African con-tech or tech-enabled companies to watch — Part I
Today, I look into construction technology or tech-enabled start-ups, starting with East Africa, with high levels of innovation that seek to unlock the potential of the construction industry in the country.
1. FUNDIS APP
Smartphone applications are constantly in research and development (R&D) for successful incorporation within the construction industry. Alex Kamanga is the the founder of Fundis, one such mobile application that seeks to connect vetted technicians with clients to bring in more professionalism into the trades industry and veer away from the concept of ‘jua-kali’ also known as the informal sector.
Clients interested in installation, repair and maintenance works, log in and select the service of interest, share location and contact details and are then able to book an appointment with a technician. Technicians signing up to the service include electricians, plumbers, painters, welders, carpenters among other certified trades people.
They, then are able to give quotes and get commissioned based on pictures and job description submitted by the clients signing up with Fundis.
I’ve previously covered the use of alternative and sustainable construction materials in the pass, here. Alternative building materials that are sustainable and affordable are not easy to come by. With 79% of plastic waste ending up in landfills with harm to the environment, it is always refreshing to see building products that seek to reduce this dent.
Nzambee Matee and team of three engineers are making their mark in plastic recycling with Gjenge makers. They manufacture pavers using waste plastic as a component to create 30mm to 60mm thick pavers. The recycled plastic is mixed with sand in up to 360°C to form a molten mixture which can then be moulded into various products. Pavers created are twice the threshold weight of concrete blocks, almost half the weight of concrete and are unbreakable compared to their counterpart.
3. 14 TREES
3D printing, in construction will take some time to replace conventional building techniques but is definitely a consideration in autonomous construction geared towards speed of delivery and sustainability.
14Trees is a LafargeHolcim and CDC Group joint venture dedicated to accelerating the provision of affordable housing and related technologies in Africa. Under 14 trees, they are using 3D printing of concrete to build homes and schools affordably. LafargeHolcim provides the building materials: cement, aggregates and ready-mix concrete which are used in the 14trees building projects while CDC Group brings in the financial strength to the duo.
The organisation has set up a 3D printed house in Malawi, whose process took less than twelve hours and are rolling out similar endeavours into the Eastern African region.
4. UNDA POD
Malcom Maclean’s invention of the modern day standardised shipping containers, fifty years back, brought major efficiency in international cargo transportation.
In recent years, these containers have become a common solution for affordable housing. An interior design duo, Kwekwe and Jeremy fabricate 20-foot and 40-foot containers with high quality finishes and fittings to serve residential and commercial purposes.
These modules (what they call ‘pods’) offer a solution for residential extensions, offices and staff quarters in remote areas, mobile homes and retail shops. This approach capitalises on the quick turn-around time (up to a month) which is not the case with the conventional building process.
What other companies do you think should be in the list? Comment below.