Womxn: enabling spaces for le femmes

Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter’s pose from a Howard Miller World War II poster. Image source: http://www.independent.co.uk/.

With the advent of womxn building their own in society, how might we create enabling environments for them to thrive?

I had a chat with the Head of Innovation and Transformation with our engineering partner about introducing externalities into a traditional work environment, in this instance, it was exploring the benefits of bringing a child into corporate. This got me thinking about a more heated topic.

This scribbling of thougths aims to explore how to release talent and creativity of women in workspaces through gender-neutral environments.

Decoding: language as a device to create a new identity

“Women” and “woman” originate from Old English, where “man” was used as a gender fluid pronoun much like “one” and “they” have turned into today. However the feature of “man” or “men” still creates a notion of being a subset in society. A growing trend of of women-oriented organisations around the world are taking on a new way of using words to give womxn ownership of their role in society and fast closing the gender gap.

As of late, many woman-oriented organizations are taking on alternate spellings of the words “woman” and “women” in efforts to be more inclusive. “Womyn” and “womxn” are two of the most commonly used substitutes to avoid using the suffix “-men” at the end of the term, but others like “wimmin,” “wimyn,” and “womin” are also sometimes used.

This presents an increasing insight into the power of independence and being recognised as an autonomous presence in society, creating, making that which was not there and with it the independence and strength to define.

Trying to thrive in circumstances that were not designed for womxn

I have chats with womxn daily and learn of the frustration resulting from womxn trying to assimilate;

  1. Through language — pronunciation and the ability to articulate without features of sexism or patriarchy in the workplace,
  2. Through recreational outfits — the notion of womxn needing to attend every social occasion to get ahead,
  3. Through ‘social order’ — the nuance that a womxn’s head will not be higher than that of the man,
  4. Through vulnerability — in many cases showing signs of weakness to advance in situations where this is not the case

A push for a more effective model

The biggest suggestion coming from these chats was the need for ‘a safe space’ that does not conform to social nuances, a defined space that weather any discriminations and ineptitudes, a place where womxn can be; as competitive, as liberal, as expressive,

Let’s expand on this idea of ‘a safe space’.

We are seeing a democratising of opportunities and work through independent labour and employment. Couple this with the advent of smart-startups, freelancers, the gig economy and a rising mass of independents, the above scenario is suggestive that co-working spaces are safe havens for the upstarts.

Co-working is a model empowering to the upstarts mentioned above, by affording them depth and latitude to establish as businesses that can compete openly with rationed resource. Perhaps more casual and fluid, these spaces still exhibit the same prejudice as formal, corporate environments.

How might we re-imagine a co-working space tailored for womxn?

Source: https://www.builtinnyc.com/2017/06/12/coworking-space-perks

Some science behind a womxn-only co-working space

The rationale for this may ultimately come down to hormones — stress hormones such as cortisol, that is.

A recent study by Indiana University researchers found that “token” womxn in male-dominated offices exhibited chronically unhealthy levels of cortisol. Previous studies have also shown that male-dominated workplaces can trigger social isolation, not to mention the potential for sexual harassment or stressful interpersonal interactions that can lead self-doubt.

It wouldn’t be a big stretch to imagine that some co-working spaces out there may have this kind of atmosphere.

Imagining a womxn-owned and led co-working space

  • An empathetic work environment with aesthetics to complement the subtleties of womxn,
  • Organic ways of focused networking and seeking mentorship from womxn without bias and the male banter often found in work environments,
  • Inspire and rejuvenate womxn via a sense of ownership and independence from another being,

This was a glimpse of a small thought on inclusive & enabling spaces and am hoping to explore this topic a bit more through more facts- and evidence-based learning by using human-centred principles to push the needle for healthier work spaces.


  1. https://www.treehugger.com/culture/womens-coworking-spaces.html

Pretotypes and prototypes

Why is prototyping so important and how does it fit in to the design thinkers tool kit?  In this short read David Kester looks at some recent projects he has observed and been involved in and shows how invaluable it is to get prototyping early and then keep iterating to build your minimum viable product (MVP).  From a floating school to a sexual health service the prototype proves key to de-risking projects.

John Farrer_POD PrototypingDraft 593x354


Prototyping in design is often much misunderstood.

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure to interview the Nigerian architect, Kunle Adeyeme. He is a deeply thoughtful, talented and hugely experienced architect tutored under the great Rem Koolhas at OMA and now running his own highly successful practice NLE in Holland.  One of his areas of research and investigation has been in the field of amphibious buildings.

Just before our interview on stage at What Design Can Do, two interesting things happened:  Kunle was awarded a Silver Lion for his new design for a floating school at the Venice Biennale.  The original prototype that he built with the local Nigerian community in Makoko was destroyed in a storm.  The fact that it had always been conceived as a prototype and had been a wonderfully successful living experiment was completely missed in the media.


floaring schools-593
Kunle Adeyeme’s original prototype Floating School on the left and the developed scale sconecpt at the Venice Biennale.

Prototypes and what some call “pretotypes” (very early concepts for user testing) are the vital stock-in-trade of a design thinker.

When a telecoms company came to us recently we worked with product teams to develop pretotypes in the form of quick storyboards.  They were developed following customer observational research and provided the syndicate groups with a super-fast (2 hour) method of establishing concepts  they could test in “cognitive walk-throughs” with end-users.

orange storyboard-593


Quick prototypes developed to test, iterate and also eliminate early concepts with end-users

One of my colleagues (who I admire greatly for his work in health design) Chris Howroyd, has deployed this sort of fast, quick and constant prototyping to develop, test and bring to market on of the most successful new health services for the treatment of sexually transmitted disease.  It’s a 24 hour self-testing service called SH:24.  The programme is re-writing the script for these services in the UK.  A comparison of the early storyboards and the current operating model is a powerful demonstration of the value of prototypes, and constant iteration in order to bring to market minimum viable products (MVPs).


Early prototypes and the user journey for the sexual health service SH:24

Pearson Lloyd-593

Pearson Lloyd’s design for an NHS commode on display at the Design Museum alongside one of the early prototypes

Pretotyping and prototyping has its origins in industrial design.  My good friends at Pearson Lloyd created endless prototypes in order to develop the multi award-winning NHS Commode in a project Chris and I ran at the Design Council.  The techniques of prototyping have been adapted by interaction designers and service designers.  They are there to be used and incorporated by innovators and are an essential tool for design thinkers.  The benefits are huge:  designing around the user; aligning multidisciplinary teams around evolving ideas, and that great design thinking mantra…”failing early and cheap”  so that success comes with minimum risk.

Material Design

Original article: materializecss.com/about.html

Created and designed by Google, Material Design is a design language that combines the classic principles of successful design along with innovation and technology. Google’s goal is to develop a system of design that allows for a unified user experience across all their products on any platform.


Material is the metaphor

The metaphor of material defines the relationship between space and motion. The idea is that the technology is inspired by paper and ink and is utilized to facilitate creativity and innovation. Surfaces and edges provide familiar visual cues that allow users to quickly understand the technology beyond the physical world.

Bold, graphic, intentional

Elements and components such as grids, typography, color, and imagery are not only visually pleasing, but also create a sense of hierarchy, meaning, and focus. Emphasis on different actions and components create a visual guide for users.

Motion provides meaning

Motion allows the user to draw a parallel between what they see on the screen and in real life. By providing both feedback and familiarity, this allows the user to fully immerse him or herself into unfamiliar technology. Motion contains consistency and continuity in addition to giving users additional subconscious information about objects and transformations.

Ndebele design

Original article: http://lightcolorsound.blogspot.co.za/2013/12/ndebele.html


The Ndebele houses are painted by women who have been taught the techniques as part of their girlhood initiations. Originally, the designs, painted in mud and naturally occurring oxides, were comparatively muted. 
Over time, the colours and shape became a key aspect in the overall design. In the late 1960s, the new style was evident. What was once a finger-painted creation was now created using bundled twigs with feathers as brushes. The walls are still originally whitewashed, but the outlines and colours have significantly changed. The patterns and symbols can be seen today with a rich black outline and a vivid colour inside. 
There are five main colours represented: red and dark red, yellow to gold, a sky blue, green, and sometimes pink. The colours give an intensified symbolic meaning to the Ndebele. They can mean status or power of the home’s owners, offer prayer, announce a marriage in the home, or can represent a current protest. The paintings express an abstract meaning with no real reference to any specific characteristic of their homes. This is the most direct way to show their individual expression to the people outside their far distinct family, showing of the talent and the taste of the mother. The colour white is always used as the background because it makes the bright patterns stand out more.

Why user experience always has to come first

Original article: https://hbr.org/2016/09/why-user-experience-always-has-to-come-first

Actions speak louder than mission statements. If a UX feels more like “User Exploitation” than “User Experience,” business becomes ripe for disruption. Profitability predicated on customer friction, intrusion, and irritation simply isn’t sustainable. Privileging easy money over better user experience is the antithesis of customer centricity.

That’s why digital services in general, and mobile advertising in particular, make superior templates for evaluating business model design. Entwining real-time data and predictive analytics lets serious organizations quickly calculate and calibrate trade-offs between experiential and exploitive UXs. Those trade-offs become explicit. Most everyone in the enterprise can now see where customers are respected partners in value creation, and where they’re data-herded sheep to be sheared.

For example, Facebook makes great money from mobile advertisers, but it’s now refusing to subsidize technical inefficiencies that undermine overall UX. Roughly 40% of Facebook mobile users abandon sites that take even three seconds to load. Delays frequently lead to abandoning the Facebook visit as well. Unsurprisingly, the company informed advertisers to speed up their load times or else.

“Our goal is to give people the best ad experience possible on mobile. By considering website performance and a person’s network connection, we can improve that experience and help drive the outcomes advertisers are looking for,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Crudely put, when advertising latencies undermine perceived UX quality, Facebook optimizes UX at the tardy advertisers’ expense. Abandonment in any form is an increasingly measurable outcome. Facebook has effectively declared that it prioritizes superior UX over inferior advertising.

This highlights a fundamental dynamic that’s transforming digital product and services worldwide: Dynamic pricing is being superceded by dynamic opportunism. That is, platform providers and innovation ecosystems are rethinking how they really make money from, and with, their customers and partners. That means they must constantly (re)calculate whether, and when, degrading their UX in exchange for easy or instant money is worth it.

The ongoing networked fusion of data and analytics basically forces organizations to reveal how much they value their customer relationships as relationships, as opposed to as a series of transactions aggregated over time. The former perspective inspires and incents a different investment in UX than the latter.

Reducing UX frictions and irritations that have nothing to do with money or value creation is a no-brainer. But technology makes it easier and simpler for more organizations to try to get away with profitable but irritating little nicks and customer scrapes. In other words, temptations and opportunities for “nickel and diming” one’s customers and partners are digitally rising.

Google’s policies curtailing mobile interstitial adverts — pop-ups that spread, fungus-like, across your mobile screen — underscore this intensifying theme.

“Google’s intention is to not just direct people to more informative results, but to results that work better for them — e.g., don’t annoy them with a pop-up — too,” The Verge observed. “This is something Google has increasingly been doing with its search algorithm. Last year it began boosting the rank of ‘mobile friendly’ websites, and in 2014, it began boosting the rank of sites with encryption as well.”

Note that a pop-up’s IQ — Irritation Quotient — is but one of hundreds of elements that Google uses to weight its mobile search algorithm. That said, Google tracks user abandonment rates as assiduously as Facebook does. The essential tension doesn’t go away: When does user experience feel like, or become, user exploitation?

Advertisements that genuinely interest or intrigue users will obviously be welcome no matter how intrusively or invasively they materialize. The receptivity/abandonment ratios can now be tracked and analyzed with increasing rigor.

But the most important takeaway should revolve not around advertising efficacy but around how — individually and collectively — advertising defines and determines the UX. The death-by-a-thousand-cuts, or pop-ups, phenomenon remains a real threat to sustainable platforms and ecosystem growth.

So these UX themes transcend digital advertising trends. An Amazon developer, for example, told me that her company takes great pains to avoid digitally irritating customers. Entire KPI dashboards have apparently been built around receptivity/abandonment behaviors. Tests explicitly examining how “best” customers or “typical/average” customers respond to intrusive offers are hotly debated. Enhancing Amazon’s overall UX is paramount, she insists. Optimizing the overall relationship, not the individual transaction, is the core value.

The leadership challenge around customer centricity will become sharper and starker both inside the enterprise and outside. Will business discipline revolve around optimizing UX for customer value? Or does “dynamic opportunism” devolve into user exploitation? How your organization defines and manages its receptivity/abandonment ratios will tell you the answers.

Bauhaus: a blueprint for the future

Original article: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/apr/13/bauhaus-dessau-barbican-rowan-moore

Not much united Walter Ulbricht, the Stalinist dictator of East Germany for two decades, and Tom Wolfe, celebrant of the splendours and follies of American capitalist excess. Not much, except a loathing of the Bauhaus and the style of design it inspired. Ulbricht called it “an expression of cosmopolitan building” that was “hostile to the people” and to “the national architectural heritage”. Wolfe called it “an architecture whose tenets prohibit every manifestation of exuberance, power, empire, grandeur or even high spirits and playfulness”.

For Ulbricht it was alien to Germany, for Wolfe it was alien to America. Both agreed that it was placeless, soulless and indifferent to ordinary people’s needs. And if the Bauhaus attracted such consistent forms of hostility, that is due to the power and coherence of the image it presented to the world, of disciplined and monochrome modernist simplicity, usually involving steel and glass. Given that it was actually a short-lived and semi-nomadic school of design and art with the usual riot of individualists, visionaries, eccentrics, schemers and geniuses that such places attract, this appearance of unity was an achievement.

From May the Barbican is staging an exhibition of 400 of the Bauhaus’s works, the first in Britain on this scale for 44 years. It will stress the breadth of its output, including paintings by Paul Klee and László Moholy-Nagy, furniture by Marcel Breuer, textiles by Gunta Stölzl, architecture by Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, photography, film, ceramics, theatre, graphics and product design. It promises to portray the central ideal of the Bauhaus, “to change society in the aftermath of the first world war”, as the Barbican puts it, and “to find a new way of living”.

When Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919 it was with these aspirations for a new life, and for a multiplicity of creative disciplines, together with a stress on the importance of making things as opposed to just theorising about them. But there was not yet a distinct form or direction to these ideas, and almost anything could be considered as a route to a better future, including new spiritualist religions and a strict vegetarian diet which had to be livened up with plenty of garlic. According to Gropius’s spectacular wife Alma, whose other husbands and lovers included Gustav Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka and the writer Franz Werfel, the most distinctive feature of the Bauhaus in its early days was garlic on the breath.

Certain questions were unresolved and intensely debated. Was craft or mass production more important? Could art and manufacturing be reconciled? Did individual expression impede service to society? In 1925 the school moved to Dessau, between Berlin and Leipzig. At the time it was an industrial boom town, the base of the Junkers aeroplane company. The harder-edged, more technocratic arguments started to prevail. The young Marcel Breuer started collaborating with Junkers on making tubular steel furniture of a kind that would eventually become commonplace in boardrooms and forward-thinking homes. Greater attention was paid to the commercial development and marketing of Bauhaus-designed objects.

In Dessau they built, in the extraordinarily short time of one year, the Gropius-designed building that became as famous as the institution it served. With its glass curtain walls and spare rectilinear forms, it crystallised what would become the dominant type of modernist architecture. It was one of the most prodigiously influential buildings of all time, a prototype that would be followed by office buildings, hotels, schools and hospitals in almost any country you can think of. In Dessau, Gropius and his followers could also try out other architectural ideas on the row of houses built for Bauhaus masters, and on 300 low-cost houses built for industrial workers on the Dessau-Torten estate.

In 1932, however, the school moved on again, to Berlin. The next year it fell victim to the National Socialists – another movement that, after the catastrophic trauma of the first world war, sought a new order and expressed itself through memorable visual imagery. Junkers started making Stuka divebombers, not Breuer chairs, and Dessau was all but flattened by bombing in 1945. The Bauhaus building was severely damaged, and only recently has been fully restored. But its influence spread. The Bauhausler diaspora, of ex-students and teachers building in the style they had learned, extended to Tel Aviv and Tokyo. Gropius migrated via London to the United States, where he became a professor at Harvard and designed the Pan Am building above New York’s Grand Central station, much disliked for the way it imposed on the view down Park Avenue. He also designed the Playboy Club in London, prompting a new generation of radicals to denounce him for selling out.

To visit the Bauhaus building now is to be struck again by the extraordinary way in which a single construction in a provincial town could have had so much effect. It is also to see nuances that, inevitably, imitators lost. For years the Bauhaus building was known to the wider world mostly through a few black-and-white photographs that stress its more easily copied details, but miss the point that it was a framework for the creative energy of the school. Its stairs, workshops and balconies were places of display as well as function, and its glass walls made a spectacle of its internal activities. One of the key spaces was an auditorium whose stage is connected to the communal canteen, thereby bringing together performance and life. It also has a subtle colour scheme, contrary to Wolfe’s assertions that the Bauhaus was only interested in black, white and grey. If it looked like a factory it also had properties of a commune, a cult centre and a theatre.

Although it was founded by Gropius, architecture was not at first the main point of the Bauhaus, and its vast legacy extends from graphics through product design to art. But architecture came to dominate the public image of the place, and the style of the building proved easier to record than the events that happened there. What Wolfe and Ulbricht railed against was its impact on the built environment. Which, if you only look at its form and not at its content, does indeed look sterile. Hopefully, the Barbican show will put this misconception right.

As for Alma, she tired of the work ethic of her husband and his school. At least if Tom Lehrer is to believed. As “Alma”, his tribute to her, has it:

But he would work late at the Bauhaus,

And only came home now and then.

She said, “What am I running? A chow house?

It’s time to change partners again.”

What design thinking can do for Africa

Original article: http://www.designindaba.com/articles/point-view/what-design-thinking-can-do-africa


Design is thinking with your hands. Design is arranging the world around us to ensure the functioning and well-being of our communities. Design is the inherent human capability of understanding a challenge and its context followed by the instinctive act of rapid, iterative trial and error until a solution is found. Design is having trust in your intuition to take non-linear creative leaps in order to beat habit. Design is never finished but constantly adapting to a world in flux.

Growing up in Northern Malawi, Ackeem Ngwenya experienced first-hand rural farmers’ difficulties of bringing goods to the market with their villages being cut off from the country’s designated road networks. An experience that followed him throughout his life, he was eventually empowered to address the problem while studying at the Royal College of Art in London. Under the name Roadless he is designing a shape-shifting wheel that is able to adapt to different, previously impassable terrains, providing market access for rural communities.

While the linear approach would be to wait for those roads to be built, the designer’s nature is to make their own way to overcome the challenges at hand.


Design today knows no perfect solutions, but only continuous adaption to constantly changing environments. Considering the abundance of infrastructure vacuums across the continent, Africans have to be creative in every aspect of their lives in order to survive. Broken or non-existent structures – from government and transportation to education and health care, to name just a few – force people to adopt inquisitive, entrepreneurial dispositions in order to work their way around the system.

However, this may turn out to be Africa’s greatest advantage over the next decades, since less defined structures allow for greater systemic change. As more and more Africans gain access to the internet and thereby a pool of nearly infinite knowledge, tools and communities, the ubiquitous challenges at hand could serve as fertile soil for groundbreaking technologies and innovations.

In fact, if harnessed effectively, Africa has an unprecedented opportunity to grow more organic, agile, citizen-centric infrastructures, emerging from and thriving through the entrepreneurial endeavours of its people, by turning their ideas into the very fabric of their societies.

Witnessing migrant workers’ difficulties in Mozambique to send remittances and goods to relatives across the border, Suzana Moreira founded moWoza, a mobile phone-based supply-chain solution allowing product orders through a simple SMS and subsequent delivery to merchants in the families’ home villages. Moreira saw poor and insecure infrastructures making product delivery a costly and risky endeavor – a vacuum that she succeeded to fill with a 21st-century digital solution that is rapidly expanding even beyond African borders to places such as India.


With the youngest population in the world, and currently the only one growing younger every day, one of Africa’s main challenges is its unemployed youth. What it takes is a mindshift among the continent’s young people to raise a generation of job creators not seekers, a deep-rooted belief that with the world’s knowledge and resources in their hands, and a community of like-minded individuals around them, they can be the designers of their own futures.


  1. A common challenge that gives purpose and direction and ensures the varied passions and energies of Africa’s young leaders are channelled for the benefit of a prosperous continent and all of its people. A challenge embodied through role models such as Obinna Ukwuani, who epitomises this spirit and the realm of possibility. Ukwuani embraced the responsibility bestowed upon him and used his time at MIT to set up Exposure Robotics, a summer programme teaching high school kids in Nigeria computer programming and engineering fundamentals through building and operating robots. After testing the model since 2011 he is now building an entire school dedicated to his venture.
  2. It takes resources that allow these entrepreneurs to swiftly move from idea to action, giving them courage and freedom to quickly iterate and scale their ventures into sustainable businesses. These resources include tangibles such as grants, capital or scholarships, but also intangibles such as trust, mentorship and encouragement. There is no doubt that Africa has all the resources it needs to overcome its most severe problems. What is needed is a concerted, strategic effort that is able to attract and maximise such investments.
  3. It requires filters to create a culture of action-oriented, determined and collaborative values nurturing Africa’s change-makers with only the most relevant information and resources necessary to advance their ventures. In times of an interconnected world and growing internet access across Africa, it becomes increasingly important to create spaces and tightly knit communities that ensure unnecessary information will not get in the way of those few individuals determined to embark on the courageous and risky entrepreneurial route of designing their own solutions to Africa’s challenges.

What is needed is a generation of young Africans with integrity, willing to take on the less-travelled road and do something hard over something efficient. A cadre of young risk takers for whom planning and making goes hand in hand, who are audacious enough to take the first step.

African Innovation Outlook

Original article: http://www.nepad.org/resource/african-innovation-outlook-ii-0

Science, technology and innovation (STI) are engines of growth in any economy. Realising that Africa can also benefit from STI activities, in 2005 the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) adopted Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA) which articulates the African Union (AU) agenda for harnessing STI to boost economic growth and improve the lives of African people.

The challenges are how to link science, technology and innovation to poverty reduction, job creation, sustainable livelihoods and the improved well-being of citizens. How should capacity and competencies be built in order to innovate? As countries engage in knowledge intensive activities, how will Africa expand its knowledge?

Understanding the concepts of STI should support prudent policy formulation and research agendas that address economic and social challenges. Assessing STI is fundamental to formulating policies but in the absence of relevant indicators this is difficult. Most African countries do not have STI indicators or adequate means to produce them, with the reasons for this inadequacy differing from country to country. The lack of STI indicators is of serious concern when evidence-based decisions and policies have to be made. The development of the CPA, which outlined among other things the need to develop STI indicators in Africa, is a result of this concern.

The implementation of the CPA to develop STI indicators bore fruit when the African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (ASTII) initiative was launched in 2007.

The first phase of the ASTII initiative was implemented in 19 countries: Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The outcomes of this phase include building STI capacity and related activities in Africa and the publication of the first African Innovation Outlook (AIO) in 2010 (AU-NEPAD, 2010). The AIO was launched as a first of the series aimed at publishing STI indicators in Africa. The publication presented research and development (R&D), innovation and bibliometric indicators. The baseline year for the data was 2007 although some countries submitted data collected for the 2008 financial year. The report also highlighted structural issues that constrain economic growth and human development and the role of STI in resolving some of these issues.

The number of countries participating in this phase increased from 19 to 35 between 2011 and 2013. New countries joining the project were Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Togo, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. Focal points were identified and training on how to conduct surveys was provided.

The first intergovernmental meeting on ASTII held in Maputo in 2007 decided that countries should use the already established Frascati and Oslo Manuals to collect data while efforts are made to develop guidelines for collecting and interpreting data for indicators in African countries (NEPAD, 2007). Both the first and second phases of the ASTII initiative used the OECD’s Frascati Manual for conducting the R&D surveys while the innovation surveys used the OECD/Eurostat Oslo Manual.

This report presents the results of the R&D and innovation surveys and bibliometric studies as well as information on the status of STI policies and/or strategies of each country.

In the case of R&D surveys, the baseline year is 2010, though some countries provided more recent data. Angola, Cape Verde, Egypt and Lesotho provided R&D data for 2011 and data from Zimbabwe is for 2012. Six countries (Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) provided innovation data for the period 2008-2010; Gabon and Lesotho data are for 2010-2012; while data for Kenya, Senegal and South Africa is for 2008-2011, 2009–2011 and 2005-2007 respectively.

Bibliometric data was sourced from the study undertaken by AOSTI and the results presented in this report are for the countries participating in the ASTII initiative. Chapter 2 generally speaks to STI policy activities in the selected African countries.

Is Africa leading the innovation revolution?

Sourced from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/is-africa-leading-the-innovation-revolution/

Necessity is the mother of invention, and in Africa it has been the mother of innovation. While the continent is vastly different, the level of innovation has been interesting to watch, largely fueled by the equalizing nature of technology and mobile telephony.

Over the last 15 years, African economies have enjoyed growth above the global average. This has largely been fuelled by mineral agriculture, with growth linked to China’s demand for raw materials. While this demand from China is now slowing down, the rise of African countries is a new story.

It is estimated that in 2016, the African population will reach 1,069 billion people, the majority of whom are under 30. Africa has the highest rates of urbanisation; its poor infrastructure, which has previously hampered growth and development, is now a catalyst for innovation. The mobile phone in Africa has become a game-changer for the continent. According to Ericsson, the technology company, by 2019 there will be 930 million mobile phones in Africa, almost one for every person on the continent. There is greater mobile penetration than electricity penetration. Now, people are able to connect, get news, trade, get access to healthcare and even transfer money.

(In Africa, mobile phone penetration is higher than electricity penetration. Graphic by Jon Gosier of Appfrica Labs Public Domain, The Guardian)

One of the biggest innovations to come out of Africa is mobile money transfer, which has disrupted traditional financial models. The technology behind it has now been exported to the West. The continent is starting to see the rise of e-healthcare solutions and online education solutions, two of the biggest challenges on the continent.

For the first time, we are seeing a trend of being technology generators rather than just adopters, and we are seeing more innovators from the west move to the continent due to an easier, and in some cases non-existent, regulatory environment, which enables greater experimentation in the market with few competitors. These include new drone technology for the delivery of goods to leapfrog the infrastructure divide.

Overall, there seems to be good news for the continent, as Africa looks to technology to catalyse new areas of growth, a good example being East Africa, with Rwanda and Kenya in particular championing the need for an enabling environment.

“We need to ensure women are part of this revolution”

However, as the technology and innovation boom hits Africa, there is still a gender divide, and we need to ensure that women and girls are part of this revolution. It’s a prime opportunity to use technology as a catalyst to create inclusive economies, and income inequality. There is a need to create gender-inclusive technology and have women become part of the design and development of technological solutions. There are many programs on the continent leading this charge, and there is an opportunity for Africa to become a leader in gender equality in the technology sector.

The other challenge for Africa is to preserve its ecosystems, which have been under threat due to rapid urbanisation and economic development at the expense of the environment. The latest WWF African Ecological Futures Report makes it clear that we are at a pivotal moment in our development trajectory to balance growth with conservation.

It is an exciting time for the continent. Under the Africa rising narrative, in the coming years we will witness how technology can transform the way Africa works and revolutionising the continent.