Lafarge Africa Bridges Skills Gap in Home Construction

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Lafarge’s affordable home

Lafarge Africa Plc., is using its Easy Home, an innovative affordable housing initiative, to bridge the skills gap in Nigeria’s construction industry, by giving home builders access to trained artisans skilled in block making, among other free services. Bennett Oghifo reports

The use of incompetent craftsmen, low quality building materials, weak supervision non-compliance with specifications/standards by developers/contractors, poor maintenance culture, improper design are among the many reasons given for poor workmanship in Nigeria.

Skilled manpower…
The country needs infrastructure, both hard (roads, bridges, railways, houses) and soft (skilled manpower) to for its socioeconomic development and the role of the construction industry is critical.
However, the sector is neither employing nor contributing enough. For a sector involved in providing shelter for lives and property, the number of people employed in Nigeria’s construction industry is way smaller than those engaged in retail, wholesale and auto repair.

According to available statistics, as at 2010, 1.1 million people worked in the construction industry while 12.1 million were in trading. During this same period the contribution of both sectors is just as stark; wholesale and retail trade contributed 14% to GDP while construction accounted for 1.2%.

Qualified workers top the list of things home builders want. They also want cheaper cement delivered on time and other building materials at reasonable prices.Good bricklayers are so hard to find in Nigeria. Nowadays these skills are imported from neighbouring West African countries like Benin Republic and Togo. The lack of good bricklayers and well made blocks are among the obstacles to solving Nigeria’s housing deficit.
“The housing backlog is estimated at 14 million units and it will require ₦49 trillion to bridge,” according to a 2010 report commissioned by EFInA and Finmark Trust.

Construction style…
Experts in the construction industry believe that Nigeria, presently, needs ₦59.5 trillion to bridge its 18 million housing deficit.
“Every year, only a tenth of the one million homes required are built. Most of these are by intrepid individuals who contend with shoddy workmanship, poor building materials, deficient financing, and an under-developed mortgage market. Easy Home is designed to suit individual home builders (IHBs) needs and soothe their pains.”

Aurelien Boyer, Head of the Lafarge Africa Affordable Housing initiative, says, “The value proposition of Easy Home is that if the challenges are addressed, Nigerians could build more houses faster.”

Delays in project completion (2 to 5 years); access to qualified professionals in the built environment; mortgages focused on the high-end market; inconsistent quality of building materials; bureaucratic building approval process and high cost of buying land and local land tenure issues are some of the challenges of individual home builders which Easy Home addresses, Boyer said.

He said Easy Home beneficiaries, in addition to getting access to trained artisans skilled in block-making, enjoy the Lafarge advantage i.e. artisans trained in site safety.
“They also get access to trained technical assistants that can handle different phases of construction from start to finish, and a network of professional and experienced engineers who assist in the construction process through site visits—before construction starts to prepare a plan, design and bill of quantity, during construction and at the end. The engineers also help). As these bricklayers, technicians and engineers work on construction jobs their skills improve,” he said.

Boyer said “In effect, by addressing individual home builders’ pressing needs, the free services of Easy Home form an ecosystem that bridges the skill gap and creates value for all stakeholders including individual home builders, artisans, construction professionals and retailers.”
Over 30,000 people in 14 states have, through these services, built their bungalows, duplexes, self-contained apartments, shops, schools, clinics etc.

Aurelien Boyer stated that “our provision of free technical assistance, links to trusted builders, reliable retailers and qualified artisans, maximizes home builders’ budget and makes their dream a reality.”
The Easy Home initiative, he said was another example of how Lafarge is contributing to the construction of cities around the world, through innovative solutions providing them with more housing and making them more compact, more durable, more beautiful, and better connected

Easy Home to boost affordable housing…
Lafarge Africa Plc has said that its Easy Home initiative is conceived to provide affordable housing in the country.
Easy Home is an ambitious housing solution which involves 25 countries globally. In 2016 alone, over 445,000 people were impacted and it is targeting to impact 25 million people by 2030. In Nigeria, about 30,000 people have benefited from the initiative and still counting.

Boyer, who spoke at a media roundtable in Lagos, recently, described Easy Home as a pragmatic affordable housing solution with which they are building a business initiative with positive social impacts.
He said the objective of the initiative was to build new markets for LafargeHolcim and improve housing conditions, pointing out that it is an investment vehicle launched with CDC Group / UK – DFID to take affordable construction solutions to scale with a focus on Africa.

Boyer said, “Easy Home looks at how people build, facing the challenges of finance, artisans, project execution and land acquisition. It offers builders the opportunity to leverage its partnerships such as the one it has with Lapo Micro-finance Bank which provides housing finance for those that come through this initiative. It also provides free technical advisory services and assistance and we deliver a construction estimate such as the number of cement, blocks and their unit cost in just 10 minutes.”

He said “These technical advisory services are offered unconditionally, but the beneficiaries are expected to use Lafarge cement and blocks because those are the materials the company is confident to use. The technical support is also available to anybody who has his own source of funds other than the one offered by LAPO Micro-finance Bank.”
Boyer said that anyone, whether he is a business owner, a salary earner or civil servant can apply for this solution, but he has to show evidence of stable source of income.

To access the loan, he said the borrower needed to bring a deed of agreement or transfer showing that he is the owner of the landed property and a proof of income as the primary criteria.
He said within the three years of operation, the Easy Home has impacted people in some states of the federation including Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Ondo, Osun, Nasarawa, Niger, Calabar, Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Rivers. It has enabled about 10 per cent of its beneficiaries to build business structures such as shops, schools, clinics, bakeries, etc and is creating opportunities for these businesses to generate billions of naira and thousands of jobs.

Boyer said, “This is the only home construction solution for low income earners; it is the solution for this class of people who earn from N20,000 to N300,000 and are aiming to build their homes. The solution is accessible to everybody including petty traders, civil servants, taxi drivers, barbers, etc.”

According to the Director, Communications and Public Affairs, Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, “Lafarge Africa is committed to facilitating affordable housing across Nigeria with its Easy Home initiative, a home construction solution which has so far benefited over 30,000 people since it began three years ago.”

The Easy Home solution, she said was an opportunity available for whoever desired it. “We will provide you with technical support as long as you have a building project because we vouch for our cement and concrete solutions.
“Based on the long term aspiration of the affordable housing value proposition at the group level, LafargeHolcim hopes to positively impact about 25 million around the world by 2020; we hope that Nigeria would represent a significant portion of the projected beneficiaries.”