Afrika Matters

Design thinking: Afrika matters

Design thinking: Afrika matters

“Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”
– novelist, poet and professor, Chinua Achebe

The benefit of design thinking in an Afrikan context

The starting point for design thinking is empathising with the people who will live with the design outcome. Consequently, when approaching complex problems in Afrika, an understanding of context, history and culture is critical. 

The lens one uses does matter. Which is why we’ve adopted the name ‘Afrika’ to express Afrika as seen from the ‘inside out’, viewed from the perspective of its own realities and aspirations. This distinguishes it from the more traditional notion of ‘Africa’ as viewed from the ‘outside in’. This is supported by the field of Afrikology, which argues that all languages from our continent spell Africa with a ‘k’.  

When brainstorming solutions that are going to be applied in an Afrikan context, we are holding up an Afrikan lens. That means empathising and collaborating with the people we’re designing for – walking in their footsteps, figuratively speaking. Understanding the importance of theoretical propositions such as situated development and the genii loci – essentially ‘the spirit’ of a place.

This human-centric approach takes the perspective of examining the realities and aspirations that are particular to Afrika to inform solutions that respond to the continent’s unique needs in a way that is sustainable, and aligned to each country’s development agenda, as well as the broader United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Integral to the process is the broader collaboration with our global offices and other stakeholders – it’s a meeting of minds to work towards sustainable, innovative solutions that not only solve present challenges but effectively anticipate the full spectrum of changes disruptive technology may bring about, and see this disruption as a chance to innovate. 

It’s an approach that has redefined Aurecon and is informed by our strategic direction for Afrika: “Being an inspiration to Afrika”.

Aurecon is helping define the term “Afrikan Design Innovation” through its collaboration with the World Design Organisation. This collaboration will ultimately shape design on the continent and will result in a more inclusive, community-centric vision for the continent.

Design in motion

For an in-depth look into how we’re applying design thinking to advance design innovation in Afrika, click here to read Advancing the Afrikan Lions’ Narrative: The quest for a sustainable future for all, a paper penned by Aurecon’s Director for Innovation & Transformation in Africa, Abbas Jamie, and Professor Mugendi K. M’Rithaa, President of the World Design Organisation.

Read more about our pilot design projects across sub-Saharan Afrika which showcase how design methodology tools have been introduced into the engineering world:

  • Our Afrikan City: this dialoguing platform creates a space where people from various spheres can collaborate to promote a mutual understanding across government and society about how best to manage rapid urbanisation on the continent.
  • By the River: by using a human-centric methodology to gain a better appreciation for the rivers in the city of Nairobi, this case study will inform the bigger question: what is the desired potential future state of rivers in Afrikan cities? The insights gleaned will undergird the implementation of future projects. 
  • Afrikanist in Motion: to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges confronting commuters on the Afrikan continent, Aurecon teamed up with a Cape Town-based community photographer to capture his journey from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam relying entirely on public transport. These insights will better equip transport planners and engineers to develop human-centric transport solutions.
  • Raize the roof: in partnership with a charity, Aurecon and other key stakeholders are working on designing a social investment that will impact lives well into the future. This will help inform future planning to bring about sustainable social reform.
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