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OTHALO solves Africa’s housing shortage with plastic waste

Published 2 Dec 2022 (updated 29 Apr 2024) · 3 min read

Quick information

  • Available

At a glance

  • Prefab housing for urban Africa
  • Made from recycled plastic waste
  • Provides affordable housing, reduces plastic waste, creates local jobs

OTHALO produces housing from recycled plastic waste, and the first houses are about to be built in six African countries. “There is only one technology in the world today that can do something real about Africa’s housing deficiency and the plastic waste problem, and that is OTHALO,” says Dr Vincent Kitio, Chief of UN-Habitat’s Urban Energy Unit.

Adequate housing is out of reach for most urban Africans. Kenya, for example, has a housing deficit of 2 million units, and yet only 2 per cent of newbuilds target low-income families. As a result, millions of Africans live in substandard conditions, causing a myriad of social, economic and public health problems.

An equally onerous problem is plastic waste pollution, which has become a global environmental catastrophe. Twelve million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean annually, threatening marine ecosystems and the global food chain.

From plastic waste to affordable housing

OTHALO™ is helping to solve an environmental problem – plastic waste – by tackling a human problem – the housing deficit in Africa.

“What if we could use the plastic waste problem to solve the housing deficiency problem? What if we could create a system that allowed us to use the local plastic waste to solve the local need for housing?” says Frank Cato Lahti, Founder and CTO of OTHALO.

The patent pending technology turns recycled plastic waste into prefab housing components. The components are easily assembled into detached homes and apartment buildings by local workers in the communities where they will be used.

The company’s main focus is the developing world, where the housing crisis is particularly acute. Local empowerment is the key to its approach, according to Lahti.

“The locals are not just passive passengers. We want them to be in the driver’s seat,” Lahti explains. “By licensing our technology to local partners, we can help to build communities and create prosperity.”

OTHALO aims to create good paying jobs in local communities, from plastic waste collection to housing assembly and operations management. This will help to stabilise local economies and develop a strong middle class. Lahti also wants to involve African youth, especially young women.


Solves one problem with another

OTHALO™ can play a crucial role in reducing plastic waste pollution. The technology reuses a wide range of thermoplastics as well as hardened plastic materials. These comprise 75 per cent of the world’s plastic waste, which makes the solution highly versatile. The waste is collected from various sources, such as households, industry, landfills, and land and ocean cleanups.

In addition to housing, OTHALO produces temperature-controlled storage units for food and medicine, helping to reduce food and vaccine loss. It also provides refugee shelters and temporary structures such as hospitals, schools and living quarters, bringing relief in emergency situations.

Global housing shortage continues to grow

The United Nations is urging governments around the world to address the global housing shortage. In response to the crisis, national and local authorities, as well as humanitarian organisations, are seeking ways to provide decent, affordable housing.

The first OTHALO houses will soon be erected in Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda. The company has a longstanding partnership with UN-Habitat, and it collaborates with other development organisations as well.

Frank Cato Lahti


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