Better Building in Africa

The programme

Home / The Programme / The programme

Dynamics of the programme of AVN

The challenge of housing in Africa

Vue aérienne des toits tôle au Burkina Faso
Christian Lamontagne/Cosmos

Housing is a key social need, nevertheless almost half the population of the Sahel (100 million people) are surviving under precarious, even inaccessible, housing conditions. Poverty, population growth and the disappearance of bush timber used for traditional architecture are depriving millions of families of decent housing.

To house themselves, these families have no other choice but to raid their limited healthcare, food and education budgets to purchase expensive imported - and unsuitable - corrugated iron roofing sheets.

An appropriate response: the Nubian Vault programme

"Affordable sustainable housing for as many as possible, as soon as possible"

NV Building site
Localisation : Burkina Faso
Christian Lamontagne/Cosmos

Since the year 2000, the ambition of the Nubian Vault Association (AVN) is to develop a market for adapted housing in West Africa which brings together issues of housing, professional training, economics, environment and climate change.

At the heart of the programme is the Nubian vault, an architectural concept that is both ancestral and innovatory. This construction technique requires neither timber nor metal roofing sheets, but uses mud bricks and mortar as the raw material. Local labour is trained in the technique, providing much needed employment and a professional skill base of Nubian Vault (NV) masons. The results? Access by many families to affordable and comfortable homes adapted to the consequences of climate change, the creation of ‘green’ jobs, the strengthening of local economies at many levels, and the development of an adapted and sustainable construction sector.

Intervention strategy

AVN deploys an innovatory model of development based on the principle that it is better to “ ...teach a man how to fish rather than give him fish”, applied to the entire structure of the housing market and the construction sector. If it is better to teach people how to build a house rather than give them houses to promote the future construction of hundreds of NV buildings, it is even better to transfer to national and local actors the necessary skills for the creation of a dynamic and evolving endogenous market.

Accordingly, AVN’s actions operate at three levels of intervention, both geographically and institutionally:

At each of these three levels, AVN’s ambition is to move from a model of short-term assistance and dependency to one of long-term and sustainable development.


AVN’s 15 regional teams are actively deploying the programme in five West African countries: Burkina Faso,Mali, Senegal, Benin and Ghana.


If AVN is currently at the forefront of the evolution of construction practices in West Africa, it is because of its experience of over 15 years, because its local networks have developed high levels of competence, and because it achieves measurable and growing results.

In 2019-2020:

  • 44,700 beneficiaries living or working in NV buildings
  • 4,200 construction sites completed including 340 for community and agriculture buildings
  • 145,500 m2 built in 1,370 localities
  • 950 active apprentices, masons, artisans and entrepreneurs actives in the NV market, including 380 new apprentices who joins the training in 2019-20
  • 4,2 million euros generated in local economic circuits
  • 120,000 tonnes of CO2 eq. Potentially economised
  • 21 % average annual market growth rate

See all results and impacts