Angola’s Minister for Urbanism and Habitat, Jose Antonio Maria da Conceiçao Silva , discusses his country’s ambitious undertaking to completely transform its urban landscape, with African Business Editor, Anver Versi.
First of all, congratulations to Angola for achieving the fastest rate of poverty reduction in the world. You have also embarked on a unique programme of habitat development, the New Centralities. Please explain what the programme entails.
The New Centralities arises from the programme known as the National Programme for Urbanism and Housing (PNUH), coordinated by a National Commission presided over by his Excellency the President of the Republic. The overarching programme has several components or sub-programmes
One: Urbanisation. This involves studies from different spatial planning instruments, such as urbanisation plans, master plans, etc., the setting up of funding reserves and their infrastructure.
Two: National reconstruction, which involves the building of one million homes. Of this, the contribution of the public sector is 11.5%; public/private 12%; cooperatives 8% and self-managed construction 68.5%.
The third element of the PNUH is urban renewal. This consists of the refurbishment and upgrading of run-down areas and living quarters through the implementation of the necessary urban infrastructure policies.
Some of these new urban centres are already populated but it appears some utilities (water, electricity, etc.) are still lagging behind.
The relative delay which has been verified is essentially due to waiting for funding processes for this intervention work, which in many cases is being carried out through external funding sources.
How will the new settlement programme alleviate some of the habitat challenges that Angola has inherited?
Given demographic growth projections, there is an estimated deficit of 60% in terms of current available housing. The PNUH will, in fact, significantly reduce this deficit and will also contribute to the regularisation of real estate market costs in the country.
Most of the construction is being currently financed by the public sector. Do you have plans to bring in the private sector and, if so, in what capacity?
As I have already mentioned, the PNUH includes a 12% share for the private sector, and we are talking here of approximately 120,000 dwellings.
I believe that the majority of building material used in the construction programme is imported. Are there any plans to encourage local production of some of the material?
Yes, the industrialisation thrust taking place in the country has given priority to the local manufacture of construction materials by providing incentives for the sector – which mainly involve tax relief. With this policy, it is hoped to substantially reduce the cost of real estate through cheaper construction.
There has been criticism of the build quality of some structures, especially those involving Chinese firms. Is this a genuine criticism?
I think not, because the quality of construction does not depend on the nationality of the constructors, but rather on other factors involved in the whole process such as the owners of the projects, designers, supervisors, building contractors. All individuals and firms involved should be sufficiently responsible and competent to fulfil their tasks.