Designing the African Century through Venture Design

Over the last 10 to 15 years; the potential of Africa has been shouted from the rooftops, with our exploding young population, decent penetration of technology and a permissive trade environment; every pundit was placing bets on Africa Rising to meet its challenges and potential head-on. Looking back today it is difficult to see evidence of the much spoken about “Africa Rising” – instead we seem to be more and more mired in our unsolvable problems, both socio-economic and socio-political. While; over the same period of time; Silicone Valley has been able to produce countless Unicorn ventures with multi-billion dollar valuations and unmistakeable impact and value creation. What might be some of the things that have gone well or not so well in how we in Africa have responded and organised ourselves to solve African problems over the last 10 or so years? How might we use these learnings to develop a razor-sharp focus on designing and delivering the future we want for ourselves?

In this presentation “Designing the African Century through Venture Design” my primary hypothesis is that as Africans we need to be explicit and intentional about how we approach our problems. We need to design our way into the future we dream of. For this purpose, I borrow from the framework of Venture Design to better understand how we could design products, services and sustainable businesses that seek to exploit our potential as a continent by creating innovative solutions to our peculiar problems. Using the framework of Venture Design I propose an approach for both the corporate, societal, governmental and start-up ecosystems to leverage Human Centred Design and Design Thinking to better understand African problems and explicitly design the ventures that can deliver for us the future we dream of.

My name is Seth Mbhele and I have spent the past 25 years as a developer, multi-disciplinary experience designer and entrepreneur. I bring these disciplines and experiences together in my day job as a Design Strategist and Venture Designer consulting to leading corporate clients in Financial Services, Telecoms and Healthcare in South Africa and across the continent.