Zimbabwe has too many professors and PhDs who contribute nothing towards our nation’s development — too many un-utilized academics. We should learn from China and see what creativity and entrepreneurship can produce. Individuals with minimal education but armed with creativity and the ability to innovate have transformed China from a third world country into a world power.
As a University of Newcastle accounting student interning at Prefabmarket.com in China, I’ve learned one crucial thing so far. Solutions from the 19th Century often breed new problems for the future. We hold on to an education system that’s long served its purpose, and we determine our behavior by past experiences rather than expectations of the future.
Ndabezinhle Nyathi is business development intern at Prefabmarket.com. After two months of working with us, he wrote this opinion piece on Zimbabwe prefab. The content and opinions are entirely his own.
The 20th Century is the right time to solve the nation’s urban housing crisis with a new way of thinking. The problem has persisted in Zimbabwe because of poverty, the non-contribution of the academic class, and a lack of resources. Zimbabwe prefab is one way to create more housing affordably because it’s fast, reliable, and not restricted by labor market conditions.
The Scope of the Problem
The government’s national housing waiting list is approximately 1.2 million people long, and the exact figure is not known because many local authorities do not collect the necessary data. The number is expected to rise as more people migrate from rural to urban areas in search of opportunities.
I’ve spoken to government employees in Bulawayo who’ve been on the waiting list since 2014, paying US$50 monthly, without any sign the process is moving ahead. They haven’t been told about possible suburbs for their hypothetical home yet, never mind getting any visible signs they’ll ever own one.
“The government has had multiple plans to roll out public housing schemes around the country, including a national housing policy launched in 1999,” reported IRIN News, “but it has lacked the resources to keep up with rising demand.”
From first-hand experience, I know many people on the waiting list with administrative and policy experience agree about one possible solution.
Addressing concerns about Chinese prefab
The quality of Chinese materials has been a long-standing question for many people around the world, but I think Africans are especially wary. We should look overseas to countries like Australia, the UK, and the USA who use Chinese prefab for construction despite the extreme weather in places and strict building codes.
We’re not rich, yet we become fixated on the issue of quality without offering solutions. Ask yourself: Who controls our building quality standards now?
I own a house in Pumula South, and no quality controller ever crossed my site while I was building. I’m the only one who knows the quality of that home.
When it comes to prefab, people think about quality in the wrong way. The fact a building is a prefab doesn’t necessarily say anything about the style, quality, or attributes of the house itself. Prefab is a method of construction — different from traditional construction — that can erect a broad range of homes. Some of them are indistinguishable from regular homes and some are radically different.
A car can be built on a driveway with a team of mechanics and engineers assembling all the parts, or assembled in a factory. Prefab is construction’s version of the latter.
Prefab compared to alternatives
Prefabs are built in factories by specialists and get quality inspections. They can be transferred to their destination at low costs to remedy our communal housing crisis in Zimbabwe.
Development is faster and cheaper than traditional construction, which sometimes requires a year for even simple structures. Delays occasionally lead to failure.
Here’s an example of a failed project:
Many people who own plots of land live in temporary structures.
The situation is caused by poverty, high rates of urbanization and campaigns to demolish informal settlements without replacing them. Without access to enough land, affordable financing options, and building materials, housing cooperatives can’t build proper housing.
Zimbabwe prefab would require much less labor and construction time, leading to significantly lower costs for building a house. It can also build schools, hospitals, shopping malls and other large projects.
The plan below is similar to traditional BB3 houses in suburbs like Pumula South and Nkulumane 12 in Bulawayo. However it’s bigger, cheaper, faster to build, and prefabricated.