Speaker Akin Akindoyeni
What is Appropriate for Africa? Country-Specific Challenges Facing the Green Building Industry in Africa.
During this session four panelists - each representing a different country in Africa - were posed a set of questions and asked to answer in terms of their own country-specific experience and ideas. Discussion was then opened to audience members after panelist response. This was easily the most interesting session of the day, as it highlighted many commonalities between the different countries and participants, but also raised many cultural issues that were unique among them. This was a long session, so highlights in note form below.
Akin Akindoyeni, Chairman - Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, Nigeria
Dr. Kamugisha Byabato, Engineer and Lecturer - Tanzania Energy Research Institute, Tanzania
Tony Lee Luen Len, Mauritius GBC, Mauritius
Elijah Agevi, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Kenya
QUESTION 1: WHAT ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES FACING GREEN BUILDING IN AFRICA?
Akindoyeni: Need to educate the general population on the consequences forseable in the future if the current building trends are maintained. Genral population does not understand that current actions will have negative consequences.
Agevi: Priorities. 70% of Africa is poor, and most need access to other basic life-needs (shelter, job, education, access to water, food, and proper sanitation) before sustainable building technologies and strategies can be considered.
Len: Out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Fear of unknown (lack of understanding of green concepts and the desire not to build out of comfort zone). General population has little participation in development and the decision-making process.
Byabato: The concept of green design is not unknown to Africans. Traditional building techniques are inherently sustainable (solar shading, building orientation, water collection). Africans have a desire to be modern, but in the international sense - not in through a contemporary African perspective. The move to modern has pushed away the traditional techniques in lieu of the international style which is not appropriate in Africa (environmentally, culturally, or politically). These new post-colonial technologies systems, and governments are not reconciled with the traditional.
-COMMENTARY OPEN TO AUDIENCE-
Representative from Cameroon: Too much concern for profit in the short-term.
Representative from Sudan: (Comments specific to post-conflict nations). Lack of infrastructure and facilities. Post-conflict nations just want to re-build. Desire for most immediate solution. Cheap. Fast. Familiar. Many post-conflict countries are funded by outside sources, so they may be subject to the agendas of the funding organizations/countries.
Representative from Ghana: No advocacy from the intellectual class. Politicians and government are the elite that push development. Action needed at the local level. No action from the top-down.
QUESTION 2: WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IN TERMS OF GREEN STANDARDS?
Akindoyeni: Change needs to happen at the elite level. If a country has a building code, it needs to be updated AND enforced. Education needs to occur at all levels. Change needs to be forced (later redacted during discussion to use the word enforced). People who do not understand, will not change.
Agevi: Change the mind and way of thought about sustainability (cost vs. net benefit) at all levels. Aggressive awareness campaign aimed at all stakeholders. Tax incentives. Mainstream standards and codes need to be adopted and enforced. Solutions must be sensible and cost-sensitive.
Len: Update building codes as per region. No more one-size-fits-all set of regulations.
Byabato: Look to traditions. "Slums were not created by God. At independence, only the leaders changed - the rules did not. Africa is still playing by rules created for them, not by them." Use public buildings as public examples. All new buildings should be built by these [updated] standards. No exceptions.
-COMMENTARY OPEN TO AUDIENCE-
Representative from Egypt: Do not force the poor. They are the ones who need access to sustainable design the most, but forcing them will not work. Lead by example.
Agevi Response: The biggest issue with codes and regulations is enforcement.
Byabato: (Response to earlier comment by Sudan - no infrastructure, etc.) "The advantage of underdevelopment". If there is no inherent infrastructure or institutions then there are no physical barriers to new development strategies - only mental and cultural.
QUESTION 3: WHAT CAN REALISTICALLY BE ACHIEVED IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
Agevi: Mainstream awareness. Audits on existing buildings and industry stakeholders. Change in language (i.e. sustainable as part of normal design, not an extra). Regional thinking. Need champions.
Len: GBC set up fully in Mauritius. Pilot projects.
Akindoyeni: Building profession to cooperate in sustainable design practices. Use rating systems as a campaign tool. Example buildings and best-practice examples.
Byabato: Engage and involve financial institutions in building practices. Make financial institutions into stake holders.