About two years ago the Center for Affordable Housing Finance commissioned a scoping study on the demand for housing microfinance (HMF) in Africa. Very much a journey of discovery, the process had the benefit of exposing the various strands of literature around housing microfinance at that time. The literature dealing with HMF in Africa was scant, although perhaps understandable, given that this was still very much a novel concept for financing housing development.
The HMF environment was defined by a small number of ground-breaking pieces of work. Frank Daphnis and Bruce Ferguson’s book in 2004 Housing Microfinance: A guide to practice was the very first work to comprehensively deal with housing microfinance. The book provides a basic definition of the concept; an assessment of the market; and explores important issues such as that of scale. Prior to this, there was very little writing where housing microfinance was called by name. Instead typically, practices that lent support to incremental housing methods were the subject of writing for example lending by NACHU in Kenya and the Kuyasa Fund in South Africa. These were however not named explicitly as HMF. There were some exceptions. The precocious work done in 2000 by the Centre for Urban Development Studies Harvard University for example was a regional synthesis of housing microfinance initiatives in Asia Latin America and Sub Saharan Africa. Bruce Ferguson in 2003 had also in an article in the journal Small Enterprise Development written of HMF as key to improving habitat, and more interestingly, key to the sustainability of general microfinance organisations. There was more than an implied reference to HMF in Malhotra’s article titled “Financing her home, one wall at a time“ in the same year.
That pivotal work in 2004 laid the foundations for people to more than ever engage with the concept and then limited practice of HMF, and there was an appreciable increase in literature thereafter. For example, the HMF message was taken up by the large and better known institutions whose core work is about increasing financial access to the poor. In 2005, CHF featured a very practice oriented guide titled So you want to do housing microfinance. This was targeted at microfinance institutions and was followed through with a similar guide for doing HMF in Morocco. Indeed in Africa, HMF was taken sufficiently seriously now for country specific writing to be undertaken. FinMark Trust emerged with a country HMF study for South Africa, and the African Union for Housing Finance with a number for Tanzania, Ghana and Swaziland. HMF writing within the continent also became more diverse given a greater understanding of its potential and utility to achieve various societal goals. Its ability to assist in overcoming socioeconomic exclusion in the post war context in Angola and its ability to assist in achieving sustainable livelihoods for example were the subject of writing in 2007. Finally, writing on different approaches to doing HMF emerged as the practice and thinking around HMF increased in sophistication by 2008.
Since then to date, more writing on HMF in the continent has emerged. The Centre for Affordable Housing Finance has been instrumental in generating and disseminating knowledge on the practice in Africa. In 2010, the critical area of support services for HMF lending was the subject of focused study, with case studies from practice in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda, and Malawi. Knowledge on the practice has also been generated from workshop reports co-convened by the centre , dwelling on housing support services as well as regional gatherings of practitioners since 2011, in Mozambique and Nigeria among others. There have likewise been housing finance sector studies which while not limited to HMF, have given some important insights into that practice in various countries in the continent including Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Benin, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The Centre’s latest project is one looking at the State of Housing Microfinance in the continent. Meanwhile another important study into HMF includes the Bank of Tanzania study into the housing microfinance market in that country, completed in 2012 and expected for dissemination soon.
Meanwhile development of literature is progressing on another related front, incremental housing. This has recently seen resurgence in interest given the poor record of other housing interventions. The Cities Alliance for example has recently been very prominent in writing on and propounding on this housing delivery methodology around the world and in Africa. The methodology has also obtained sufficient interest and support to have a dedicated website where there are considerable resources available.