Planting seeds to mobilise Affordable Housing Developers in Africa

3 min readApr 14, 2022


Marie-Odile Zanders and Phil Lewis

Around the world, property is one of the fundamental building blocks of wealth creation. Yet Africa is the only region in the world where urbanisation has not led to poverty reduction. Only 16% of urban households in Africa have permanent roofs over their heads and the current housing backlog throughout Africa is estimated to be at least 50 million units.

At the same time, the recent boom in Decentralised Finance (DeFi) protocols have caused traditional investment institutions, such as the World Bank¹ or JPMorgan Chase², to sit up and recognise the potential this new form of finance will have for markets and economies globally. DeFi however currently serves participants in a pseudonymous manner that the blockchain which underpins it supports, so doesn’t necessarily address the financing needs of the person on the ground. RealFi³ is the next evolutionary step that looks to use the tools introduced by DeFi and bridge them to meet real world financing needs.

In line with the founding philosophy of cryptocurrencies to decentralise control and provide inclusive accountability, RealFi also needs to support the decentralisation of services and providers that utilise DeFi, such as identity and reputation systems. Empowa aims to be a large and impactful property developer in Africa without actually developing properties. To do so, the Empowa platform will use DeFi to enable those that need it most the opportunity to access affordable housing finance easier. However, simply supplying DeFi doesn’t deliver a RealFi solution. As the Empowa platform’s tokenomics is also dependent on continuing growth within the ecosystem, it is important that we consider all contributing factors to really change Africa’s affordable housing sector at the necessary scale.

Most housing markets on the African continent lack local developers with the technical and financial strength to construct large-scale affordable housing projects. Climate-smart construction is a novelty to most of these markets. Low levels of investment, high interest rates and short finance terms (if finance is even available) make the cost of capital extremely high. This results in small housing projects, financed with limited up-front cash payments. The Centre for Affordable Housing in Africa (CAHF)⁴ confirms that few housing developers on the African continent have the capacity to deliver more than a few hundred units at a time.

There is currently very little attention going into improving the supply side of affordable housing. So unless there are concerted efforts to mobilise and incentivise local entrepreneurs to start delivering more affordable housing, the increasing demand for better and greener housing along with Empowa sourced affordable finance, will be met by scant new supply.

To address this problem, Empowa is launching a new initiative in collaboration with educational partners, to introduce programs to support and grow new or emerging affordable housing developers in Africa. The Affordable Housing Academy will provide opportunities for people with a passion for affordable housing and give them the training, mentorship and network opportunities required to overcome the housing supply challenges in their region.

Participants who successfully complete the Academy journey and produce an attractive affordable and climate-smart housing proposal for implementation somewhere in Africa, will be given the opportunity to partner directly with Empowa to receive the support and funds required to kick-start their plan.

Do you want to join our journey…?

More information about the Affordable Housing Academy and how to get involved, visit

¹ Locke, T. (2022, April 6). Crypto hater Jamie Dimon praises blockchain technology in his latest shareholder letter. Fortune.

² Feyen, E., Kawashima, Y., & Mittal, R. (2022, April 5). The ascent of crypto-assets: evolution and macro-financial drivers. World Bank Blogs.

³ O’Connor, J. (2021, November 25). Welcome to the age of RealFi. IOHK Blog.

⁴ Rust, K. (2021, December 7). Housing finance in Africa: Recovery through recognition of massive small potential. The Centre for Affordable Housing in Africa.




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