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Join us at Africa’s first STEAM Symposium

Afrikanist in Motion

Afrikan Design Innovation is an illustration of the logical coalescence of creativity and design thinking with STEM

11 August 2017 – What correlation could there possibly be between art and the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths? More than you can imagine. 

We are thrilled to again be involved in the dynamic Open Design Cape Town festival (13 to 25 August), which focuses on design and innovation. We are especially excited to be participating in Africa’s first STEAM Symposium, which is one of the highlights of the Open Design festival.  

STEAM is much more than merely another acronym that rolls off the tongue easily; it is a global movement that aims to incorporate the creativity and vision of art and design thinking into traditional STEM subjects. Why? Because the future hinges on the ability of people to innovate and create – and for that, one will need a chameleon-like ability to change and adapt.

World Design Organisation president, industrial designer and researcher, Professor Mugendi K. M’Rithaa, concurs. “By incorporating art into science, technology, engineering and maths – the traditional STEM subjects – you’re equipping learners with a wide range of skills which, in turn, unlocks a variety of professional disciplines. Youngsters also learn that acquiring knowledge is about collaboration and is a lifelong process,” he says.

Aurecon’s design thinking-led agenda, Afrikan Design Innovation (ADI), has already pitched it at the forefront of this global agenda.

“ADI is just one illustration of the logical coalescence of creativity and design thinking with STEM. It’s not only a catalyst for innovation but an imperative if we’re to leapfrog the development process in Afrika to create sustainable, future ready cities,” says Aurecon’s Director for Innovation and Transformation, Abbas Jamie.

Full STEAM ahead

Abbas and Mugendi will be joined at the STEAM Symposium by other global thought leaders on this topic, such as Kristóf Fenyvesi, a STEAM researcher at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland; Richard Perez, the founding director of the UCT School of Design Thinking; and Marco Rosa, managing director at specialist design consultancy, Formula D. 

Championed by the Rhode Island School of Design in the US, STEAM is gaining global traction and it is hoped that it will also gain in popularity across Africa. STEAM has three broad pillars. First, to transform research policy to place art and design at the centre of STEM learning. Second, to encourage the integration of art and design thinking into education across all learning areas, from kindergarten to graduate degree level. Third, to influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation and add significance and meaning to their businesses.

“From a young age, we are told that we are either artistic and creative or technical and analytical. If you want to see real out-of-the box thinking or ground-breaking innovation, you need these worlds to collide in a melting pot of creativity. We need to unlock the true potential of people by allowing them to explore beyond traditional paradigms,” says Abbas.

Designer and academic, Vikki du Preez supports this view: “Much of our world is enabled or supported by technology – underpinned by maths, science and engineering – but the experience is a human one. Creative problem solving and learning to view the world as a connected system are key elements within art and design.

Vikki, a lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, believes that acknowledging and exploring the interplay between science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the creative disciplines can help foster innovation.

The case for integrating creativity across all disciplines has been proven time and again. In an essay published in 2012, newswriter Steven Ross Pomeroy noted that, “Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.”

Aurecon is also hosting other activities as part of the festival, including:

  • An open day at the Cape Town office where visitors will have the chance to participate in a design thinking workshop;
  • An exhibition of Afrikanist in Motion; 
  • Two design thinking masterclasses at City Hall.

For more information and to view the speaker line-up visit


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