Top banker says housing market in Africa is growing

A senior official of the Bank of Ghana on Tuesday held out hope for the housing market in Africa saying the industry was growing and gradually becoming a major driver of economic growth.

Mr Wilson K. Narh, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG), said this underscored the need to explore ways of deepening the market further.

He said the development of housing finance schemes and the management of housing finance risks in Africa would clearly contribute to the overall growth and development.

This was contained in a speech read for him at the maiden annual African Real Estate and Housing Financing Academy at the National Banking College in Accra by Mr Lawrence Nketsiah, Deputy Head of Research of BoG.

Mr Narh stressed that a vibrant mortgage market was a key component in the development of financial markets.

However, growing the mortgage market depended on key fundamentals such as a stable macro-economic environment, availability of long-term finance, efficient payment systems and a strong legal and regulatory framework to ensure repayment and foreclosures in case of default.

Mr Narh noted that the terrain of providing housing and housing finance in Africa was “uneven and complex”.

He said housing was one of the basic needs of society and for sub-Saharan Africa, research had shown that housing needs were often placed on the same pedestal as education and healthcare.

Mr Narh said the gravity of inadequate or non-existent housing was more precarious in sub-Saharan Africa, where statistics showed that as much as 70 per cent of the urban housing stocks were of poor quality. They lacked water and sanitation facilities and had poor infrastructural facilities, he noted.

“Whether you are a practitioner in housing delivery, an investor or financier, or a policymaker, these alarming statistics should (urge us on) to strategise and put significant interventions in place to address deficits, especially in Africa.”

Mr Narh noted that the housing industry was central in a country’s economic and financial development, adding that housing formed a major component of household wealth or a form of savings, acting as a hedging instrument against inflation in times of economic uncertainties.

“However, despite the advantages of home ownership, as demand for housing continues to grow, supply lags behind due to high costs of financing.”

For most households, housing finance is the main constraint that prevents them from acquiring houses and the activities of some major players in financing the housing in Africa, especially banks, also inhibit the household’s ability to home ownership.

Mr Narh said for policy makers like the central bank, the inter-linkages between the housing sector and general economy were of critical importance, especially since increased household wealth stimulated consumer spending and generated asset price bubbles.

Mr Asare Akuffo, Managing Director of HFC Bank, said a training programme in 2006 preceding the annual conference and General Meeting of the African Union of Housing Finance in Accra confirmed the acute vacuum in housing finance training in Africa.

Since then, they have endeavoured to establish in Accra a high quality programme that will serve the housing finance industry in Africa.

Mr Akuffo said the Ghana Housing Finance Association had the goal – to develop capacity in real estate development and housing finance, not only the Ghanaian market but also West Africa.

Source: GNA

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