Timber is the solution to Africa’s urbanisation challenge

Sebastian Dietzold – Chief Executive Officer of CPS, speaking at the Wood Conference held in South Africa, Cape Town 

Cape Town. Timber is the solution to the huge challenge of rapid urbanisation and carbon emissions facing the world today, the wood conference has heard.   

 Speaking at a conference in South Africa, Fumba Town by CPS’ CEO Sebastian Dietzold said that urbanisation in Africa today is faster than at any other time in human history, therefore creating an affordable housing challenge

The conference was held under the theme -The rise of a new circular economy from the tree to the house,”  

 “If we don’t change the way we build - the technology and materials we use in construction, this massive challenge from urbanization will roll over us. So we need scalability, affordability and at the same time quality,” he explained.  


 He added: Timber can turn this challenge into a massive opportunity for all. We estimate that the value chain from timber housing has the potential to become an 8-billion-dollar industry. Therefore timber can turn the challenge we have with urbanization into a fantastic opportunity for all of us. We want to do large-scale developments in Tanzania, and we want to do it with timber.


According to him most of the biggest cities in the world today are in Asia, but that is expected to change by the year 2100.

“Most of the biggest cities will be in Africa, where cities like Lagos - Nigeria, Dar es Salaam and Kinshasa will have more than 60 million people. Already Africa has a backlog of over 50 million residential units, and this urban housing challenge must be turned into an opportunity to provide sustainable housing for all these people,” said Mr Dietzold.

To conquer this massive growth of urbanisation, he said, CPS is currently producing 300 to 400 housing units in Zanzibar.

“We need 6,000, and in Dar es Salaam over 70,000 houses that people can afford. These affordable houses don’t have to look like refugee camps, they can be beautiful houses made from sustainable materials, and that’s what we are doing,” he said

He noted that 38 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from construction and construction-related industries, which calls for action.

“We need to change how we build. If we continue building the same way we are today, our planet will die. That’s the simple message. With rapid urbanization, global warming and climate change, more sustainable ways of construction are required. He argued that we need to grow, harvest and regrow trees to solve the carbon emissions challenge,” he argued.   

According to him there is massive potential for timber in Africa for example Tanzania has about 260,000 hectares of sustainably managed forest and about 52% forest cover and is producing about 1.58 million cubits of sawn timber per year.

 He said  that if only 10 percent of the woods were allocated to sustainable forestry, we could produce 42 million cubic meters of sawn timber per year, enough to feed the world with timber.  

“We could motivate communities to grow more timber as an income generation activity. We want to tell people a story. We are building the tallest hybrid timber tower in the world, the Burj Zanzibar, to change perception and show people that this technology is modern, beautiful, durable, sustainable and a global landmark,” he elaborated.  

Wolfgang Hebenstreit, the Projects Technical Director from Binderholz in Austria, the global leader in Mass Timber production, explained that there are two types of timber construction - one made on-site, and another made 100 percent in the factory.

 He said that building with timber greatly reduces construction time and costs and results in world-class finishes.