|Report of the Workshop on the Network of African Countries on Local Building Materials and Technologies (HABITAT, 1994, 132 p.)|
|Annex I. THE BUILDING-MATERIALS SECTOR IN THE AFRICAN REGION|
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 which constitutes 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 at 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 formulations and policy adjustments 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; and the promotion of technological innovations, the introduction of appropriate technologies and local capacity-building in small-scale enterprises (in both 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 the high cost of building materials are not to prove a bottleneck 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 the major constraints the sector faces which 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 chapter of this paper.