Celebrating Diversity on Africa Day: What Green Building Means for African Communities

Friday May 25e, Africans around the world celebrated Africa Day – a day that marks the moment when 32 countries formed what is now the African Union with its 55 member states. It is a day when we celebrate both our commonalities and our diversity; what brings us together and what makes us different.

Against this background, it’s time to think about communities and green building, and what this means for our continent – a topic that has been debated in the recent past. 4e African sustainable building summit through Green building advice from six African countries: Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Mauritius as well as key stakeholders from the public, private and academic sectors across the continent. Our common task was to build a narrative around green building that truly represents the richness and diversity of our continent.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, there are six different climate zones and a myriad of communities with different needs. Therefore, the approach to green building must be nuanced and adapted to diverse cultural, political and economic landscapes.

Growing African cities offer an opportunity not only for economic growth, but also for sustainable construction despite the effects of climate change and energy demand.

Africa has a long history with green construction. The mosque of Djenné in Mali built in the 13e century stands out as a stellar example of green building both in terms of design and energy efficiency. By advancing the conversation around green building in 21st century in Africa, we must be aware of our history and apply it accordingly to the unique challenges and opportunities that present themselves on the continent.

A key consideration for Africa, but one that has global resonance, is how to move the conversation on green building forward while taking into account other development issues that are just as, if not more, important to donors. , governments and communities.

We often focus on seemingly abstract global goals such as energy and greenhouse gas emissions in the green building movement. Yet in our enthusiasm for the big picture, we must not lose sight of the human-sized one. In seeking to solve environmental problems, we cannot forget that construction is about houses and not houses; about the places where people live, learn, heal and play. African communities are places where people share, so construction must support them rather than disrupt them. This must be reflected in the narrative around green building. We must allow communities to develop sustainably, on their own terms; together.

This is why we use the UN Sustainable development goals (SDGs) to anchor our work; be the connective tissue of individuals, the environment and society. The SDGs make it clear that the world’s most pressing issues are interdependent: we cannot tackle climate change if we ignore poverty; we cannot guarantee access to affordable energy if we do not strive for peace. Green buildings are an opportunity to save energy, water and carbon, but also to create jobs, improve health and strengthen communities.

While climate change is a global problem, African countries are likely to feel the effects the hardest and women are the most vulnerable of all, due to their dependence on natural resources threatened by change. climate. Yet women are also some of the best people to develop solutions. Because of their responsibilities in households and communities, they are well placed to contribute to strategies that respond to changing climate realities. The ripple effects of putting resources in the hands of women can be incredibly powerful. Research shows that for every dollar a woman receives, she gives 90 percent back to her family and community, so investing in a woman is investing in everyone. In Africa, many of the people championing green building and leading the agenda are women – our future is in good hands.

Working in collaboration is crucial if we want to develop in a sustainable way, not only between communities, but also between countries and continents. Our strategy is to develop mentoring relationships between countries with more established green building councils and those who are just starting their journey – to share experiences, learn from each other and develop best practices.

Africa is a community continent and our story must center on this. We must recognize the difference, but end the inequality; develop in a way that benefits both communities and the environment; use green building as a catalyst to solve our most critical problems and work towards achieving sustainable development goals. If we do this, we can literally build a greener future.


Jane Afrane, based in Nairobi, is the Regional Manager of WorldGBC’s Africa Network of Green Building Councils in eight countries. It focuses on the creation, establishment and advancement of green building councils in the Africa region. She also provides capacity building support to the African CBG Network and leads the development of local, regional and global strategic partnerships. She has extensive experience in the international development sector, having previously managed multilateral projects in West Africa and East Africa, leading the localization of sustainable development goals.

The World Green Building Council is a global network of Green Building Councils in more than 70 countries that is transforming the places where we live, work, play and learn. worldgbc.org

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