Case Study 3 | Innovative Affordable Housing Practices in Africa: Cement Block Banking in the Gambia

Gambia’s financial market is underdeveloped and has limited financial products available. While some companies offer mortgages, almost none serve the affordable housing mortgage market directly. Most households are excluded from the mortgage sector due to high interest rates and stringent screening criteria; most households have to build their own housing.

Noting the gaps in the affordable housing market and understanding the inherent business and social opportunities that exist, Amiscus Horizon (AH) started operations in June 2014. The company has pioneered cement block banking in the Gambia, in order to make housing affordable for all Gambians. The “Cement Block Saving Scheme” is a “pay-as-you-go-model”, whereby clients save and buy cement blocks on a monthly basis. The Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa commissioned a case study on Amiscus Horizon in order to contribute to the growing track record of novel solutions and initiatives, pioneered by policy makers, financiers, developers and households themselves that suggest that there are new opportunities for making the housing finance sector work for the poor in Africa.

Instead of saving for a huge cash inflow to build their homes, clients of AH start saving for a package between GMD 500 (US$ 12) to GMD 6 000 (US$ 149) per month, over two to five years. The blocks banked are a form of savings and present a simple hedging mechanism in terms of protecting clients from price inflation of materials. It provides these households with a novel way to gradually accumulate cement blocks while they incrementally construct their housing. We hope that this case study, and the other case studies in the series, contribute to the development of imaginative solutions by housing finance practitioners across the continent, assisting them in adapting initiatives to manage the vast array of challenges they face daily.

This case study was prepared with the support of FSD Africa

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