Cement Block Banking in the Gambia


Cement Block Banking in the Gambia

Mismatches Financing Vulnerable groups
Financing Financial actors Supply subsidies Sustainable development financing Progressive financing

Main objectives of the project

Gambia's financial market is underdeveloped, offering limited financial products, particularly in the affordable housing mortgage sector. The majority of households face exclusion from mortgage opportunities due to high interest rates and stringent screening requirements, compelling them to undertake self-built housing projects. Recognizing these gaps and acknowledging the potential business and social benefits, Amiscus Horizon (AH) commenced operations in June 2014. AH introduced a pioneering initiative known as "Cement Block Banking" to address the affordability of housing for all Gambians. This innovative "Cement Block Saving Scheme" operates on a "pay-as-you-go" model, allowing clients to save and purchase cement blocks on a monthly basis. These accumulated blocks serve as a form of savings and act as a simple hedge against material price inflation, offering households a gradual means of accumulating building materials while incrementally constructing their homes.


  • 2013: Implementation


  • Amiscus Horizon (AH)


Continent: Africa
Country/Region: Gambia


The Gambia, with its small land area of 11,000 km² and a population of approximately 1.9 million, stands as one of West Africa's smallest and most stable countries. However, like many African nations, it grapples with a significant shortage of affordable housing, estimated at over 50,000 units. High poverty rates render privately developed housing out of reach for the majority, leading to widespread self-construction of homes. About 52% of these residences are built using semi-permanent materials, highlighting the country's housing challenges. Moreover, the financial market in Gambia remains underdeveloped, with limited offerings, especially in the affordable housing mortgage sector. High interest rates and strict screening criteria further exclude many households from accessing mortgage opportunities.

Recognizing the gaps in Gambia's affordable housing market and the potential business and social benefits, Amiscus Horizon (AH) was registered in November 2013 and commenced operations in June 2014. AH introduced the innovative concept of cement block banking to make housing more affordable for all Gambians. Their "Cement Block Saving Scheme" operates on a "pay-as-you-go" model, allowing clients to gradually accumulate cement blocks through monthly savings. These blocks serve as both savings and a hedge against material price inflation, providing households with a means to construct their homes incrementally.

Initially, AH procured blocks from a factory on a monthly basis, benefiting from bulk order discounts. However, due to high demand, the company transitioned to in-house block production within its first year of operation. This move allowed AH to closely monitor block quality, ensuring adherence to industry standards. Clients are guaranteed a refund if blocks fail to meet required standards. The blocks are stored in AH's secured depots, equipped with 24-hour security.

AH employs a full-time construction engineer to provide technical guidance to clients. While technical advice is currently limited due to resource constraints, AH offers standard housing plans and packages for various home sizes and fences, which have been well-received by customers.

Most of AH's clients are low- to middle-income earners seeking to build new homes or fences around their properties. Only a small percentage have access to home finance at the start of the construction phase. AH's approach involves allowing customers to select their desired block package, complete an application form, and commence monthly contributions. Default rates are relatively low, with AH incentivizing regular payments by offering 8% interest on total blocks banked for a year without defaulting.

Innovative solutions like AH's cement block banking model are crucial for addressing Africa's affordable housing shortage. As housing sector stakeholders increasingly engage with affordability challenges in creative ways, pioneering business models have the potential to make significant strides in resolving the continent's housing shortfall.