three national workshops held earlier.

8. The experience gained by the Centre during the 1980s in its effort to promote local capacity-building in the building-materials industry in African countries provided some important lessons. Three global consultations on the building-materials and construction industries organized jointly by UNIDO and UNCHS, in 1985, in 1991 and in 1993, also gave valuable opportunities to share the Centre's experience with country participants and international agencies and to validate these lessons. Briefly, these are:

(a) Government policy actions set the economic and legislative environment in which the building-materials industry operates. Wide-ranging public policies such as those on technology imports, tariffs, distribution and pricing control affect the industry, particularly the small-scale sector. The creation of a conducive policy environment is, therefore, an essential prerequisite for the growth of the building-materials industry;

(b) Low and even negative productivity growth characterized the building-materials industry in sub-Saharan Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. The factors mainly responsible were over-reliance on public manufacturing enterprise, wrong technological choice and structural deficiencies in the industry. Improving the productivity of the industry should, therefore, be one of the principal goals of national efforts and international cooperation. For productivity improvements in the industry, concerted and well-coordinated efforts will be required in the following areas:

(i) Modernization of the industry, especially, through technological upgrading of small-enterprise;

(ii) Improving the allocative efficiency of investments in the sector; this will call for stimulating increased private-sector investment in the industry and the corresponding diminution of the role of State enterprises;

(iii) Restructuring the industry with increased vertical and horizontal integration through such mechanisms as sub-contracting, industrial estates etc; an important element of this effort should be to ensure the transition of the informal-sector, particularly micro-enterprises from subsistence-level operations to profit-making enterprises;

(c) Most countries of sub-Saharan Africa lack the necessary industrial extension services required by the building-materials industry, especially, in the following vital areas:

(i) Credit support, particularly to small enterprises; most small enterprises are under-capitalized with little access to venture capital for technological upgrading;

(ii) Marketing support to micro-enterprises through such mechanisms as industrial cooperatives, producer associations etc.;

(iii) Technical advice to small entrepreneurs, particularly in the preparation of techno-economic feasibility studies, in dealing with start-up problems etc.;

(iv) Procurement of raw materials, equipment etc Institutional strengthening in these areas will be vital for speeding up the growth of the industry.

9. The above lessons clearly bring out the limitations of the traditional short-term, project-based approach in tackling the sectoral problems in an isolated manner. They also explain why several technical assistance projects executed in the past have failed to create any industry-wide impact in sub-Saharan Africa. First, the multiple interventions required to create an industry-wide impact are difficult to design within the parameters of a single project. Secondly, many of the processes such as improving the policy environment or technology diffusion in the local industry require longer-term commitment than what is possible within the restricted span of a project.

10. In contrast, the inherent flexibility and continuity of a programme make it an ideal vehicle to carry out incremental improvements within a country environment. Especially, within the context of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the programme approach offers a distinct advantage in so far as this can be implemented over a flexible time-frame, consistent with the counterpart resources that can be made available by the participating countries. Moreover, the longer life-span of the programme and its iterative approach are more suited to refining or adjusting the implementation strategy with accumulating experience. The country coverage of the programme also can be expanded continually over its life-time.

B. Programme objectives

1. Development objective

II. The development objective of the programme is to assist sub-Saharan African countries in achieving national socio-economic development goals, including human settlements development goals, by facilitating the sustained availability of one of the principal resources of physical development, basic building-materials, at affordable costs especially, for the urban low-income groups of the population. The programme will specifically strengthen country initiatives in the implementation of national shelter strategies in line with the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000 and will also help building-materials production to be integrated with the overall industrial production sector.

2. Immediate objective

12. The immediate objective of the programme is to improve the overall performance of the building-materials industry in sub-Saharan African countries.

C. Programme implementation strategy

13. A demand-driven approach will be used in the implementation of the programme. Each country will identify and prioritize a package of programme elements considered most appropriate to the sectoral needs of the country. The time-frame in which the related programme outputs will be produced will depend on the availability of counterpart resources and the existing institutional framework and national commitment that can be afforded by each participating country.

14. The programme implementation in each participating country will be carried out, inter-alia, by national policy-making bodies responsible for the housing development programmes and the industrial sector such as, representatives of entrepreneurs in the building-materials industry, interested professional bodies and non-governmental organizations active in the sector, taking into account the need for setting up an inter-sectoral coordination body.

15. Noting that varied experience and institutional capacity already exist in the building-materials sector in some countries of Africa, preference will be given to the utilization of national professional staff as well as regional expertise and facilities in the implementation of the programme. To the extent that national and regional expertise is not sufficient for efficient implementation, the programme will mobilize services from international sources of technologies and expertise. The programme will also maintain close liaison with international agencies.

16. The entry point of each programme element to be implemented will be carefully identified so as to achieve the widest impact in a cost-effective manner at national, institutional, and enterprise levels.

17. Inter-agency collaboration will be an important part of the strategy in order to strengthen implementation and facilitate the follow-up of investment opportunities in the building-materials sector. Active participation and collaboration with relevant international, regional, sub-regional and other agencies will be sought in different phases of the programme.

18. The implementation strategy will take into account gender issues and consideration of the needs of disadvantaged groups with emphasis on community participation.

D. Programme elements

19. The programme will basically cover the following six programme elements or modules, each dealing with an area of action vital for the growth of the building-materials industry and improvements in its overall performance. Each programme element, in turn, will comprise several programme sub-elements each representing a specific area of action or intervention. The implementation of each programme element may require action at international, sub-national, local or industry levels.

20. Programme element I: Improving the policy environment for sustained growth of the building-materials industry


Areas of activities


Review of current policies influencing growth and performance of the sector for possible reforms


Formulation of fiscal and other incentives to attract private investments in the building-materials sector


Development of guidelines for technology imports in the building-materials industry


Preparation of schemes for restructuring the building-materials industry, promoting vertical and horizontal integration


Advice on formulation of guidelines on standards and specification


Establishment of mechanisms ensuring effective inter-sectoral coordination


Advice on suitable workforce development policies

21. Programme element II: Technological improvement of the small-scale sector in the building-materials industry


Areas of activities


Develop and reinforce a delivery system for the transfer, adaption and assimilation of technologies


Introduce methodologies and technologies for improving energy management and pollution control in the building-materials industry


Capacity-building for development of technology at the national and regional level

22. Programme element III: Formulation and promotion of the use of standards and specifications for local building-materials


Areas of activities


Local capacity-building at regional and national levels for the formulation and reformulation of standards for locally-produced traditional as well as new and innovative materials


Promotion of the use of standards and specifications

23. Programme element IV: Human-resource development in the building-materials industry


Areas of activities


Institutional capacity-building for human resource development


Entrepreneurship development programme in the small-scale sector with emphasis on managerial and technical aspects of the industry


Skill-training programmes, including on-the-job-training, to improve the efficiency and productivity in small-scale enterprises


Awareness and training programmes for professionals and other practitioners to promote the use of local and innovative building-materials

Attention should be given to women in all human resource development activities.

24. Programme element V: Capacity-building and strengthening of institutional support


Areas of activities


Capacity-building for sustainable management of natural resources and preparation of techno-economic feasibility studies for optimum utilization of resources


Strengthening of institutional capacity to provide support services such as marketing, procurement, sourcing of inputs, quality assurance etc


Improving access of small-scale enterprises to investment capital including venture capital for new enterprises and for technological upgrading of existing production units


Creation and strengthening of varied mechanisms to promote technology transfer and cooperation between various actors of the construction and building-materials industry

25. Programme element VI: Improving access to sector-specific information


Areas of activities


Create a link between this programme and existing networks


Enhance cooperation between UNIDO, UNCHS (Habitat) and the existing Network in collection, collation and dissemination of information to improve implementation of this programme and avoid dissipation of efforts at country level

E. Action programme

26. Programme implementation modalities should be comprehensively developed in close consultation with the participating countries.

F. Programme duration and estimated costs


Phase I

- One year (1994)
Estimated Cost- $ 60,000

Phase II

- Five years (1994 -1998)
Cost to be estimated; will depend on the scope of the programme in participating countries and cost-sharing arrangements with other international agencies.

Annex III


Monday, 6 September

9.00 - 10.00 am


10.00 - 10.30 am

Opening ceremony

10.30 - 11.00 am

Coffee break

11.00 - 12.15 pm

- Election of the Bureau
- Adoption of the agenda
- Presentation of UNCHS (Habitat) activities in the building-materials sector
- Presentations by United Nations and other agencies

12.15-2.00 pm

Lunch break

2.00-3.30 pm

- New and innovative technologies and transfer mechanisms presentation by UNCHS (Habitat)
- General discussion

3.30-3.50 pm

Coffee break pm

- Presentations by country participants

Tuesday, 7 September

9.00 - 10.30 am

- Presentations by international and non-governmental organizations
- Presentations by country participants

10.30 - 10.50 am

Coffee break

10.50 - 12.30 pm

- A proposal for domestic capacity-building in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa presentation by UNCHS (Habitat)
- General discussion

12.30 - 2.00 pm

Lunch break

2.00 - 3.30 pm

- Working group 1
Modalities to strengthen the Network
- Working group 2
Programme for domestic capacity-building in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa

3.30 - 3.50 pm

Coffee break

3.50 - 5.30 pm

- Continuation of working-group sessions

Wednesday. 8 September

9.00 - 10.30 am

- Presentations by working groups
- General discussion

10.30 - 10.50 am

Coffee break

10.50 - 12.30 pm

- Presentation of films
- Formulation of recommendations by working groups

12.30 - 2.00 pm

Lunch break

2.00 - 3.30 pm

- Presentation of conclusions and recommendations
- Adoption of recommendations

3.30 - 4.00 pm

Coffee break

4.00 - 4.30 pm

- Closing ceremony

Annex IV


1. Aide-memoire of the Workshop

2. Programme of the Workshop

3. List of participants

4. Message from the Under-Secretary-General, UNCHS (Habitat)

5. The building-materials sector in the African region - issue paper, UNCHS (Habitat)

6. Domestic capacity-building in the building-materials sector - a programme proposal for countries of sub-Saharan Africa, UNCHS (Habitat)

7. Prospects for development of the construction industry in the developing countries, UNIDO

8. Promoting sustainable construction-industry activities, UNCHS (Habitat), background paper

9. Promoting sustainable construction-industry activities, UNCHS (Habitat), issue paper

10. Building-materials for housing - appropriate, intermediate, cost-effective building-materials, technologies and transfer mechanisms for housing delivery, UNCHS (Habitat), background paper

11. ECA activities in the building materials sector, ECA

12. Cooperation in the African Region on Technologies and Standards for Local Building Materials, UNCHS (Habitat) (HS/181/89E)

13. Five issues of the Journal of the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies, UNCHS (Habitat), ISSN 1012-9812

Annex V


1. Mr. Thomas MBONDO KANGA
Director, Architecture and Housing
Ministry of Town Planning and Housing
BP 751

Telephone: (237) 220518
Telex 8560 KN

2. Mr. Bazezew YIGZAW BOGALE
Head, Construction Equipment
Control and Follow-up Division
Ministry of Works and Urban Development
P.O. Box 5608
Addis Ababa

Telephone: 514655 (Office), 112056 (House)

3. Mr. Opoku BERKOH
Deputy Director (Housing)
Head of the Policy Planning and
Evaluation Unit
Ministry of Works and Housing
P.O. Box M43

Telephone: 665421, Ext. 5610
Fax: (233-21) 663268

4. Mr. Maurice O. AYUGI
Kenya Building Research Centre,
Ministry of Public Works and Housing
P.O. Box 30260

Telephone: 713539

5. Mr. Gibson G. MAINA
Deputy Director
Kenya Building Research Centre
Ministry of Public Works and Housing
P.O. Box 30260

Telephone: 719356

6. Mr. William S. W. BUSOLO
Chief Superintending Architect
Ministry of Public Works and Housing
P.O. Box 51884

Telephone: 723101

7. Ms. Leah MURAGURI
Estates Surveyor
Ministry of Public Works and Housing
Housing Department
P.O. Box 75323

Telephone: 718050, Ext. 2204

8. Mr. Nathan NJENGA
Assistant Engineer, Housing Department
Ministry of Public Works and Housing
P.O. Box 75323

Telephone: 607147 (House),
715050, Ext. 2269 (Office)

9. Ms. Mpho MOLAPO
Director of Operations
Lesotho Housing and Land Development Cooperation
P.O. Box 460
Maseru 100

Telephone: 09266 - 312324/313736
Fax: 09266 310185
Telex: 4435

10. Mr. V. A. ROBO
Assistant General Manager
Malawi Housing Corporation
P.O. Box 414

Telephone: 672053

11. Mr. Augustine A. GRAIG
Deputy Director of Housing
Ministry of Local Government and Housing
75 Malcolm Spence Street

Telephone: 061-51265 (Home) 36730 (Office)
Fax: 061-226049

12. Mr. Anthony MADEDOR
Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute
PMB 12568
15 Awolowo Road

Telephone: 01-684273

13. Mr. Laabidi BARHOUMI
Chairman, General Manager
5, Rue Abdul Hassen Elgabsi
10008 Tunis

Telephone: 285 034
Fax: 788409

Commissioner for Housing
Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development
P.O. Box 7122

Telephone: 247934

15. Mr. Wilfred OKELLO
Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development
P.O. Box 7122

Telephone: 242931/4
Fax: 242934

16. Mr. Joram MGHWENO
Director of Housing Development
Ministry of Local Government,

Community Development,
Co-operatives and Marketing

P.O. Box 9344
United Republic of Tanzania

Telephone: 20806 or 21241 Ext. 228
Fax: 23244 Ardhi
Telex: 41725 MARETO TZ

17. Mr. K. M. I. M. MSITA
Executive Secretary
National Construction Council
P.O. Box 70039
Mansfield Street
United Republic of Tanzania

Telephone: 051 -26886/31321/31322
Fax: 051-31323
Telex: 41392

18. Mr. Joseph M. KAOMA
Chief Executive
National Housing Authority
P.O. Box 50074

Telephone: 254154
Fax: 221039
Telex: ZA 40181

United Nations agencies

1. Mr. Niels BIERING
Chief, Building Materials and Construction Unit
P.O. Box 300

Telephone + 43-1-21131-3899
Fax: +43-1-232156
Telex: 135612 UNO-A

Former Chief Unit of Heavy Industries

System of Consultations Division

P.O. Box 400
A-1400 Vienna

Telephone: (43-1) 211-31-3645
Fax: (43-1) 237 288

3. Mr. Alexandre ZAKHAROV
Human Settlements Officer
Industry and Human Settlement Division
P.O. Box 3005
Addis Ababa

Telephone 51-72-00 Ext. 438

Other agencies

1. Mr. T.N. GUPTA
Executive Director
Building Materials and
Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC)
G-116 Nirman Bhawan
Ministry of Urban Development
New Delhi-110001

Tel. 91-11-3019367
Fax 91-11-3010145
Telex 031-62904 BMTP IN

2. Mr. Julius KIRIMA
Industrial Development Officer
(in charge of Building Material)
Ministry of Commerce and Industry
P.O. Box 30418

Telephone: 340250, Ext. 25306

3. Mr. Solomon MWANGI
Programme Advisor
P.O. Box 10973

Telephone: 787380/81

4. Ms. Elizabeth C. MIBEY
Public Health Officer
National Environment Secretariat (NES)
Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources
P.O. Box 67839

Telephone: 22961 Ext. 35101

5. Mr. Kiran MUKERJI
Dipl. Ing. Architect
Planning and Building in the Tropics
Wittelsbacherstr. 14
D-82319 Starnberg

Telephone +49 -8151 -14684
Fax: +49-8151-78950

6. Mr. Amon NDERI NG'ANG'A
Projects Manager
22 Chiromo Acess Road
P.O. Box 39493

Telephone: 442108
Fax: 445166

7. Mr. Ositadinma OKONKWO,
Senior Project Officer
P.O. Box 41479

Telephone: 722305-9
Fax: 722024
Telex: 25355

Research Fellow
University of Nairobi
P.O. Box 30197

Telephone: 724521

9. Mr. Paul SYAGGA
University of Nairobi
P.O. Box 30197

Telephone: 728549
Fax: 718549
Telex: KE 2295

10. Mr. Isaac N. WAGACHA
Winconsult Associates
P.O. Box 70419

Tel. 717845

11. Peter ONDIEGE
Housing and Building Research Institute (HABRI)
University of Nairobi
P.O. Box 30197

Telephone: 724521

Annex VI


1. What do you consider are the main barriers to improving the productivity and quality of outputs and reducing production and distribution costs in the building-materials industry, especially in the small-scale and informal sectors? To what extent do the current structure of the building-materials industry and the domestic policy environment contribute to these constraints?

2. The excessive reliance of small-scale operatives on traditional techniques has been a major obstacle to improving the productivity and overall performance of the industry. What possible changes in the current approaches to technology development, transfer and diffusion mechanisms do you suggest for technological upgrading of the small-scale and informal sector?

3. In what ways could the current efforts of governments, international agencies and non-governmental organizations be made more effective to improve the availability of cost-effective building materials to house-builders, especially those in low-income groups?

4. Recognizing the crucial role that the building-materials industry plays in national development in general, and in shelter delivery in particular, what could be the essential elements of a national strategy to foster the growth of the industry and to reduce the current demand-supply gap?

Sun-dried soil blocks for use in low-cost walling construction

1. Manufacture of bricks by a semi-mechanized process including high-draught kiln*

* Developed by the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee, India.

An extrusion machine (see figure 1) to manufacture 2500 wire-cut bricks per hour, with an economically low rate of power consumption has been developed. This machine is of advanced design, provides efficient service, uses indigenously-available resources and involves only a small capital outlay.

Figure 1. Semi-mechanized brickmaking machine

Salient features of the plant

- The machine consists of two decks. The mixer is located in the upper deck and the main auger is placed in the lower deck.

- The main auger is housed in a 400-mm diameter straight barrel. The auger is of variable pitch and has been designed to produce 2500 wire-cut bricks per hour and works at 25 rounds per minute (RPM).

- The bearings of the auger and mixer shafts have been placed in such a manner that they do not come in line with the clay flow. The bearings are either a roller or ball requiring little maintenance.

- The mixer and the main auger are driven separately, requiring powers of 20 HP and 40 HP, respectively. All wearing parts, e.g., blades and augers have been tipped with hard-wearing materials. Replacement of worn-out parts can be easily done without dismantling the shafts and or other driving gears etc.

Raw materials

There are many types of soils from which bricks are made. The most suitable ones are strong soils, sandy soils and calcareous soils. Strong soils are plastic in nature and contain fewer opening spaces (voids). On drying, the water content of these soils comes out with pressure, thus, cracks are formed either in the soil or the products cast out of them. Sandy and loamy soils are considered good soils for making bricks. Calcareous soils contain some lime which gives the soil a light colour. Excess of lime causes lime-bursting in the bricks. The red colour of bricks is due to the existence of Fe2O3. MgO gives a yellow colour. A soil which has 25 per cent Al2O3, 55 per cent SiO2, 20 per cent Fe2O3, MgO and oxides gives the best bricks. Soils having the following composition and characteristics are considered suitable for bricks also.

Clay: 20 - 30 per cent; clay and silt: 40 - 65 per cent; liquid limit: 25-38 per cent; volumetric shrinkage: 15-25 per cent; and plastic index: 7-16 per cent.

Soils containing as low as 17 per cent clay content may also be used. Calcareous soils containing up to 1 per cent of CaCO3 do not present difficulties in making good-quality bricks.

The plant is meant primarily for alluvial clays but can be adopted for black cotton and lateritic soils with certain modifications.

Production process

Clay is dug manually and transported by animals or trucks to the storage heaps near the extruder. From the weathering heap, which is kept wet by frequent spraying of water for at least one week, clay is again dug out manually and fed to a belt conveyor (L = 7.5 - 9.5 m, W = 40 cm) which brings the clay into the upper deck of the machine where more water is added. A clay beam extruding through the die of the machine is cut into bricks by a hand-operated cutter. From the cutting table, bricks are manually transferred to pallets and wheeled away in barrows to the drying sheds where the bricks are set on the floor. Empty pallets are returned to the cutting table. The bricks are allowed to dry naturally on the floor of the drying shed (see figure 2), and then arranged in stacks, when sufficiently strong, to permit stacking. The drying shed has a drying space of 6000 square metres, sufficient for accommodating 15-days' production. The drying shed is constructed with wooden roofing structure supported on wooden or bamboo poles. Clay tiles or corrugated sheets are used as roofing materials. The sheds should be low-roof structures with a clearance about 1.2 m at the eaves. The bricks take from 7 to 21 days for drying, depending on weather conditions. Dry bricks are transported to the kiln on wheelbarrows and stacked in the kiln by hand.

Figure 2. A view of the drying shed

High-draught continuous kiln

The most common continuous brick kilns used in India by the brick industry are Bull's trench kilns. These kilns have comparatively low thermal efficiency and produce inferior-quality burnt-clay bricks. Also, the kilns operate during dry seasons only.

CBRI has developed a high-draught kiln (see figure 3) which is top-fed, coal-fired and continuous, and in which the fire follows a zig-zag path, suitable for burning 20,000 to 30,000 bricks per day. It is based on an induced-draught system.

Salient features of the kiln

- The kiln is thermaly as efficient as modern kilns used in many developed and developing countries

- Fuel consumption is 120 kg of coal per 1000 bricks as against 160 to 180 kg consumed in a Bull's trench kiln

- Productivity of well-burnt bricks is on the high side

- The kiln can be operated all through the year

- The bricks are uniformly burnt over the entire cross-section of the kiln

- The kiln is congenial for the labour to operate

The cost of the construction of a high-draught kiln, including shed, is around Rs. 450,000. This is quite high compared with a conventional Bull's kiln costing about Rs. 100,000. But, the savings in fuel consumption is about 6 tons per 100,000 of bricks which offsets the extra initial investment within 10 to 12 months during which more than 8 million bricks can be burnt (considering the cost of coal being Rs. 800 per ton and coal consumption of 12 tons per 100,000 bricks).

The major materials used for the construction of the kiln are common building bricks used in any brickwork. Except in the foundations, where concrete is used, the entire brickwork is to be constructed with mud mortar. The shed over the kiln is structured with tubular or angle-iron trusses. Corrugated A.C. sheets are used as a cover. The trusses are supported on steel stanchions or reinforced-concrete pillars.

Figure 3. High-draught brick kiln (inside view)

Final remarks

The quality of bricks is such that they can be used for high-rise prestigious buildings, paving bricks for roads and special bricks for facing and decorative purposes in residential and public buildings.

CBRI is prepared to offer the technology to interested entrepreneurs willing to adopt the technology of the kiln by making available the kiln design, demonstrating the operation of the kiln under field conditions, providing technical consultancy and retaining the stokers. The use of such a kiln may be made obligatory as its use will largely help to conserve energy and to minimize coal consumption.

Scheme for the manufacture of bricks by a semi-mechanised process

(i) The manufacturing process is shown in a flow chart (see figure 4).

(ii) Production scale:

(a) Rate of production
30,000 bricks per day or 9 million bricks per year

(b) Details of bricks
Size: 22.5 × 11.25 × 7.5 cm

Land and building

Land (sq m)

16 000


Machine shed



Shed over belt conveyor and hopper



Drying shed

6 000


Kiln shed



Dry clay storage shed



Fan room



Office cum store


Machinery and equipment


Double-deck extruder with hand-operated cutting table, belt conveyor, motors etc.



Box feeder



Diesel generator 125 kVa



Coal crusher with motor



Induced fan


Raw materials


Clay (for 9 million bricks)

22,500 m3



Electric power

180,800 kWh



1100 t



4500 m3






Kiln operator



Supervisor (mechanical and electrical)






Security personnel



Semi-skilled labour



Unskilled labour


Energy consumption for a day's production




Thermal (coal)

Brickmaking machine, induced draught fan, including lighting, fan and water supply

600 kWh


kiln firing


3600 kg

Figure 4. Manufacture of bricks by semi-mechanized process

2. Manufacture of bricks from alumina red mud*

* Developed by the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) Roorkee, India.

Alumina red mud as a raw material for the brick-manufacturing industry

Alumina red mud or bauxite reject is one of the important inorganic waste materials obtained in large quantities from aluminium production plants. For the production of aluminium, bauxite ore is digested with caustic soda when most of the aluminium passes into solution as aluminate. The red colour residue, consisting mainly of alumina, iron oxide and titania with small quantities of silica, calcium oxide and alkali is left over as a major reject of the process.

In countries where there are huge reserves of bauxite there is the possibility of a manifold expansion of the aluminium industry. Thus, alumina red mud is going to create similar problems, due to serious pollution and indiscriminate disposal, in the very near future to those which flyash is creating today.

The physical properties of red mud, such as the colloidal nature of particles, plasticity, water absorption, mouldability and chemical composition showing the presence of alumina, iron oxide and fluxes, indicate the suitability of red mud to be disposed of in large quantities and used in the brick-making industry (or for flooring tiles). The suitability of red mud, to be used for the brick-making industry, is proved by the fact that only a slight modification, by incorporating some siliceous materials in the composition of red mud, is required. The Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) has carried out laboratory and field trials for making building bricks out of red mud supplied from three different aluminium plants in India. The test results show that the physical properties of bricks made by hand-moulding or extrusion are similar to normal building bricks. In many cases a very high compressive strength is obtained due to better fluxing action that is produced by the red mud. The bricks can be made and dried in the usual way and fired in any type of traditional brick kilns.

Novel features

(a) The brick industry is the largest building industry which can consume most of the red-mud waste, thus, solving disposal and pollution problems. The use of red mud for brick-making can save also the clay deposits allowing increased agricultural activities.

(b) Red mud improves the quality of bricks made from inferior clays which are deficient in clay content.

(c) Red mud compositions give bricks a pale brown, orange or golden yellow colour depending upon the composition of raw material and firing temperature. They have, therefore, good architectural value when used as facing bricks.

(d) The presence of 4-5 per cent of alkali in red mud provides good fluxing action resulting into good plasticity and a better bond in the bricks.

As the use of red mud in brick production does not adversely effect the physical properties of the bricks, these can be used for all types of construction. The necessary laboratory and field trials have been carried out and it has been found that there is no considerable difference in the physical properties of bricks in which red mud has been used compared with normal clay bricks. There should, therefore, be no resistance from the consumers' side to the use of red-mud bricks.

Any plant including the kiln for manufacturing building bricks from red mud has to be established near an aluminium plant so that the two raw materials, red mud and clay are easily available, and that the transport costs could be minimized. In order to have an economically viable plant, a capacity of at least 36,000 bricks per day should be envisaged. In calculating the cost of production, two possibilities have been realized. In the first instance, the kiln is situated by the side of a red-mud storage tank from where red-mud slurry directly passes through drains or pipes to the clay pits and is mixed with the clay manually. (The plastic mix can be hand-moulded.) In the second instance, a different procedure is to be adopted where land for the kiln is not available near the storage tank and red mud is to be transported by trucks in lump form to the kiln site situated at about 1 km away from the tank. Here the lumps are mixed with clay in a mechanical pan-mill grinder. This mix, after wetting, can either be used for making the hand-moulded bricks around the mixer or be extruded by a pugmill for making wire-cut bricks.

With regard to plant and machinery requirements, it should be stated that the process is not much different from that adopted for making normal clay bricks. Only red-mud slurry or lumps are to be mixed thoroughly with clay in clay pits or in a mechanically operated pan-mill grinder. The mix can be hand moulded or extruded. For firing, the prevalent Bull's trench kiln can be used.

Scheme for production of bricks from alumina red mud

(i) Manufacturing process is shown in figure 1

(ii) Production scale:
Rate of production

(a) 36,000 bricks per day of three shifts

7.2 million bricks per annum of 200 working days

(b) Details of bricks

Size: 22.5 × 11.25 × 7.5 cm

Figure 1. Process flow chart for the manufacture of bricks from alumina red mud

Land and building (sq/m)








Building office-cum-store


Machinery and equipment


Pug mill





Raw materials



18,000 m3


Alumina red mud

13,500 t



Electrical power

86,400 kWh



1 152 t



7 200 kl



20 t

* For one year of production

















Energy consumption for a day's production*







1. Extrusion of bricks lighting, fans, water supply etc.

432 kWh

2. Kiln

5 760 kg

100 kg

* Requirement for 36,000 bricks

3. Manufacture of bricks from red murrum soil*

* Developed by the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee, India.

Red murrum soils present difficulties in producing good quality bricks due to their coarse, highly siliceous and non-plastic nature, short vitrification range and lime-bursting.

Generally, bricks produced out of red murrum soils are porous and of low strength (20-25 kg/cm2).

The Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) has been studying the murrum soil of Hyderabad for some time and has developed processes for making bricks of a compressive strength in the range of 100 kg/cm2 from it.

Processing of red murrum soil for brick manufacture

According to the methods worked out in CBRI, bricks of improved quality can be produced from red murrum soil processed by any of the following four alternative methods:

(a) An admixture of 70-per cent red murrum soil and 30-per cent clayey soil, wherever it is available around low-lying areas, tank beds, banks of rivers, etc., is used for moulding bricks. For the purpose of calcination, it is assumed that clayey soil would be transported an average distance of five miles. Calcination would be undertaken to remove oversize particles above 1-2 mm, and the refuse material after the calcination treatment would be disposed off.

(b) The process is the same as in (a) above, except that, clayey soil is assumed to be available in close vicinity of the moulding site.

(c) Red soil is used without any admixture of clayey soil. The calcination method is followed to remove oversize material above 1 mm and the refuse material is disposed off.

(d) Red soil, as a whole, is used. The calcination method is not applied, but instead red soil is ground to 1-mm size in a pan-mill before it is used for brick-moulding.

Calcination method

The calcination method of separating lime nodules and coarse particles present in the soil is widely practised in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. In this process the raw soil is dispersed with excess water in calcination tanks. The clay is worked manually to ensure complete disintegration.

Figure 1. Process flow chart for the manufacture of bricks from red murrum soil

A: Clayey soil is transported from a distance of five miles
B: Clayey soil is available close to moulding site
C: With calcination process but without clayey soil
D: Red soil as a whole without calcination process

* Developed by the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee, India.

The lime nodules and coarse particles are then scooped out of the dispersion using baskets with holes in them. The suspension is thereafter drawn out of the tank into a settling tank through a sieve to separate any nodules left behind. When the clay settles down, the supernatant water is syphoned off. The clay is then allowed to dry to a plastic consistency It is then ready for moulding bricks. It is envisaged that this process would be carried out manually.

Firing the bricks

It is important that the firing of bricks is done in a temperature range of 780-830°C Hence, the adoption of Bull's trench kiln is recommended instead of clamps Bull's kilns are known for continuous operation and they turn out a higher percentage of first quality bricks

Scheme for the production of improved bricks

From red murrum soil

(a) The manufacturing process is shown in a flow chart (see figure 1)

(b) Production scale

(i) Rate of production

25,000 brick per day (3 shifts)

7.5 million bricks per year of 300 working days

(ii) Details of bricks

Size 22.5 × 11.25 × 7.5 cm

Raw materials*



18,750 m3



3 750 m3

* For one year's production and production methods (a), (b) and (c)



Electric power

108,000 kWh



1 600 t



20 t


moulds, sand, chimney, oil, grease etc.






Operator for disintegrator









Energy consumption for day's production








Disintegrator for production process (c)

360 kWh




Lighting, fans, water supply etc. for all production processes

125 kWh




Kiln (in all production processes)


5300 kg

70 kg

Publications review

Published by UNCHS (Habitat)

Women and Human Settlements Development

Women are providers of basic services and infrastructure in the majority of human settlements, especially among the poor. Their critical role in primary health care and in preserving hygiene cannot be challenged. Women also provide a great portion of the energy resources consumed in settlements, and in transporting rural produce. Yet, their contributions are unrecorded and their participation in the planning and management of community services and infrastructure is unrecognized and hindered.

While the promotion of the participation of women in non-traditional areas of activity and in mainstream development sectors has been advocated, little has been done to enhance their participation in the development of human settlements and in the construction, management and upkeep of the built environment. Ensuring the participation of women in the construction sector, as policy- and decision-makers, as planners and professional and as workers, is only one aspect of the incorporation of women into shelter development Because there are concrete and identifiable implications of all human settlements policies for women, whether they deal with land, finance, building materials, construction technologies or design of dwellings, communities and settlements, all aspects of shelter development require specific consideration of the roles of women.


This publication is an attempt to examine the roles of women in the development and management of human settlements. Since these roles are extremely diverse, a number of exclusions have been made. Although the participation of women in human settlements takes many forms and covers a wide spectrum of shelter and infrastructure activities, the focus has been placed on shelter issues. Emphasis is also placed on urban areas, both because the contributions of women to urban settlements is unappreciated and because the problems faced by the urban poor cannot be solved without the full participation of women. Finally, issues which lend themselves to policy analysis and intervention are given greater emphasis in order to create policy awareness on women's issues and to demonstrate that a women-friendly approach to development need not cause conflict and competition over scarce resources; rather it constitutes an effort to mobilize society at large to take part in the solutions of settlements problems.

98 p. HS/192/89E: ISBN 92-1-131118-7

Human Settlements and Sustainable Development: the Role of Human Settlements and of Human Settlement Policies in Meeting Development Goals and in Addressing the Issues of Sustainability at Global and Local Levels

The condition of human settlements - how they develop, use natural resources and interact with the natural environment -will be central to any successful transition to sustainable development. This applies particularly to settlements in the developing countries not only because an increasing share of the world's population lives there, as population growth and urbanization concentrate in the developing countries, but also because these settlements play a key role in social and economic development. They not only are centres for new jobs for innovation and for expanding economic opportunities; settlements also play a crucial role in support of agricultural development as well as in the provision of social and other basic amenities.

However, it is particularly in urban settlements that the world's resources are consumed or transformed into products. The relationships between human settlements and natural environments are complex at the village level, but inefficient use of natural resources by large populations is putting ecological systems under stress most visibly in urban areas of developing countries. Cities draw heavily on natural resources, such as water, minerals and fuels, and, if improperly managed, they discharge wastes in a fashion that distorts natural biochemical recycling processes.

The purpose of this publication is to demonstrate the relationship between human settlements and sustainable development. It highlights the significance of shelter and settlements for sustainable development and the trends and approaches to sustainable development. It analyses a number of issues related to the theme of the publication such as: settlements and natural resources; settlements and renewable and non-renewable resources; water supply; sanitation; transport and energy; construction sector; physical planning etc. It finally proposes a policy framework and instruments and the role of international agencies in meeting development goals.

60 p. HS/214/90E: ISBN-92-1-131134-9

Environmental Guidelines for Settlements Planning and Management

The history of the efforts made by the United Nations system to promote environmentally sound planning and management of human settlements reaches back well over a decade.

Over the past decade, concepts relating to environmental planning and management and to human settlements planning and management have developed considerably. Initially, the emphasis was on understanding the main interactions between human settlements and the natural environment. This has been followed by a concern with improved analysis and planning methods. As these concerns were pursued, factual information concerning settlements/environment relationships became much more widespread, as did the array of environmental planning approaches available to solve specific problems.


While awareness has improved, the environmental conditions of settlements have not. Deterioration is evident not only in the large cities, but also in the smaller urban centres and rural settlements. Unplanned development is damaging the resource base upon which human settlements depend. The damage comes both through excessive use of natural resources, and the polluting effects of the various wastes generated and borne by air and water.

The publication, is the product of a major joint United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UNCHS (Habitat) project designed to distil available knowledge about the relationship between the natural environment and the built environment and to provide guidelines to planners and decision-makers that would help them use that knowledge in settlements planning management.

The publication, produced jointly by the UNEP and UNCHS (Habitat), is published in three volumes each dealing with separate issues.

Volume I.

Institutionalizing environmental planning and management for settlements development.
103p. ISBN 92 807 1158X

Volume II.

Environmental considerations in metropolitan planning and management (MPM)
170 p. ISBN 92 807 11598

Volume III.

Environmental considerations in regional planning and management (RPM)
150 p. ISBN 92 807 11601

Towards a Strategy for the Full Participation of Women in all Phases of the United Nations Global Strategy for shelter to the Year 2000

This document reports on the process initiated by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) to promote the role of women in the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000.

It is presented in three parts. The Introduction outlines the general process followed by UNCHS (Habitat) to define and create awareness of women's shelter issues. Part one presents highlights of findings and required actions identified during 1988-1989 at five regional seminars organized by UNCHS (Habitat) and funded by the Governments of the Netherlands and Norway. Part two presents the strategy or plan of action which was developed and recommended by the Interregional Seminar to Promote the Full Participation of Women in all Phases of the Global Strategy for shelter to the year 2000, held at Nairobi, from 4 to 8 December 1989.

60 p. HS/198/90E: ISBN 92-1-131113-6



Roles, Responsibilities and Capabilities for the Management of Human Settlements

At its twelfth session, the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements reviewed a theme paper on the roles, responsibilities and capabilities of governmental and non-governmental sectors in the field of human settlements. This publication is based on the text of that theme paper and has been prepared for the purpose of disseminating the information and the operational conclusions contained in the theme paper to a wider audience of policy-makers, researchers and practitioners in developed and developing countries. It identifies recent policy and institutional innovations in the management of human settlements, in line with the "enabling" strategy adopted by the Commission on Human Settlements at its tenth session and the principles of the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000. Its main focus is the identification of the range of innovations initiated and implemented to improve, through various forms of partnership and cooperation between the governmental and non-governmental sectors, the efficiency of human settlements management, so as to provide an effective, sustainable and equitable response to the settlement need of all income groups.

61 p. HS/199/90E: ISBN 92-1-131117-9


Workshop on Computer Training for Counterpart Staff of the Eight Cities/Municipalities and Participating Government Ministries of the Kenya Pilot Project, Nairobi, Kenya, 29 November -10 December 1993

Cities are the centres of economic, social and cultural development in all countries. They play a critical role in the overall development of any country. In many developing countries, urban policies and strategies are based upon insufficient and/or poor socio-economic statistical information. These shortcomings have often resulted in costly urban policy failures.

To cope with the rapidly growing demand for comprehensive city-specific information and repository function for urban data among international agencies, through its City Data Programme (CDP). The national component of CDP is the Kenya Pilot Project (KPP) being undertaken in eight project towns in Kenya.

The immediate objectives of the DPP are to design a national data collection and dissemination system which will provide efficient statistical support to urban policy-making; and to strengthen the statistical capacity of the eight projects towns and the participating central government ministries.

One of the activities of the KPP is the computer training workshop which provides the counterpart staff with hands-on expertise in using the computer as an effective planning and management tool.

The workshop, organized by UNCHS (Habitat), had the following objectives;

- To give the participants an appreciation of the computer's capabilities and their relevance to urban planning and management needs;

- To introduce the participants to common PC applications;

- To introduce the participants to UNCHS-CitiBase, a PC-application software developed by Habitat, for the production of a global database on cities and for updating individual city databases.

About 20 participants attended the workshop and were trained in a variety of packaged software programs related to the areas mentioned in the objectives of the workshop.

Workshop on Housing and Urban Development, Nyeri, Kenya, 27-29 September 1993

The three-day workshop, organized by United States Peace Corps, Kenya, brought together more than 50 Peace Corps Small Town Planning Volunteers and their local counterparts. The volunteers, under the direction of the Ministry of Local Government of Kenya, currently provide technical support to approximately 20 secondary urban areas in Kenya. The purpose of the workshop was:

- To provide a range of factual information on development planning to Peace Corps planners and their counterparts

- To encourage participants to share strategies they have employed toward meeting individual project goals

- To bring together local officials, technical experts, and interested individuals and organizations to share information, propose solutions and formulate a plan of action to address the planning needs of participating local authorities

Based on a request received from the organizers of the workshop, two UNCHS (Habitat) staff provided inputs to the workshop by making presentations on "Affordability in housing" and "Low-cost innovative technologies in building materials and construction".

Seminar on Environmental Management, Nairobi, Kenya, 15 November - 3 December 1993

The three-week training seminar, organized by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), involved mainly high-level Government officials as well as UNEP and UNCHS (Habitat) staff. The purpose of the seminar was to provide a forum for the government participants to exchange views, national experience and outlook on environmental problems and, together with those conducting the seminar, to help improve the methodologies of solving these problems so as to promote integrated and sustainable development through upgraded environmental management skills.

In addition to contributions made by UNEP directors and senior programme specialists, a number of UNCHS (Habitat) staff also provided inputs on environmental aspects of human settlements, such as energy and environment linkages in urban areas, alternative and traditional sources of energy, environmental health, urban waste management etc.

UNEP is considering organizing a similar training seminar which is scheduled to be held in 1994.

For further information please contact: Chief, Environmental Education and Training Unit, UNEP, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya.

Workshop of Small-scale Building-Materials Producers and Businesses in the Next Decade and Beyond, Nairobi, Kenya, 2-3 December 1993

The two-day workshop, organized by the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) and Fibre Concrete Producers Association of Kenya (FICROPAK), brought together about 50 small-scale producers of building materials from Kenya and a number of government official and representatives of UNCHS (Habitat) and Shelter-Afrique. The purpose of the workshop was to assess ways and means of how to improve the productivity and marketing of products and how to gain access to credit for expanding the enterprises.

The main areas of discussions and exchange of views were:

- Entrepreneurship development in Kenya;

- Financing small-scale businesses;

- Marketing new products in building materials sector;

- Development of new vibrated concrete products;

- Legal and institutional requirements for small-scale building-materials producer;

- Impact of building regulations on small-scale producers of building materials.

The representative of UNCHS (Habitat) made a presentation on the Centre's activities in the building-materials and construction sector and provided some information on the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies. He further outlined the major elements of a proposed programme for action on domestic capacity-building in the building-materials sector for sub-Saharan African and urged the participants to make use of the UNCHS (Habitat) specific technical publications on the production of building materials. A number of publications, data sheets and copies of the Journal of the Network were also distributed among the participants.

Forthcoming events

International Expert-Group Meeting on Urban Indicators, Nairobi, Kenya, 10-14 January 1994

The General Assembly of the United Nations has called for a second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, to be held at Istanbul, Turkey, in June 1996. This call is justified by the fact that despite considerable efforts at the local, national and international levels since the first United Nations Conference held in Vancouver in 1976, the global human settlements situation has continued to deteriorate. The objective of the Conference is to arrest this trend and to find effective ways of improving the living environments of all on a sustainable basis.

The Global Plan of Action to be adopted in 1996 at Istanbul will be designed with this primary objective in mind. It will also be based on specific subprogrammes with clear targets and a monitoring timetable. But this will prove impossible unless appropriate mechanisms are developed to assess the quality of the living environments of people, and find ways to ensure progress in this direction, through meaningful quantitative and qualitative indicators.

Unlike Vancouver, the Istanbul Conference will devote a lot of attention to urbanization and urban issues. The reason for this is clear. It is now universally recognized that as the twenty-first century dawns, the human settlements challenge will be won, or lost, in cities, Phenomena like the urbanization of poverty, rising crime and unemployment, and growing gowing environmental disruption are becoming increasingly associated with cities. On the other hand, cities are also places of hope and opportunity.

The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) and the World Bank have agreed to develop indicators covering each of the two major themes proposed for the Habitat II Conference: "Sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world" and "Shelter for All". The collaborative effort in developing urban indicators is a further initiative by the two agencies to mobilize their respective expertise to contribute towards the success of the forthcoming Habitat II Conference, as well as its in-country preparatory process.

The objectives of the expert group meeting are:

(a) To identify key urban sub-sectors within which performance indicators need to be developed for regular monitoring of urban sector performance;

(b) To identify a preliminary list of indicators;

(c) To examine the data requirements, cost effectiveness and key methodological problems relating to the recommended indicators;

(d) To recommend a strategy and a framework for further development of the indicators for use in the preparation of national reports for Habitat II Conference and regular monitoring of the urban sector.

For more information contact UNCHS (Habitat) P.O. Box 30030, Nairobi, Kenya.

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