By Mark Kawalya
Smart Havens Africa is a Ugandan start-up that helps people in vulnerable communities own homes sustainably through an affordable rent-to-own system. The firm builds sustainable, affordable houses for low-income households, bridging the gap to homeownership.
Anne Rweyora, the founder of Smart Havens Africa, is working towards bringing down housing poverty, which sees a large section of Ugandans living in slums due to high rental fees. She wants to improve the living conditions of African women in particular, most of whom are sole providers for their families.
In a BBC interview, Rweyora explained the driving force behind her work: “I lost my father and started experiencing how housing poverty affects all spheres of life when our relatives and my late father’s friends came to grab our property.”
“Over 69% of Ugandans are living in substandard housing. This is not only a Ugandan issue but an African issue as well. In South Sudan, where I worked, the issue was even worse. That’s where my energy and desire come from.” She reiterates.
When speaking on land accessibility, she said, “In Uganda, the land tenure system is favourable. Smart Havens Africa gets this land, which is later sub-divided according to the home units. So, we are building these homes in communities where there are readily available facilities such as health centers, accessible roads, and schools.”
Additionally, the homes are designed to use renewable energy and feature bio-digestors along with rainwater harvesting systems. During construction, locally produced interlocking stabilizing bricks are used, which do not need to be fired up in a furnace. This cuts down on the carbon footprint that is associated with the traditional brick-making process that is popular in Uganda.
“The design of the brick helps to cut the cost since our soil bricks do not require plastering. This cuts the cost by almost 50%. The bricks do not require burning and firing, so it helps us to avoid air pollution and the deforestation of Africa’s forests,” Rweyora said.
She also stated that the houses built with these technologies are stronger, and she believes that in the future, the firm will expand its portfolio to include larger infrastructure construction projects such as schools and office buildings built with similar techniques. Furthermore, Smart Havens Africa provides skilling and apprenticeships for the youth and women who are keen on pursuing a career in real estate and construction.