GlobalABC Regional Roadmap for Buildings and Construction in Africa 2020-2050

Towards a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector

About this report

The GlobalABC Roadmap for Buildings and Construction in Africa sets out targets and timelines towards achieving zero emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction between 2020 and 2050 in Africa. The Roadmap covers eight themes, including urban planning, new buildings, existing buildings, building operations, appliances and systems, materials, resilience, and clean energy. For each of these themes, priority actions related to policy and technology are identified as well as other enabling activities including capacity building and finance. This Roadmap was developed in collaboration with the GlobalABC and UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Several hundred building sector actors from across the region participated through consultations in webinars, questionnaires and workshops.
Executive summary

With the Paris Agreement countries have agreed to a common goal of maintaining the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees, and preferably no more than 1.5 degrees, by the end of the century. According to the latest UNEP Emissions Gap report, to be on track for the 1.5 degree goal, the world needs to reduce global emissions by over 50% by 2030 and work towards carbon neutrality by 2050. As the buildings and construction sector accounted for 36% of final energy use and 39% of energy and process-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions globally in 2018, it will have to play a major part in achieving this vision.

In 2018, the African buildings sector accounted for 61% of final energy use and 32% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, excluding emissions from manufacturing building materials and products such as steel, cement and glass ##IEA, 2019a##. Since 2010, growth in emissions has been driven by a 23% rise in regional population and a 25% increase in wealth (gross domestic product [GDP]), which has increased the demand for floor area and for energy consuming services ##IEA, 2019a##. These pressures will continue as Africa’s population is expected to grow by 63% and could more than double its economic wealth by 2040.

Decarbonising buildings across the entire life cycle would require a transformation of the buildings and construction sector. Reaching net-zero operational and embodied carbon emission buildings is possible, but requires clear and ambitious policy signals to drive a range of measures including passive building design, material efficiency, low-carbon materials, efficient building envelope measures, and highly efficient lighting and appliances. 

According to the World Energy Outlook, energy efficiency and decarbonisation measures under a Sustainable Development Scenario ##F1## in buildings in Africa could reduce overall energy demand by 40% by 2040, while seeing a three-fold increase in electricity demand and a 24% reduction in building CO2 emissions 3. These actions would result in a contribution of over 330 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) reductions in annual emissions by 2040, compared to the current course of action under the Stated Policies Scenario4.

Achieving these outcomes at pace and scale will require greater collaboration among policy makers at all jurisdictional levels, as well as with urban planners, architects, developers, investors, construction companies and utility companies. With appropriately designed and implemented policies and the adoption of a range of cost-effective technologies, including high-efficiency lighting, passive design, material efficiency, low-carbon materials, and efficient building envelopes, substantial improvements in Africa’s building quality and energy performance can be achieved. In turn this would support greater energy access, improved wellbeing, resilience and energy savings across the building life cycle. Decarbonising buildings is also in full alignment with the aims of SDG 12, to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

To unlock these improvements in African buildings will require clear and ambitious policy signals that address socio-economic imbalances, access to clean fuels, existing market failures, and encourage economies of scale. Such actions can enable further innovation in building products and services and financing solutions.

Yet, in the region, progress on building energy codes is slow and not keeping up with increasing demand for new buildings, which is driven by the growth in population and urbanisation 5; 3. Very few countries have mandatory or voluntary codes or certification programmes, though several are under development.

The purpose of this roadmap is to support a common language and vision for the complete decarbonisation of buildings across their life cycle, and to support the development of national or subnational strategies and policies, including for example, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

It covers eight “activities”: urban planning, new buildings, existing buildings, building operations, appliances and systems, materials, resilience and clean energy, and for each of these proposes key actions, targets for policies and technologies, and enabling measures with the aspiration of reaching net-zero carbon emission buildings by 2050.

The Africa Roadmap was developed in consultation with over 120 stakeholders and buildings experts across the continent who provided input to collectively build the timelines across the eight activities.

Getting to zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings by 2050

The timelines below describe the actions identified by stakeholders as being key to delivering zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings in Africa by 2050. The chapters “Activities 1-8” and “Roadmap support: Enablers” develop the strategies that support the delivery of these objectives. 

Africa Roadmap summary timelines, 2020-2050

Africa Summary For Print Revised
Africa Roadmap summary timelines, 2020-2050
Africa Summary For Print Revised
Key actions and strategy

To support decarbonising new and existing buildings, effective policies and regulations need to cover the entire building life cycle, including the design, development, operation and decommissioning stages, and also act beyond site boundaries through neighbourhood planning and clean energy. To accelerate action, greater collaboration involving a range of stakeholders is needed, including policy makers, urban planners, architects, construction companies, materials suppliers, utility companies, developers and investors.

Based on extensive stakeholder consultation and analysis, the following actions can achieve progress towards zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings.

National roadmaps and strategies set priorities for the sector

National ministries and city agencies should develop ambitious, comprehensive strategies and roadmaps to outline the pathway towards greater access to clean energy, and affordable developments that support zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction. These strategies should focus on setting out clear targets and policies for building performance and integrated planning to address anticipated future growth in building construction across the African region.

Governments should partner with key stakeholders to develop metrics which include energy performance benchmarks and sector targets and data collection mechanisms that include the use of materials with low embodied carbon, building energy performance, building ratings systems and building resilience.

Ministries should also develop national and local renovation and financing strategies to accelerate implementation and achievement of decarbonisation and efficiency goals, such as increasing the annual energy efficiency renovation rate to 2% by 2040.

Governments and industry coalitions should work to close key information gaps by establishing data collection systems and methodologies that can provide essential evidence to inform decarbonisation and efficiency planning, as well as highlight the concrete, quantifiable benefits of efficiency and sustainability interventions.

Local agencies should undertake risk mapping and resilience assessment and develop integrated strategies to improve the resilience of the building stock and develop strategies to address resilience risks in new building developments to inform zoning and building performance standards.

Standards and codes gradually drive up performance

Regulators can reduce future energy demand in new buildings through ambitious and progressive mandatory energy codes that focus on highly efficient and net-zero carbon emissions for new construction within the next decade. Focal areas should include replicable and locally adapted strategies for mitigating heating and cooling demand, such as passive design, shading, natural ventilation, thermal mass, insulation, and low-emissivity windows.

Regulators should develop or expand minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) to set ambitious product energy performance requirements covering all major appliances and systems. MEPS could be especially effective if developed in collaboration across the region to enable cross-border applicability.

Regulatory frameworks to facilitate integrated action

City-level actors should collaborate across sectors and government levels to develop integrated urban planning policies and frameworks that address development patterns, land-use efficiency, transit-oriented design, access to green spaces, resilience and district clean energy planning. Implementing these through collaboration among national, subnational and local agencies will enable urban planning, energy systems and buildings to be more highly integrated, equitable and supportive of growth.

National and local agencies should develop ambitious regulatory and incentive frameworks to increase investment in energy efficiency improvements, increase material production efficiency and reduce carbon emissions from the production of major building materials.

National and local agencies should develop clear regulatory and incentive frameworks to promote the use of on-site and building-integrated renewable energy including solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and advanced biofuels where appropriate. Frameworks should define operational rules, remuneration schemes, incentives allocation, integration mechanisms and goals at national and local levels.

Narratives and engagement to drive demand

National and subnational governments, industry coalitions and civil society should promote the multiple benefits that zero-emission, energy-efficient and resilient buildings have for different stakeholders.

National and subnational governments and large organisations can take leadership in zero-carbon procurement and standards to promote investment in low-carbon building construction and renovation and encourage adoption of efficient technologies at scale.

Governments should promote the use of regular auditing and data collection on energy performance to ensure the effectiveness and performance of building energy performance interventions and encourage active engagement with building rating schemes.

Governments and industry coalitions should craft narratives that promote good practices such as the use of digital information systems for building operations and energy use, effective data collection, or the use of traditional low-carbon materials with modern construction techniques. Likewise, they can encourage the adoption of digital systems to support greater access to energy services and energy efficiency opportunities.

Capacity building

Governments and industry coalitions should promote opportunities for capacity building on topics such as embedding circular economy concepts into building design through life-cycle assessment, data collection for efficiency improvement, reuse of construction materials and phasing out refrigerants with high global warming potential.

Government and industry coalitions should promote the adoption of existing efficient building construction and operation techniques and low-cost technologies that can improve building performance and lower embodied carbon. These should include sustainable high quality, local materials window and wall shading, and other passive designs.

Building on the Africa Roadmap: Address gaps and raise ambition

Address key information gaps by collecting data and evidence to support actions to decarbonise and improve the efficiency of buildings. Focus should be placed on information needed for integrated and spatial urban planning policies and activities, data collection activities, the participation of the informal sector, building component labelling, building envelopes, the adoption of space cooling systems and heat recovery, the use of life‑cycle assessment, material labelling and environmental standards, risk mapping and resilience actions, decentralised renewables deployment, and subsidies. Putting in place systems to capture this information will allow for greater certainty around the impacts that policies and markets are having.

Raise the level of ambition on actions that can support improved building performance and construction methods so that it matches the scale of development change. There is a reported lack of ambition in advancing the use of spatial planning tools and designs, life‑cycle analysis, use of shading and improved glazing, building code adoption and compliance, building labelling and benchmarking, and climate resilient building codes.

  1. IEA (International Energy Agency) (2019a). World Energy Outlook 2019. Retrieved from

  2. As well as meeting the energy-related UNFCC Sustainable Development Goals in full, the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) is fully aligned with the Paris Agreement, holding the global average temperature rise to below 1.8°C with a 66% probability without reliance on global net-negative CO2 emissions.

  3. IEA (2019b). Tracking Buildings. Retrieved from

  4. The Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS) reflects the impact of existing policy frameworks and today’s announced policy intentions.

  5. GlobalABC/IEA/UNEP (2019). 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction. Retrieved from

  6. Figures sources:

    Full references for the data behind IEA figures and/or tables featured on this page can be found in the PDF of the full report.