In the year 2100, 13 out of the 20 biggest cities by population will be on the African continent [1]. Urbanisation and sustainable use of resources without slowing down the economic verve are therefore urgent aspects to be tackled in Africa in order to master the social, economic, and environmental challenges. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are core disciplines for sustainable solutions [2]. Africa is the only continent that can leapfrog backward technologies rapidly without being disturbed by overboarding regulations, established mindsets and a limiting stock technology [3, 4]. Thus, Africa potentially can become role model for innovative urban development [5]. This requires high efforts and radical mindset changes on local and global scale. Traditionally established concepts that have no future perspective have to be overcome, and this inevitably demands for female leaders to be significant part of this change.

Construction and urban development cannot be assessed without considering the societal implications, because the built environment dramatically influences the way how people live, create livelihoods, and communicate. Many challenges that will be linked to the dramatic global urban expansion are not even known today and much of our today’s concepts might quickly become obsolete or need rapid adaption due to moving targets. Therefore, technical perspectives inevitably require to be supplemented by societal aspects. As the acronym FALCONESS indicates, future cities shall be observed from a falcon’s perspective, holistic, and with a wide angle “from above” without losing the focus on the tiny details. Novel approaches and the paradigm shift automatically come along with the urgently required inclusion of more women in the currently mostly male dominated African decision making in the built environment. However, better African and international networking between female players is required as a spark for future innovation.

Falconess aims at

  • creating networks between female African and international decision makers and leaders on personal, professional, and institutional level.
  • studying and evaluating a wide range of African cities which are widely distributed over the continent with an enormous bandwidth of cultural, historical, geographical and economical boundary frameworks
  • connecting the expertise of a wide range of disciplines in STEM (civil engineering, architecture, natural sciences) with socio-economic disciplines (economics, social sciences, communication).
  • connecting generations and multiple hierarchy levels
  • developing synergies with interacting networks and research activities.

[1] D. Hoornweg and K. Pope, “Socioeconomic Pathways and Regional Distribution of the World’s 101 Largest Cities,” in “Global Cities Institute Working Paper No. 04,” Global Cities Institute, Ontario, 2014, vol. 04.

[2] W. Schmidt, F. Falade, A. Rogge, and R. Tchitnga, W. Schmidt, Ed. ISEE – Innovation, Science, Engineering, Education (Post-conference edition) –, post-conference edition ed. Berlin, Germany: Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM), 2019, p. 221.

[3] W. Schmidt et al., “Challenges, opportunities and potential solution strategies for environmentally and socially responsible urban development of megacities in Africa,” in 3RD RILEM Spring Convention 2020 – ambitioning a sustainable future for built environment: comprehensive strategies for unprecedented challenges. Guimaraes, Portugal: RILEM, 2020.

[4] W. Schmidt et al., “Specific materials challenges and innovation potentials for minerally bound construction materials in Africa,” RILEM Technical Letters,, vol. 4, no. 50, pp. 63-74, 2020, doi:

[5] W. Schmidt et al., “Sustainable circular value chains: from rural waste to high-tech urban construction materials (accepted),” Developments in the Built Environment, vol. 6, pp. 1-10, 2021, doi: