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African Women & Homeownership

Homeownership can be considered an intentional pursuit, in which men and women have similar opportunities. In non-western societies, particularly in African nations, there is a much different concept towards home buying. Generally, females in the African continent have a much less individualistic experience. 

According to data from the 2018 Gender Global Theme, men are the typical property owners. Without the financial capital for African women to set up bank accounts and invest in property, homeownership is largely left to the male agency and the ruling of customary law. Inheritance norms (which favor men) and land and housing ownership are important in the oral distribution of wealth in many African countries. 

These norms are heavily put in place by traditional laws and customs that dictate property endowments in monogamous marriages. These rules include:

  • The full community of property: sees all assets of a married couple as jointly owned. This is considered the best kind of regime because it acknowledges the marital property that is gained. This type of regime is common in former Portuguese colonies and some parts of Central and Southern Africa (Gaddis et al, 2018, p. 6).
  • Separation of property: reinforces gender gaps in both the economic and labor market spheres. This is common in many former British colonies.
  • The partial community of property:  partners keep assets brought into a marital union.

Common laws that emphasize joint marital property such as a full community of property regimes do decrease gender gaps and allow women to have more control of their property. This is especially significant when we consider instances of a deceased husband. The joint property regime has slightly decreased gender gaps in Southern and Eastern African nations. In contrast, West Africa has the largest gender gap (Gaddis et al, 2018).

The concept of inheritance norms is decreasing in major metropolitan areas, however, in countries like Nigeria, population increases in urban and rural areas have contributed to low homeownership rates. Nigeria, in particular, has a low homeownership rate of 25 percent, lower than that of Indonesia (84 percent), Kenya (73 percent), and South Africa (56 percent) (Gaddis et al, 2018).

For women to play more integrative roles within the housing market in African countries, we have to have more significant roles in working jobs outside of agriculture and work jobs that hold wages. 

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