Reframe: Design thinking for Africa

Image source: Cyrus Kabiru, C-Stunners 2012. Caribbean Sun. © Cyrus Kabiru. Foto: Miguel Luciano.
What is the reframing? Cultural intelligence

What is the idea of cultural intelligence?

We start by defining what cultural intelligence is not. It is not: something derived from clever marketing tools; an myriad of digital insights that inform marketing practices; a device that is on standby and called on when needed.

We begin by understanding cultural intelligence as the air that brings life to humans, the core of what informs daily human decisions, an underlying sense of connectedness and belonging innately placed before the idea of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs creeps into an adolescent youth on their path to existential inquiry.

Cultural intelligence is the idea that culture inherently is and of itself a sentient being, a living, breathing thing, in other words human; one with thoughts, ideas and basic survival instincts. To push the envelope, the idea of its own existence in the broader category of other social nuances.

Cultural insights is a more passive and evasive stance in understanding the makeup of a tribe.

Consider this, Tim Brown, CEO of global design firm IDEO advocates for a new model of living, the circular economy – the need to move away from linear movement of raw materials along an assembly line to a more distributed and democratic model of bending the assembly line into a circular flow where the output of the system now informs how the system is built. The notion that people comes before process.

Image source: http://report.akzonobel.com/2015/ar/case-studies/the-circular-economy.html

 

This is not a new idea when one traces the harmony of man and nature, something very characteristic of indigenous tribes in Afrika. Intelligence speaks to the holistic need for change and balancing, insights is represented in the change process.

To expand on the idea of cultural intelligence, let’s take a closer look at indigenous knowledge systems, a more digestible and pragmatic way to understand it.

Indigenous Knowledge Systems

Indigenous knowledge is the local knowledge – knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society. Indigenous knowledge contrasts with the international knowledge system generated by universities, research institutions and private firms. It is the basis for local-level decision making in agriculture, health care, food preparation, education: natural resource management, and a host of other activities in rural communities.

Flavier. De Jesus and Navarro (1995:10) state that:

Indigenous knowledge is the information base for a society. which facilitates communication and decision-making. Indigenous information systems are dynamic. and are continually influenced by internal creativity and experimentation as well as by contact with external systems.

To propose a new idea of design thinking re-framed for Afrika appeals to the former stance of internal creativity and experimentation. By design, design thinking prompts the ‘innateness’ to surface. Afrikan design thinking means reverting back to dynamic communal structures and nuances and interrogate those means to which we can interpret the world and its problems.

With design firms such as IDEO and Frog Design, they have had the mileage in producing methodologies that systematically find themselves adopted into similar societies and externalities, offering a plug-and-play approach to design thinking.

Reframing for Afrika means beginning with the end in mind, starting with the understanding that systems change in Afrika rests with the information base from indigenous rural areas like Sauri, Kenya; Adet, Ethiopia; Chibuto, Mozambique and how these knowledge reserves play themselves out and inform the rural, peri-urban and urban migrant as they carry them into urban spaces.

Reframing urban dilemmas emphatically using peri-rural intelligence over insight.

Cultural preservation

There is keen debate amongst indigenous communities, government officials, public negotiators and academic commentators alike over whether intellectual property rights are appropriate for the preservation and legal protection of traditional cultural expressions. These debates need to be understood in relation to the intrinsic nature of traditional cultural expressions, and how they carry with them ‘shared, symbolic meanings, which may represent for a community a link with the sacred…its history, or an attribute of its identity’

In reframing design thinking for Afrika we begin with the idea that cultures, inherently carry with them a sense of expressions and being. To this end, we employ devices as empathy and resign preconceived notions of systems challenges in communal structures.

How might we preserve Afrikan traditional systems? How might we use cultural systems thinking to inform design thinking?

Image source: https://www.tripsavvy.com/games-played-in-africa-1454491

Mancala is one of oldest games in the world, dating back thousands of years. Pits have been found carved into the roofs of ancient Egyptian tombs in Luxor and Thebes.

How might we build a culture for Afrikan design thinking?

  1. Isintu (empathy)Design and innovation are geared to solving problems, problems experienced by humans.

    Derived from Ubuntu, isintu suggests consistent and genuine human values being a part of everyday life gathered from “umthombo”, the essence of being human.

  2. Context driven learningMany tools are used by design thinking practitioners locally. While functional, how many of those tools have been informed by indigenous knowledge systems?

    The idea of a deep, native narrative creeps up in the learning. Learning from folklore practice and oral storytelling and charging this into the facilitation.

  3. Content driven ideationAs suggested by the context driven learning point above, practitioners ought to move into a space of iterative content ideation, the aim of creating unique design tools and innovation methodologies.
  4. “Cultural misappropriation”Although counterintuitive to the main idea carried by this piece, cultural appropriation suggest being unapologetic and disruptive jeering of cultural intelligence in design practice. Instead of using insights and layering them onto an appropriate medium that advertising and marketing types place on campaigns (ready-placed frameworks), a deliberate celebration and highlighting of innate cultural qualities needs to surface.

    The idea of Afrika with a “K” and not a “C”

  5. Deep dives and immersionDriving a culture that all are ethnographers, that every team member once given enough latitude can relate to a situation and personalities and not treating the challenge from a passive stance.

    Mindfulness, that every moment presents an opportunity for observation and learning.

  6. GamificationUsing Afrikan games as a point of assimilating and expounding on new approaches to design and innovation.

What are the impacts of reframing for Afrika?

Seeking first to be understood and then to understand

For the better part of this thought piece, reference to the marketing and advertising arena is made, not to take away from its impact however to highlight approaches to problem-solving where corporate Afrika relies heavily to solve problems of understanding people to gain market traction.

Design thinking over-emphasizes the human.

Reframing design thinking places a deeper need to understand the human, wholly, from a point of their decision-making.

Systems change

With an invigorated approach, this contextual with content backed by evidence and facts-based intelligence and the creative confidence to implement to problems, Afrikan design thinking is a host to new innovations.

References
1. http://reference.sabinet.co.za/webx/access/journal_archive/10113487/324.pdf
2. http://www.piipa.org/images/IP_Book/Chapter_5_-_IP_and_Human_Development.pdf

The Open Africa Initiative Is Championing a Borderless Africa

Original source: https://kwesefied.kwese.com/article/open-africa-initiative-championing-borderless-africa

If you’re a regular around here you know we talk often about these African borders that were decided for us.

Quick history lesson. In 1884/84 at the Berlin Conference, the world’s super powers decided to slice Africa up like a pie leaving us almost irreconcileably disconnected. The map of Africa as we know it was decided there – without our input.

Fast forward to 2017, in an attempt to undo the result of that conference in an inventive way a group of young African Global Shapers from the city of Durban (South Africa) are taking on the mammoth task of trying to “Open Africa”. This agreement was reached at the #ShapingAfrica conversations at the 2017 World Economic Forum on Africa.

The Global Shapers Community is made up of city-based Hubs led by young leaders between 20 and 30 years old who want to develop their leadership potential towards serving society. To that end, Hubs undertake local projects to improve their communities. When you consider that 50% of the world’s population is under the age of 27, you realise how crucial it is that the youth have a voice and presence in the world’s decision-making.

The Global Shapers Durban hub realised that intra-Africa trade (trade between Africans) accounts for only 14% of Africa’s total trade and are aiming to fix that by paving the way for more Intra-Africa collaboration on trade, governance and sharing of talent. The Open Africa initiative will therefore challenge policy makers on the following issues:

  1. Infrastructure projects that prioritise collaboration between governments on road transport networks
  2. Reduction of red tape that results in border delays and hinders movement across borders,
  3. Championing African competitive advantages across different African markets for goods and services

These young leaders have several end-goals in bringing out the spirit of “Ubuntu” shared by Africans and help make practical the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).  They hope to create a platform for sharing values and understanding of the different African socio-economic, cultural values and aspirations among the youth. As well as gain a better understanding of the challenges toward free trade-related movement in Africa to enable evidence-based advocacy. Lastly, to create an ecosystem for African youth to work collectively in identifying solutions to intra-Africa trade issues while recognising the challenges that face us all.

To learn exactly HOW this group aims to achieve all this and stay informed of their comings and goings, visit their website or alternatively follow the initative on Facebook and Twitter on
@OpenAfricaGS and @GlobalShapers respectively. #Kwesefied

Is this the World’s cheapest solar lamp?

Original article: http://www.designindaba.com/articles/creative-work/world’s-cheapest-solar-lamp

SM100

For the millions without electricity in Africa, basic lighting remains a luxury. Kerosene lamps are expensive. Candles and fires are hazardous and ultimately affects a household’s air quality. Manchester-based design consultancy Inventid’s recent development of what they are claiming is the world’s cheapest solar light could present a solution for this ongoing struggle.

Developed in collaboration with Chinese manufacturer Yingli, the hand-sized lamps retail for around about R63 ($5) and are able to stay lit for up to eight hours when fully charged. Called the SM100 solar light, it is reportedly twice as bright as kerosene lamps and features strap slots so that it can be used as a head-torch or easily strapped to a bicycle.

The lamp was trialled by about 9,000 families in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. It was important to Inventid’s founders that the product’s initial trial be far-reaching in order to best address potential users’ needs.

SM100

“Working closely with charities in Africa we gathered local insights into family routines, the layout of dwellings and environmental conditions,” explains co-founder Henry James. “We listened to the aspirations and ideas of people whose personal experiences have shaped a product that is co-created in Africa.”

Though the SM100 solar light was developed in partnership with charity SolarAid, Inventid have chosen to sell them at cost rather than give them away. According to SolarAid’s founding director, each lamp sold generates money for food and essentials in East Africa.

The recent winner of a silver award in the design for society and design for sustainability categories at the European Product Design Awards, the SM100 solar light can also be bought online for £10 in the UK, with all extra profits going to SolarAid.

SADC: towards a common future

Original article: http://www.sadc.int/issues/science-technology/

Part of the vision of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is to develop a region where science and technology drive sustainable social and economic development, alleviate poverty and disease, and underpin the creation of employment opportunities and wealth. Most of the challenges facing regional integration as identified in Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2003) such as food security, energy, water, transport, communications infrastructure and human resources development will require scientific and technological solutions.

Science and Technology as a cross-cutting theme in the region can be used to develop and strengthen national systems of innovation in order to drive sustained socio-economic development and the rapid achievement of the goals of the SADC common agenda including poverty reduction and eradication.

Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation

A Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation was signed by SADC Heads of State and Government in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2008. It is a blueprint document that outlines the framework of cooperation between Member States within the SADC region. It came about through extensive deliberations between Member States and covers scientific and technological matters of interest within the region. Some of the aims and objectives of the Protocol in the region are to:

  • Strengthen regional cooperation and coordination;
  • Promote the development and harmonisation of policies;
  • Share experiences and pool resources;
  • Promote public understanding, awareness and participation;
  • Promote the value of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and technologies;
  • Attract, motivate and retain scientists;
  • Strengthen institutional capacity and facilitate institutional cooperation and networks;
  • Enhance and strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights;
  • Increase access to the teaching and learning of basic science and mathematics; and
  • Promote gender equity and equality in the teaching and learning at all levels of education.

Read more about Science, Technology and Innovation and their contributions to social and human development in the SADC region.

Relevant Documents

Responsible Unit

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.