Between 2010 and 2017, the South-South cooperation project to support urban development in São Tomé and Príncipe was based on the expertise of Caixa Econômica Federal (CAIXA), a Brazilian public banking entity with extensive work in the areas of urban development, housing and management of social programs. Co-ordinated by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), this project was articulated around three components - "Capacity building in the structuring and management of social development funds", "Territorial planning" and "Housing policy and non-conventional construction methodologies" - which should contribute in the long term to the institutional development and qualification of public management in the African archipelago. Through these components, the project allowed the drafting of proposals for legislation on land use planning, housing legislation and the constitution of social funds, in particular to support housing policy.
According to data from UNDP and the National Statistics Institute of São Tomé and Príncipe, about 50% of the country's population live below the poverty line and around 15% live in extreme poverty. This situation has repercussions, among others, on a housing situation marked by very precarious dwellings, built mainly on wood (from deforestation of native forests), deprived of basic sanitation conditions and cohabited by more than one family. Concentrating about two-thirds of the country's population, urban areas have unplanned outlying districts with insufficient infrastructure conditions in which the lower-income population lives.
The provision of decent housing for this part of the population poses a challenge for the national authorities, especially considering that the country did not have dedicated funding mechanisms nor specific legislation for the development and implementation of housing programs and projects (in particular with regard to social housing). In addition, conventional building materials (eg cement bricks, pipes and paints), and tools and construction equipment are not locally produced and are fully imported, at high cost. This fact is an additional burden for São Tomé and Príncipe's fragile economy, considering that, currently, more than 90% of the country's investment expenditure is derived from Official Development Assistance.
The Urban Development Support project aimed to qualify the São Toméan public management in relation to housing policies and instruments, and developed around three complementary components. The component "Training in the structuring and management of social development funds" supported the São Toméan government in the establishment of a social development fund for the provision of housing of social interest in the country. The joint wording of the proposal for the creation of the "Basic Law for the Controlled Cost Housing National System", approved by the Council of Ministers and sent to the National Assembly, and the technical training of the government agents involved are considered the major structural contributions that the project offered the implementation of a policy in the housing area.
The "Territorial Planning" component managed to transfer knowledge on urban planning and its specificities, in order to support the São Toméan government in the structuring of a policy in this area. The proposal for a "Basic Law for Territorial Planning and Town Planning Policy" and the proposal for a Decree-Law establishing the bases for the "Urban Expansion Plan of the City of São Tomé" (Setor Norte, between Gongá, Santo Amaro and Aeroporto), as well as for the expansion plans of the district capitals and the capital of the Autonomous Region of the Prince. The technical capacity created, the acquisition of equipment and software, and the institutionalization of the Land Management and Urban Development Management were considered positive impacts produced by the project, contributing to the strengthening of the institution responsible for conducting the policy.
Through the component "Housing policy and non-conventional construction methodologies", the team of technicians of the government of São Tomé and Príncipe were informed about the use of non-conventional construction methodologies, applicable to the country's reality, in order to optimize the standard constructive. The aim was to rationalize the use of equipment with high operational costs and materials from native forests, reducing the environmental impacts of the extraction. The disseminated methodology (the construction technique in soil-cement) was applied in the construction of two model residential units. This component also resulted in the preparation of a proposal for housing legislation for São Tomé and Príncipe and its implementation strategy.
Supported by: Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) and Caixa Econômica Federal (CAIXA)
On the Brazilian side: CAIXA
On the Sant'Anna side: Ministry of Public Works, Infrastructures, Transport and Communications, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Communities
Fernando Vieira do Nascimento,
Executive Manager, National Management of International Relations Strategy,
Caixa Econômica Federal (CAIXA)