Building the new continent: economic growth fuels construction frenzy.

AuthorFord, Neil

The health of the construction sector is perhaps the best indicator of the strength of a national economy. Governments, companies and individuals all invest more readily in real estate when they have disposable income and are optimistic about their immediate economic prospects. With a few exceptions, the constroction industries of most African countries successfully weathered the glpbal financial crisis and new building projects are under way across the continent - reflecting the fact that Africa is back on track in terms of economic growth and responding to strong demand from the continent's growing consumer class.

This boom in construction is being fuelled by strong economic growth in most parts of the continent. Housing developments, new schools and clinics are being accompanied by dam, road, rail and port projects, while two highly ambitious schemes are seeking to create vast city centres on greenfield sites in Nigeria and Kenya.

All this is creating work for African architects, planners and also local cement producers. Cement can be, and indeed is, sometimes traded between countries, but this is an expensive option given its high weight per value.

The continent's growing interest in property development has been underlined by the number of real estate conferences and exhibitions that have been organised over the past two years.

For instance, East African Housing Expo will bring together designers, developers, financiers, and real estate agents in Nairobi this September, in what is being advertised as the first event of its kind in East Africa.

A spokesperson for the event said: "With the rapid growth and advancements in the building and construction industry in the region, professionals and stakeholders in this sector will have an opportunity to showcase their products and services to a wide and receptive audience."

Most high-profile construction projects in Africa utilise technologies that have been developed elsewhere in the world and usually employ the kind of architectural styles that are bringing uniformity to airports, offices and apartment blocks around the globe. However, the specific requirements of the continent's various climates and economic challenges mean that some construction materials are being developed specifically for use in Africa.

Safal MiTek Ltd recently launched a prefabricated light roof system called Ultra-Span to provide an alternative to wooden supports in Kenya. The company is a joint venture of Kenya's...

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