One very obvious similarity with all developing regions of the world is that there‘s always a lot of construction work going on. In a bid to meet the market demand for accommodation, building contractors and construction companies are constantly working on new office blocks, residential apartments, retail shops and hotels.
Africa‘s booming housing market is having a knock on effect on building and construction activities across the continent. In addition to the housing market, increased government spending on building roads, schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure is also giving a boost to the consumption of building and construction materials across the continent.
There are tens of different materials that are used in the building and construction work but we‘ll look at the top 8 hot-selling materials.
Cement – This is one of the most widely used building material in the modern world and nearly six billion tons of this very important commodity is produced every year. Although cement production requires a huge capital investment, small scale businesses and entrepreneurs can get involved in the cement business by joining the distribution chain as major dealers and distribution agents.
Aggregates – These are raw earth materials which have been used since prehistoric times in building and construction. Typically, aggregates fall into two broad categories – coarse aggregates (such as crushed stones, gravel, pebbles, and granite) and fine aggregates (usually sand and clay). In modern construction work, aggregates are combined with cement to increase its volume, stability, resistance to wear or erosion, and other desired physical properties. It is estimated that Africa consumes several million tons of aggregates every year.
Timber – Wood is one of the oldest and most commonly used building materials in the world. Despite the growing threat of deforestation, wood has remained in high demand as a building material because of its reasonable cost, availability, attractive appearance and long life. Africa‘s abundant tropical forests provides sufficient wood for its construction needs. The continent is also a top exporter of timber that supports building and construction on a global scale.
Plumbing Materials – This includes a range of pipes, drains, fittings, valves, assemblies, and several other accessories and devices installed in buildings for the distribution of water for drinking, heating, washing, and the removal of human and domestic waste. More than 70 percent of plumbing materials on the African market are made of PVC or PEX plastic. Plastic is very flexible, easy to install, has a low cost, can last for very long and does not rust like most metals. The materials on the market are manufactured locally on the continent but large volumes are still imported from Europe, USA and Asia (especially China).
Roofing materials – Every house needs a roof. Commercially available roofing materials on the African market range from corrugated iron and aluminum sheets to clay tiles, plastic, fiberglass and concrete. In choosing roofing materials in Africa, builders and home owners usually consider cost, style and quality, suitability of the material to the climate, low maintenance and long life span. The four main segments for in the roofing materials market are residential, industrial, commercial and institutional customers who have different roofing needs and preferences.
Steel – Steel is widely used in building and construction and is arguably the cornerstone of the modern building and construction industry. Steel is commonly used to make reinforced concrete that supports structures in buildings, bridges, dams and several types of complex structures. The demand for steel in Africa will explode in the coming years as spending on infrastructure increases to support the continent‘s economic growth. Steel production is still very low in Africa and the continent currently depends on imports to satisfy the huge and growing demand for steel.
Electrical systems – This includes a huge inventory of materials used to supply electric power or telecommunications in a building project and will typically consist of: electrical conduits and fittings, wires and cables, explosion proof enclosures, meters, circuit breakers, connectors, and electrical products such as wiring devices (switches, plugs) and lighting (bulbs).
Glass – Modern architectural designs have given a boost to glass and made it into one of the most preferred materials in today‘s buildings and structures. The growing influence of the Green Building movement significantly favours glass due to its ability to save energy costs by providing natural day lighting. While a significant volume of the glass on the African market is produced locally, the quantity of imported glass is on the increase to support the limited local production.