Materials and value chains for sustainable

inclusive, and resilient urbanisation in Africa

23 January 2021

Virtual Conference

9:10 to 17:45

West Africa Time GMT/UTC + 1

About the Conference


In this century, along with climate challenges, urbanisation is one of the most critical challenges humanity faces. For Africa this challenge is even more pressing than for most other regions in the world. According to the Global Cities Institute, by the end of the 21th century 13 of the largest 20 cities in the world are expected to be in Africa. In 2050 the number of 5-Million-inhabitant cities will rise up from the current number of 10 to ca. 60. The expected growth should be sustainable. This urban growth will require enormous amounts and movements of construction materials, which in return will coin economic growth on the one hand along with ecologic impact on the other hand.

Relation between urban materials use and socio-economic aspects:

However, sustainability in the context of urbanisation goes far beyond economic and climatic aspects. The rapid migration to urban regions, often linked to lack of livelihoods and inaccessibility of health services, poses new challenges such as inequalities, discrimination, social unrest and crime. Furthermore, it puts additional pressure on educational,health,sanitation and supply systems, and it increases environmental pollution. Therefore,environmental challenges of urban growth in Africa are intimately linked to fundamental socio-economic aspects.

Specific African challenges and potentials of African urban growth:

While the African continent faces multi-facetted challenges that come along with urbanisation, at the same time African urban growth perspectives offer a unique opportunity to develop yet unexperienced sustainability potentials. Local material solutions can create livelihoods, the availability of space and resources offers opportunities to create socioeconomically responsive urban regions that can be future-oriented without losing tradition and cultural heritage. The absence of historically grown regulative frameworks for construction materials and technologies offers potentials for leapfrog innovation in terms of materials and construction technologies.


The one-day conference “Materials and value chains for sustainable, inclusive, and resilient urbanisation in Africa” gathers high-level international experts from materials, architecture and sciences to discuss sustainable materials solutions, urban concepts and challenges, as well as circular concepts, all discussed along with the respective global implications.

About the Organisers

Ravindra Gettu is professor of civil engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and current President of RILEM. Ravindra has recently organised various online conferences on the topic of cement and concrete that attracted several thousand registered attendees. This conference follows the successful format he has established. Although RILEM has made great effort to become a worldwide expert network, it is particularly important for the global community to attract more African experts to participate actively in the international exchange. The conference aims at addressing an international audience and to raise awareness of the great challenges that lie in future construction in Africa, and to inform an African expert audience which possibilities exist to address these challenges by international scientific networking and expert exchange.

Kolawole Olonade is lecturer at the University of Lagos and initiator of the Society of Cement and Concrete Researchers in Nigeria. He has been awarded the German-African Innovation Incentive Award 2018 (GAIIA) of the BMBF by Federal Minister Anja Karliczek together with Wolfram Schmidt for their joint research on the use of agricultural waste products as high-performance concrete constituent. Beyond the technical assessment of the developed sustainable solutions, the generation of livelihood by their application is a focal point of the project. This conference highlights some of the research findings on the re-use of agricultural waste and embraces the research by the relevant interconnected research topics from architectural, engineering, scientific and socio-economic perspectives presented by outstanding scholars.

Wolfram Schmidt is a senior researcher at BAM, where he collaborates with African partners for more than a decade. Major lesson learnt is that sustainability in construction can only be achieved by connecting resource saving, innovative construction with socio-economic parameters, and education of future decision makers. As sub-Saharan African convenor in RILEM he aims at facilitating African-international collaboration, and as GAIIA awardee he aims at informing about sustainable construction potentials. Since Africa is a continent full of challenges but even more full of potentials for greener construction and technology solutions, this conference aims at showcasing relevant parameters linked to sustainable materials use and urbanisation processes – with focus on Africa but of global relevance.

Opening Speakers and Chairpersons

Johan Vyncke is General Advisor and formerly Director Research &Innovation at the Belgian Building Research Institute WTCB-CSTCBBRI. He is outgoing president of RILEM and has been playing a mentoring for RILEM in the GLOBE Global Consensus on Sustainability in the Built Environment. In his opening talk he will provide a brief overview of the objectives of GLOBE.

Joanitta Ndawula is a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town with research focus on service life extension of corrosion affected reinforced concrete structures. She has been a major driving force behind the implementation of a RILEM Youth Council (RYC) She presents the objectives of the RYC which is being implemented to increase the visibility and participation of young and emerging researchers in RILEM activities.

Nonkululeko Radebe is a PhD student at the Karlsruher Institute for Technology, working on in-situ analytical methods combined with rheometrics on construction materials. She has been appointed representative for sub-Saharan Africa in the RYC and will present the objectives of this committee together with Joanitta Ndawula.

Henri Van Damme is emeritus Professor of Thermodynamics & Materials, Ecole de Physique et Chimie Industrielles de Paris (ESPCI Paris), France. He was Scientific Director of IFSTTAR, and President of the Condensed Matter Physics division of the National Committee for Scientific Research. With his broad international experience Henri will chair the session on “inclusive, socioeconomically sound urban planning”

Patience Tunji-Olayeni is a senior lecturer at the College of Science and Technology at Covenant University. She has a strong research and educational focus on sustainable materials and gender issues in the construction business. From this background, she will moderate the session on “urbanisation challenges”.