Reflections On Cement and Constructing Africa

Published: Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 by Lenora

AUHF-logo WebI enjoyed this excellent blog post by the African Union of Housing Finance entitled “Cement: Constructing Africa” on the site of the Center for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa. It echoed our feature on PPC and Yogesh Narsing’s observations about cement companies’ economic role and broader responsibilities. Importantly, this piece muses on the economics of cement in Africa and varied drivers of the surge in its use, as well as challenges to lower cost cement leading to more accessible housing infrastructure.

From China’s massive uptake to ambitious producers on the content, like Dangote of Nigeria, we’re reminded of how ubiquitous the material is and the impact on manufacturing capacity and product development in Africa. It’s not clear whether markets are actually in contention, but pan-African foreign producers and low cost imports from Pakistan and China have emerged as issues. 

Finally, the author points out bottlenecks that preclude lower prices that a surge in supply might normally entail, like lack of transport infrastructure, electricity shortages, supply chain inefficiencies.

All conspire to ensure a wide distribution of cement costs on the continent, for which there is a fascinating graph showing the historic evolution of prices for cement by country across Africa. One wonders from this if sectors with large-scale infrastructure in complementary industries, like oil, partially accounts particularly low 2014 prices (check out Libya) while some fast-growing countries like Rwanda have been coping with high prices (possibly as a symptom of that growth).

Much to contemplate in this article, especially given the suggestion that Africa needs alternative building technologies. Even so, many of those rely on cement as well. How the ramp-up in cement supply affects the use, affordability and accessibility of cement for housing across various markets remains to be seen.