Design for Africa

What if Africa becomes the global export hub for food security, alternative and sustainable energy, the producer of the next generation of skilled professionals and big ideas? What if design makes it happen?

These are some of the questions that will receive attention via the Design Institute’s partnership with the second annual Open Design Cape Town Festival. The Institute is the design education partner of OPEN DESIGN. The education programme at the Festival has been developed to introduce design to young people of all ages: from early childhood learning to university graduates.

In a talk presented at OPEN DESIGN, group manager of the Design Institute referred to a recent debate in The Economist, where Wolfgang Fengler, lead economist of the World Bank in Nairobi argued that Africa is in a much better economic position today than it was at the turn of the century. Recent gains are only the first manifestations of profound, long-term transitions, which have the potential to accelerate Africa's development.

Mageni said: “Today I want to concur with Fengler and go even further by saying design could be the catalyst for changing the fortunes of Africa. It is true that more than 40% of Africans still live below the poverty line, many of their governments remain among the most corrupt in the world, and many deadly wars are fought on the ‘dark continent’.”

Why then is a lead economist of the Wold Bank so optimistic about Africa’s future? Besides demographic and geographical reasons, technology combined with education is reshaping Africa's development outlook. Today, Africa has more phones than adults because telecommunication is affordable for almost everyone. Thanks to cell-phones—which have morphed into multi-purpose devices—Africans can more easily participate in social and political life, especially if they reside in a remote village. The social benefits of mobile connectivity are compounded by an expansion in education. Primary education is no longer a luxury (primary enrolment is almost universal) and the continent will soon be in a position to reap an "education dividend" thanks to the rapid expansion of secondary education. Companies such as IBM, Nokia and Google are criss-crossing the continent, searching for business opportunities and human talent. 

So where does design fit in? With its 43-year track record as South Africa’s official design promotion body, the Design Institute now aims to use design to produce new entrepreneurial businesses and also to ensure that existing SMMEs are more successful through process reengineering and supplier development programmes. 

OPEN DESIGN Cape Town is a collaboration by the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) in partnership with the Cape Town Design Network (CTDN), and the City of Cape Town (CoCT). It is led by a steering committee and inspired designers, communicators, educators and entrepreneurs who believe in the potential of transformative and open design to positively impact on our society, our economy and our cultural environment.