A Manifesto for an appropriate and sustainable response to the challenge of providing quality housing in Sahelian Africa*

This Manifesto reviews the fundamental role of housing in human activity, before examining the specific issue of housing for the populations of the regions of Africa with a Sahelian environment, and the escalation of this problem caused by climate change.

It emphasizes the need for a detailed and international consideration of this issue. Those actively involved in global and sustainable development are urged to introduce this priority into national and international debates.

Therefore, this resolute commitment aims at bringing about a positive and measurable transformation of the situation by taking into account sustainable development, environment and climate issues.

This manifesto is inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (Article 25-1)a and comes within the scope of the Declaration of the UN Conference on Human Settlements, 1996b.

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Signature proposed January, 2015 by:

  • Thomas Granier - Mason, Co-founder and Director of the Nubian Vault Association (AVN)
  • Seri Youlou - Farmer, Co-founder and Director of AVN
  • Benoit Lambert - President of AVN
  • Mathieu Hardy - Architect
  • Bruno Jarno - Building Environmental Quality Control Engineer
  • Antoine Horellou - Development Economist

List of signatories to the Manifesto :
As of February 2016

  • Yann Arthus-Bertrand – Professional Photographer and Chairman of the GoodPlanet Foundation - France
  • Cheikh Ngaïdo Bâ – Chairman of the Senegalese Filmakers Association - Senegal
  • Abdoulaye Baldé – Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development - Senegal
  • Monique Barbut – Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) - France
  • Jean-Louis Bancel – Chairman of the Crédit Coopératif Group - France
  • Pierre Bédier – Chairman of the Yvelines Department - France
  • Pascal Canfin – Former Development Minister - France
  • Jean Carré – Chair of the Ensemble Foundation - France
  • Baba Dao – General Director of the Funds of Mortgage Guarantee (FGHM) - Mali
  • Jacqueline Délia-Brémond – Chair of the Eiffage Foundation - France
  • Jean-Louis Destans – Former French Consul in Senegal and Chairman of the Eure Department - France
  • Diakaridia Diallo – Vice-Chaiman of Tériya Amitié Mali - Mali
  • Gassimi Diallo –  Director of the Union of Baore Tradition Saving and Credit (UBTEC) - Burkina Faso
  • Salamatou Dotia Gazéré – Chairwoman of the Women's College of the farmers' Alliance (SYNPA) - Bénin
  • Pierre-Alexis Dumas Chairman of the Hermès Foundation - France
  • Nicolas Dupuy National Coordinator of the NGO Le Partenariat in Senegal - France
  • Haidar El Ali–  Former Minister of the Environment – Senegal
  • Diène Farba Sarr– Minister for Urban Renewal, Housing and Living Environment- Senegal
  • Noël FontonFormer Minister of State for Town planning, Habitat and Purification - Benin
  • Jacques Gaillard – Chairman of the Corporate Foundation Artelia – France
  • Yatma Gueye– Director of the Office of the Minister for Urban Renewal, Housing and Living Environment- Senegal
  • Alain Guinebault – Executive Director of the Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity (GERES) - France
  • Komi Habitor – Chairman of Research & Developpement International Alliance - France
  • Arezky Harkouk – Executive Director of the Rural Development Realizations and Research Group (GRDR) - France
  • Yvonnick Huet Executive Director of Agrisud International - France
  • Nicolas Hulot Special Envoy of the President of the French Republic for the protection of the planet and Chairman of the Nicolas Hulot for the Human and Nature Foundation - France
  • Bomavé Konaté – Blacksmith sculptor and Founder of the International Modern and Traditional Arts Park (PIAMET) - Burkina Faso
  • Joël Labbe – Senator of the department of Morbihan - France
  • Satprem MaïniArchitect and Director of the Auroville Earth Institute, Unesco Chair “Earthern Architecture” - India
  • Moussa Mara Former Prime Minister and former Minister of Urban Development - Mali
  • Olivier Mouzay – Intervention & Development Programs Director of the NGO La Guilde - France
  • Abdoulaye Ouedraogo – General coordinator of Action for the Promotion of Local Initiatives (APIL) – Burkina Faso
  • Jean-Luc Perron - Executive Director of the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation - France
  • Stéphane Pouffary – Managing Director and Founder Honorary Chairman of the NGO Energies 2050 - France
  • Gaëlle Raulic – General secretary of the Francophone Habitat Network (RHF) - France
  • Michel Rocard – Former Prime Minister - France
  • Sofia Rodriguez Larrain – Independent Architect and Professor of the Catholic University of Peru, Coordinator of the research group Centro Tierra, Unesco Chair “Earthern Architecture” – Peru
  • Khady Sakho Niang – Chairman of the Migrations International Solidarity Organizations (FORIM) - France
  • Mariam Sankara– Wife of Thomas Sankara, former President of the Republic - Burkina Faso
  • Christian Schmitz  – Managing Director of the International Solidarity for Development and Investment company (SIDI) - France
  • Mamadou Seck – Former ambassador of UNESCO in Vienna and former Councillor of the Republic - Senegal
  • Gérard Sénac – President and Director-general of Eiffage Senegal - Senegal
  • Jean-Marie Tétart – Representative Yvelines department - France
  • Théophile Worou –  Former Minister for Environment and Climate Change – Bénin
  • Lionel Zinsou  Former Prime Minister – Bénin

The 'Essence' of the housing question *1

Whether it is rural or urban, private or collective, modest or grand, housing lies at the core of human values and activities.  The extensive scope of this sector profoundly affects all social developments:

- a veritable pillar of global economies - "When the construction sector thrives, everything thrives!" - this sector, which promotes considerable dynamism in the job market, also brings benefits as regards heritage and the transmission of cultural values;

- the housing environment defines regional and private cultures and identities, the natural corollary of family life, educational potential and emancipation;

- the issues of well-being, comfort, health and life expectancy are implicitly linked to housing conditions;

- the built environment, town and country planning policies, and land use are major determinants of the effectiveness of public institutions (health, education etc.) and of economic activity (industry, agriculture, crafts);

- as one of the  the largest contributors to global warming, the construction sector is at the heart of current environmental issues, both because of the life cycle of the materials used (production / transport / obsolescence) and the processes of construction, use, and demolition (energy performance rating / comfort).

200 million Africans are waiting for a decent housing environment, a situation which is rarely given serious consideration *2

> In Sahelian Africa, the realities of economics and population growth (estimated to increase by 150 % in theSahel region before 2050!), the disappearance (by deforestation and desertification) of natural timber resources used in traditional architecture, and the growth of urbanization have led to a situation in which millions of families no longer have access to decent housing.

> In spite of their apparent appeal, 'modern' technical alternatives and the materials which they require (cement, steel, corrugated iron roofing, girders, etc.) as well as the monetary systems which their use entails (imports, use of cash) have failed to deliver appropriate and sustainable housing to the majority.

> Nevertheless, even though housing represents a primary and permanent concern for many communities, and population growth is fueling the considerable demand, this major problem is widely underestimated,and addressed rarely or not at all by public bodies. To date, there is no widespread international institutional program with a serious remit to provide access to decent housing for all in Sahelian Africa.  This situation also inevitably accelerates the abandonment of subsistence farming and the flight of rural communities to overpopulated urban centres. 

A substantive transformation of, and long-term investment in the housing sector could bring about lasting economic and cultural changes and very real growth to all sectors of human activity in Africa.

Climate change, the escalation of a major problem *³

> African communities are particularly vulnerable to current and predicted trends in climate change (increase of mean and extreme temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and  wind speeds, droughts, desertification), making even more urgent the need for sustainable, comfortable, affordable housing;

> Even though the Sahelian populations have played a negligeable role in contributing to climate change, the fragility of their ecosystems and their lack of savings gives them very limited resilience or the ability to adapt to the changing situation.

Therefore, in view of the over-riding importance of housing in human development, and the vulnerability of African populations in the face of growing economic, demographic, environmental and climatic pressures,

We, the signatories of this manifesto, invite everyone, citizens, politicians, NGO's and international development bodies, corporate and public organizations to:

(1) Develop a truly international awarenessof the essential challenges associated with providing housing for the majority of the population;

(2) Raise awareness that providing appropriate housing for everyone  safeguards the identity and the sustainability of communities, and to make this a major priority;

(3) Advance this cause in debates, commitments and national and international referendums on sustainable development, economic growth, environmental issues, and climate change mitigation and adaptation;

(4) Accept a shared responsibility concerning climate change and thus to take into account the considerable specific local impacts which the populations of Sahelian Africa in particular are undergoing, and to agree on the ensuing implications and necessary investments;

(5) Seek out and make available as widely as possible appropriate technical and methodological proposals, making optimal use of manpower, materials and local know-how, and promote the policies necessary for their implementation for as many people as possible;

(6) Involve and support the agents,organizations and enterprises able to implement these proposals and policies;

(7) Mobilize the necessary funding for an effective response to the questions of development and climate change, allowing a truly proactive commitment from all the interested parties,by using existing channels (carbon finance, payment by results, green funding, climate adaptation funds ...), or bycreating new ones.

In a globalized vision, it is essential and justifiable to place the Housing conditions in Africa at the heart of the new economic, environmental, and climatic challenges and, of course, at the heart of our human well-being!

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* This term includes all dry, semi-arid and dry sub-humid zones of sub-Saharan Africa

a"Every person is entitled to a standard of living being sufficient to assure his health, his well-being and that of his family, in particular for food, clothing, accommodation and medical care as well as necessary social services.", Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, article 25-1

b"We, the heads of state and government and leaders of the official delegations of countries gathered at the Conference of the United Nations on human settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul (Turkey) from 3 till 14 June 1996, subscribe on this occasion to the universal objectives which consist of guaranteeing to all suitable accommodation and of making human settlements safer, healthier, more habitable, fairer, more sustainable and more productive.", Declaration of the United Nations Conference on human settlements, 1996.

*¹ " Housing is one of those basic social conditions that determine the quality of life and welfare of people and places.  Where homes are located, how well designed and built, and how well they are weaved into the environmental, social, cultural and economic fabric of communities are factors that, in a very real way, influence the daily lives of people, their health, security and well being, and which, given the long life of dwellings as physical structures, affect both the present and future generations. Housing is therefore central to sustainable development. » Sustainable housing for sustainable cities : a policy framework for developing countries. UN-Habitat, 2012

*² "population growth estimated at approximately x 2,5 in Sahel by 2050", World Population Prospects, the 2012 Revision, United Nations, 2013

*² "nowadays in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that 199,5 million people live in precarious slums.",

*² "Access to affordable housing has become one of the most important global problems and the problem is most worrisome in Africa.", Dr Clos, Executive director of UNO-HOUSING, October 28th, 2014, Nairobi)

*² " Africa's poor express their principal needs in the following order of priority: lack of work, precariousness of housing, access to water.", African Population and Health Research Center, 2002

*³ « The housing sector plays a noteworthy role in the current global environmental crisis but it also offers one of the largest possibilities of any sector to mitigate global climate change. », Going Green: A Handbook of sustainable housing practices in developing countries, UN-Habitat, Nairobi, 2012

*³ "The design and use of the built environment is a fundamental factor in the mitigation of climate change because, in most countries, the building sector consumes approximately a third of the total energy used and an even bigger share of electricity.", (World Report on Human Settlements - Cities and climate change: general trends - United Nations Programme for the development of human settlements, 2012)

*³ "Developing countries are the ones which generate the least CO2 emissions a year and per capita, particularly Africa with +//-1 1 ton / person / year against +//-9 9 in Europe and +//-220 in the United States" (Graph p. 8 of the World Report 2011 on human settlements - Cities and climate change: general trends - United Nations Programme for the development of human settlements: CO2 emissions linked to the burning of fossil fuels and to the manufacturing of cement. Except for greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes, agriculture, waste treatment, except for use and change of distribution of lands and forests).

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