Understading market for low-income housing

I’m André, originally from Brazil, student at Kaospilots Switzerland. Moved by impatience, I like to go out there and see how things work and what could make them better, a design thinking spirit.

What are you doing in Cape Town?

I came to South Africa aiming to get experiences on design thinking and business in developing countries, 2 areas of my interest.

I’m working with 2 design thinking projects with CCDI (Cape Craft and Design Institute). What could be better? And on this post, I talk about the Better Living Challenge.

The Better Living Challenge aims to discover the processes of the small scale builder in terms of access and usage of materials, financial ability, construction techniques. Through this discovery, acknowledge the role of small scale builders in developing low-cost settlements.

Our scope is to map out market around small scale building, basically the construction of shacks. We based our research and prototype in the township of Nyanga.

meeting scope

Apart the work and studies at Kaospilots, I go to the beach, exercise, drink South African wines! And I’m very happy to find places in Cape Town for salsa, kizomba and bachata! I love latino songs!

What are they doing that inspires you?

Businesses for the base of pyramid are always unique because of the challenges around low-income communities. And it’s not different in the townships! Financial constraints, cultural particularities, lack of infrastructure, historical segregation in South Africa. If you don’t pay attention to such aspects, you’ll never understand how the money circulates in the townships.

The business ecosystem operates in a way not understandable for the traditional business approach. One extra particularity, it operates under informality in most of the cases. How would you serve clients in townships demanding documents, proof of income and thousands of bureaucracies?

What are you (as a group) contributing with in this project?

Our task as a group is to map out the market for small-scale builders in the townships. Like many particularities you find in developing countries, the townships by themselves are huge markets full of business opportunities. In Nyanga, where we were basing our prototype, there are about 2 million people living.

How to serve customers with low-income, no stable job and no banking account? On the video below, a shack being built. What improvements to address for such constructions? What really matters for the people who live in shacks?

Due to an incident of robbing towards 3 of my colleagues while in Nyanga, we had to change our plans to don’t go there anymore. Unfortunately, crime is an issue in Cape Town and foreigners in a township are easy target by the criminals.

Anyway, we’re on the road and searching for alternatives to address how existing shacks can be upgraded. The challenge to understand the cultural aspects in the townships, their struggles and what is valuable for them is pushing for different approaches than usual business do.

What is the biggest insight of doing this project (from you or and the partner)?

Why is easy to get credit to buy a car, clothes, mobile phone? Why is almost impossible for a low-income citizen get a credit even to start a business?

People in townships live by today: carry the enough for today, buy only what they need for today… What would you do with no bank account, low-income and no fridge at home?

What else to say?

No romantic idea about Cape Town! Just don’t be silly and naïve, you can manage with the lack of security in the city. Social inequality in South Africa is huge, be aware to don’t flash valuable objects and where you put your shoes!

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