Housing in Africa

Using state-of-the-art mapping, this study shows that the prevalence of housing with improved drinking water and sanitation, sufficient living area, and durable construction has doubled in sub-Saharan Africa between 2000 and 2015.

Adequate housing is a human right but a third of the world’s urban population still lives in slum conditions. The housing need is urgent in Africa, where the population will more than double by 2050. But until now, data on African housing have remained sparse.

For the first time, this study provides accurate data on housing conditions across urban and rural sub-Saharan Africa. It shows that African housing is transforming, with the prevalence of improved housing doubling from 11% in 2000 to 23% 2015.

The findings have important implications for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 11, which aims for adequate housing for all by 2030.

In urban areas, the prevalence of unimproved housing significantly fell from 68% in 2000 to 47% in 2015. However, 53 million urban Africans in the countries analysed still lived in slum conditions in 2015.

Africa’s housing transition may be linked to economic development. The study found that improved housing was 80% more likely among more educated households and twice as likely in the wealthiest households, compared to the least educated and poorest families. The prevalence of improved housing is highest in countries including Botswana, Gabon and Zimbabwe.

To produce the estimates, the researchers combined data from 661,945 households into a bespoke geospatial model.

Lead author Dr Lucy Tusting said:

“Remarkable development is occurring across Africa. We knew anecdotally that African housing is changing, but until now this trend had not been measured on a large scale. We have shown that African housing is transforming, with huge potential to improve human wellbeing.”

Senior author Dr Sam Bhatt said:

“These findings highlight that poor sanitation remains commonplace across much of sub-Saharan Africa, which may be holding back progress to improve living conditions. Our study demonstrates that people are widely investing in their homes, but there is also an urgent need for governments to help improve water and sanitation infrastructure.”


The work was led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London and Malaria Atlas Project in collaboration with researchers from RTI International, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, World Health Organisation, University College London Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Ifakara Health Institute, Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit and Durham University.