Like many emerging markets with fast-growing populations, Ghana faces a housing shortage. It must tackle a crunch between a public sector with limited resources to provide social housing and a private sector that sees little profitably in such developments.
The figure most often quoted for Ghana’s housing deficit is 1.7m units, rising to 2m by 2018. The shortage has led to the growth of informal and slum housing in some cities, a reduced standard of living, and health and safety risks for inhabitants. “Our market is derived from an acute housing shortage that spans the region,” Ibrahim Bah, managing director of real estate developer Regimanuel Gray, told OBG. “In Ghana alone it is estimated that 70,000 houses are needed annually. The delivery rate is less than 10% of this number.” Others put the figure considerably higher at as many as 190,000 new units over the next eight years, while President John Dramani Mahama has said that an average 150,000 units a year will be needed over the next 20 years. The government has struggled to deliver the units required, and though the private sector arguably has the capital-raising power, expertise and economies of scale to deliver more affordable housing, current pricing makes development unattractive. Costs are driven up by imports, which are more expensive since the cedi’s depreciation and are sometimes subject to duties, while the less well off have limited access to finance.
In its March 2015 report, “Real Estate: Building the Future of Africa”, professional services company PwC takes the view that the drive to meet the demand for low-cost housing will be through “direct or indirect investment spearheaded by the public sector”. This could involve state financial support for private projects to boost their profitability.
Affordable housing projects are already under construction, with the private sector and foreign investors taking a major role. The $200m Saglemi Affordable Housing development in Prampram, in the Greater Accra area, is due for first-phase completion in March 2016, bringing 1502 units onto the market, with a final total of 5000. Brazilian-owned Construtora OAS Ghana is executing the project, which is funded by the Emerging Markets Fixed Income Division of Credit Suisse. Construction began in November 2013, and the first phase was 55% complete by March 2015. The $200m project will include recreational and commercial space, as well as homes built with insulated concrete and advanced casting methods, part of technology transfer from the contractor to Ghana. The project manager expects a further 9000 units to be built over the next six years.
STX & After
In 2009 South Korean construction conglomerate STX Corporation said that it would form a joint venture with the Ghanaian government to build 200,000 affordable homes by 2015. The $10bn project would have been funded by the government and a state-run bank. While it would have met only a part of the housing shortage, as critics noted at the time, the project’s scale was nonetheless significant, as was the government’s willingness to transfer a $1.5bn sovereign guarantee to the developer. However, in January 2012 then-President John Atta Mills announced that the government was “seeking alternatives”, citing “boardroom wrangling” by the South Koreans. Months later, the government suspended the sovereign guarantee.
In June 2015 Rashid Pelpuo, minister of state in charge of public-private partnerships, said the $1.5bn guarantee could be offered to Ghanaian firms or consortia willing to build 200,000-300,000 affordable units to address the shortage. He argued that this would allow Ghanaian construction companies to grow, rather than be crowded out by foreign competitors. In the immediate future, the government seems to be focusing on providing formal housing for public employees and seeking financial support from international organisations for smaller-scale projects.