Circular Economies and Affordable Housing in Kenya

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The construction industry consumes more raw materials than any other sector in the global economy, accounting for more than 25% of the global total carbon emissions. Due to its current level of industrialization, Kenya does not have a large ecological footprint, having recorded a per capita CO2 emission of 0.31 metric tonnes in 2018, less than 2% of the United States’ emissions for the same year. In fact, like other African countries, indigenous building practices, which have minimal adverse environmental impacts, are still present in much of the country. Nevertheless, in Kenya, strides have been made towards mitigating adverse effects on the natural environment by embracing practices and products towards circular economies. Much of this progress is due to the increased participation of stakeholders, e.g., state actors, private industries, and various interest groups.

In partnership with Habitat for Humanity, this research set out to identify sustainable housing solutions that enable circular economies in Kenya. This report provides a landscape analysis of main opportunities, trends, private initiatives, barriers, key stakeholders, and policy options to promote and develop the circular economy in affordable housing in Kenya.

To achieve this objective, secondary research was completed to identify main trends and solutions, combined with twelve interviews with experts of the sector, with representation from the public sector, private sector, NGOs, and academia. Guided by the ReSOLVE Framework, data were synthesized to assess barriers and recommendations categorized as follows: (1) Circularity within the construction value chain, (2) Natural Construction Materials, and (3) Enablers and Barriers to Circularity.

Overall, this report presents a variety of initiatives and technologies aimed at achieving a circular economy, with an emphasis on affordable housing. Important insights are discussed, including the importance of participatory community approaches to housing development. Further, there already exists a vast array of technologies suited for developing affordable housing and financial platforms that serve the bulk of the population in the informal sector; these require support to scale at feasible speeds.

Photo of housing developments in Kenya. Photo by Reuters/Thomas Mukoya.

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ADVISORS AND COLLABORATORS: Jennifer Oomen and Jacob Simwero, Habitat for Humanity International

E4C 2021 PROGRAM MANAGEMENT TEAM: Mariela Machado, Senior Program Manager; Grace Burleson, Research Manager; Marilynn Holguín Clover, Program Coordinator; Jonathan Kemp, Program Associate

This research was completed as part of the 2021 E4C Fellowship program. Learn more about the Fellows who worked on this research collaboration by connecting with them on LinkedIn: Guy Mambo and Patrick Sours.

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