China steps in to ease housing challenge in Cape Verde

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A view of Santiago island in Cape Verde.

It all started with more and more people rushing to enjoy the pristine blue beaches in Cape Verde. And that was the government’s intention, but the challenges that came with it were equally formidable.

Sitting on the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Verde is a nation made up of 10 islands, each possessing breathtaking beaches and with sunny weather all year round. Together, they host a population of 500,000, while another 1 million Cape Verdeans live outside the country.

With little annual rainfall and non-arable soil, Cape Verde is classified as a semi-desert, making tourism and the Blue economy the biggest cash cows for the country.

In the first quarter of 2019, the island nation received more than 233,271 tourists, representing an 8.5% growth from the year before.

According to the Cape Verdean National Statistics Institute, Sal island received the highest number of tourists (45.3%) followed by Boa Vista and Santiago at 29% and 10.6% respectively.

But young citizens moving to these islands to look for jobs has seen the rise of tin homes being constructed on the roadsides, as a lack of housing becomes evident. And in other islands where jobs are scarce, slums have been growing. Cape Verde’s Housing and Infrastructure Minister Eunice Silva told CGTN Africa that this is the biggest challenge for her office.

“The government signed an agreement with the Chinese government two years ago (2017) to look at how can we address this housing problem, and this seemed like the best answer for this situation,” she said in an interview.

“This project is focused on low-income families, for example, single mothers. At the moment we have more than 1,000 families living in the slums and this is our first priority,” Silva added.

Among China’s requirements for the 1.4 million Euro grant to Cape Verde is that the houses must be built in areas where water, sanitation and electricity were accessible.

Dubbed the Social Housing Project, Carlos Silva who is overseeing the engagement, said China and the Cape Verdean government would work together on seven separate phases of the project, starting with 88 homes in phase 1.

“We approved the designs in meetings with Chinese partners and provided logistical support like visas for the workers, import and export material and everything they need, because this is a project financed by the Chinese government and it’s built by Chinese companies,” he said.

The 88 homes will be built in Sao Vicente starting September 2019. The buildings will each have four floors, with two 2-bedroom apartments on each floor.

“We are hoping construction will take 14 to 18 months to complete,” he said.

Minister Eunice Silva said the remaining six projects were secure and their completion would depend on the success of the first phase.

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