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ShelterTech opens program for startups offering affordable housing solutions

Global nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity has opened applications for the ShelterTech sub-Saharan Africa accelerator program, and is now inviting startups with scalable solutions to today’s affordable housing challenges to apply. 

ShelterTech is the world’s leading platform for affordable housing innovation, working across sectors, industries and geographies to support and grow cutting-edge products and services that can improve housing conditions for low-income families. Since its first accelerator program in 2017, the platform has already supported more than 70 startups worldwide. Several ShelterTech alumni have since grown to be household names in Africa’s entrepreneurial spaces, including Kenyan startup Gjenge Makers, whose founder and CEO Nzambi Matee was recognized as a UN Environment Programme’s Young Champion of the Earth for her recycled plastic building material technology.

“Our 2018 Kenya accelerator evidenced the immense potential of innovation in serving low-income markets. Now is the right time to expand our platform across the region. While countries are working hard to recover from the pandemic, the housing deficit across Africa remains a dire challenge, with 238 million people living in slums and informal settlements,” said Patrick Kelley, vice-president of Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter. “Part of how we can tackle this challenge is by identifying and investing in the growth of businesses that can make homes more affordable, sustainable and safer.”

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The accelerator is being launched at the inaugural Africa Housing Forum, taking place in Nairobi from May 12-14. The conference, with the theme of ‘Fostering Inclusivity and Resilience in Housing in Africa,’ is part of a global series of regional housing forums coordinated by Habitat for Humanity. Bringing together stakeholders from across the continent, the forum’s sessions have highlighted the role of housing in driving social and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in a sustainable and inclusive way.

“The forum’s Innovation Awards, which received over one thousand applications, will set the stage for the launch of the accelerator, as we aim to attract the most disruptive and impactful startups from all across the region,” said Lizan Kuster, Habitat’s associate director for entrepreneurship and innovation, and ShelterTech’s global lead.

The program is sponsored by the Hilti Foundation, Autodesk Foundation, Dow, the Keith V. Kiernan Foundation, the Dotson Family Fund and the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation. Habitat is partnering with Plug and Play for the delivery of the program.

“What’s unique about ShelterTech’s sub-Saharan Africa accelerator is that it encompasses several verticals – including proptech, new materials, circular economy, and smart cities – under a single theme, which is affordable housing. This allows us to be creative in developing a tailor-made curriculum that can maximize startups’ learning about the ecosystem, as well as opening them up to more opportunities regarding growth and funding,” said Nicolas Chow, EMEA’s director for Sustainability at Plug and Play. ShelterTech supports ventures with solutions in sectors related to finance, labor, materials, land, markets, as well as energy and water and sanitation.

The accelerator is now accepting applications from startups and scaleups based in countries located in the African sub-Sahara region. They must be legally incorporated as a for-profit entity, have a validated customer or business base and be committed to solve challenges to improve the livability and affordability of housing for low-income families. Applications are open until June 9. More information and application guidelines can be found on


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