Skip to main content

GlobalABC events & regional roundtables

Building a Sustainable Future: Unlocking Africa’s Potential in the Construction Industry
| 14:00-15:15 EAT

Aberdares Hall, Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, Kenya & Online



The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, France, will be co-leading a core session on buildings under Track 2 (Cities, urban and rural settlements, infrastructure and transport) of the Africa Climate Week (ACW) 2023. This session will take place on 7 September 2023, 14:00-15:15 EAT, at the Aberdares Hall, inside Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, Kenya. Watch live below or here in English and in French.

Watch live



Event description

Africa’s population is projected to double by 2050, reaching approximately 2.4 billion. This rapid growth, coupled with market development, will drive a surge in construction, with over 80 per cent of this expansion expected in cities, including slums. As buildings today account for ca. 37% of energy-related CO2 emissions and 50% of extracted materials, this accelerated expansion poses significant challenges, straining infrastructure and energy resources while exacerbating existing social and environmental imbalances. 

The construction sector’s resource consumption is set to dominate the fast-growing economies of the continent, leading to an increase in building material-related emissions of 3.5 to 4.6 Gt CO2eq/year by 2060. Notably, the steel and cement industries account for 38 per cent of African emissions. Moreover, there is a high dependence on imported materials and an increasing reliance on fossil-fuel-based electricity for production, with figures reaching 86 per cent in parts of the continent. This highlights the urgent need to promote the use of sustainable construction materials and adopt bio-based, low-carbon development strategies, especially considering Africa’s abundant local construction techniques and resources. 

To tackle these challenges, we must implement cumulative measures across the buildings and construction sector, taking a whole-life and systems-thinking approach to facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement and cross-industry collaboration. The current siloed approach in the built environment process hampers the collective action necessary to decarbonise the sector. The built environment process involves energy, material and information flows at each phase, from initial material extraction to manufacturing, construction, maintenance and disposal or reuse.

In addition to operational carbon, embodied emissions must be given due attention to strategies to reduce emissions. Most African countries have joined global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by including buildings in their NDCs, with 38 countries out of 54 having submitted their updated NDCs. However, Sub-Saharan Africa has the fewest mandatory codes, which are recognised as key instruments to reduce emissions from the sector. Over 10 African countries have committed to reducing carbon emissions from now to 2050, while Senegal, Ghana and Burkina Faso have or are planning roadmaps towards decarbonisation. Additionally, global industry leaders are emerging with pledges, internal benchmarks and novel methods to reduce the carbon impacts of construction materials and methods.

Despite these efforts, a low-carbon transition in the African construction sector faces challenges, such as financing, promoting low-carbon transition policies, developing labour skills, and supporting research, development and demonstration. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when addressing Africa’s future building demands. While common patterns and challenges exist, an opportunity to shape the future is substantial, as 70 per cent of the African building stock expected for 2040 has yet to be built. Meeting Africa’s construction needs will necessitate creative thinking and scalable solutions tailored to the specificities of each context. Capitalising and developing Africa’s local construction materials and techniques can lead to various co-benefits, such as job creation, economic growth stimulation, reduced negative impacts on ecosystems, the preservation of cultural heritage and improved well-being, housing conditions and resilience. 

This event aims to facilitate discussions and initiatives that drive comprehensive and transformative change in the continent’s buildings and construction industry. It will also showcase the Buildings Breakthrough, an initiative operating within the framework of the Breakthrough Agenda, and co-led by the Ministry of National Territory and Urban Planning, Housing and City Policy (Kingdom of Morocco) and the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion (France), under the coordination of the UNEP-hosted Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC). The Buildings Breakthrough emphasised the urgent need for the sector to address its significant role in the global climate crisis. Its objective is to make near-zero emission and resilient buildings accessible, affordable, and achievable for everyone, everywhere. While the necessary capabilities to create a new world of buildings already exist, achieving these outcomes will require radical collaboration among experts, policymakers, practitioners, various actors of the value chain, and initiatives actively engaged in the field.  


  • Raise awareness on the importance of the building and construction sector in offering transformative change.
  • Promote sustainable practices within the whole life cycle assessment: explore innovative approaches, technologies and materials that can enhance sustainability and reduce the environmental footprint of the building and construction industry.
  • Foster multi-level collaborations: facilitate knowledge sharing and knowledge among stakeholders, including governments, policymakers, industry professionals, academia and civil society.
  • Enhance capacity building: discuss the importance of skill development and capacity-building initiatives to improve construction practices, promote innovation and empower local communities.
  • Extend invitations to participating countries and initiatives to support and join the Buildings Breakthrough Target;


Agenda item


Timing (EAT)

Welcome and Introduction Yves-Laurent Sapoval, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, France


(5 mins)

Setting the scene - Transforming Africa's buildings and construction sector: Opportunities and challenges

Ishaku Maitumbi, Officer in Charge, UN-Habitat Somalia, Manager for the Horn of Africa and East of Africa region


(5 mins)

Fireside chat - Unveiling the power of international cooperation for a decarbonized buildings and construction sector in Africa

  • H.E. Lalya Aly Kamara, Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Mauritania
  • Mr. Joel  P.L Arumonyang, Principal Secretary, State Department for Public Works, Ministry of Lands, Public Works, Housing and Urban Development, Kenya
  • Moderator: Yves-Laurent Sapoval, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion 


(20 mins)

Introducing the panel discussion Yves-Laurent Sapoval, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, France


(5 min )

Panel Discussion - Scaling up Low Carbon Construction in Africa

  • Dr. Joseph Mwiti Marangu, Head of LC3 Technology Resource Centre for Africa 
  • Nzambi Matee, Head, Gjenge Makers Ltd. & UNEP 2020 Young Champion of the Earth 
  • Sarah El Battouty, Chairman Founder & CEO, ECOnsult / Founder and Owner, Mubun Sustainable Products
  • Moderator: Yves-Laurent Sapoval, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, France


(25 mins)


All; Audience


(15 mins)

Closing remarks

Dr. Meseret Teklemariam Zemedkun, Head, UNEP Southern Africa Sub Regional Office


(5 mins)


  • Knowledge exchange: sharing best practices, case studies to inspire and inform sustainable initiatives within the building and construction sector
  • Collaborative networks: Facilitating networking opportunities, partnerships and collaborations among stakeholders to enhance collective efforts towards building decarbonisation
  • Policy recommendations: formulating actionable recommendations for policymakers and governments to integrate sustainable building practices into national development agendas and regulatory frameworks.
  • Capacity building: enhance skills and promote sustainable practices within the industry
  • Investment opportunities: mobilise investment mechanisms for the sector in Africa


  • Close data gaps, share knowledge, best practices, induce policy reform and regulations, scale up finance and investments in the field, create employment
  • Contribute to a circular, local green/ regenerative economy for the African continent in the Building sector
  • Transform markets making near-zero emission and resilient buildings more accessible, affordable and achievable.
  • Increased economic prosperity, healthier well-being, cleaner environments (less waste, less pollution), increased biodiversity, etc.
Affordable housing
Appliances and Systems
Building operations
Clean Energy
Embodied carbon
Existing buildings
New buildings
Urban planning