The launch of Co-creation Hub’s Design Lab in Kigali, Rwanda last week was important in many ways. The ‘CcHUB Design Lab’ is a revolutionary vision from the hub, and will be key to tackling some of Africa’s socio-economic problems. Designers and engineers at the lab will also be working with scientists from around the world to design solutions for some of Africa’s biggest issues in public health, education, governance, and the private sector.
It is often said that “African problems require African solutions,” a phrase coined by Ghanaian economist George Ayittey. The design lab is an African solution to some of the continent’s biggest problems. It gives African countries and stakeholders in the continent “ownership”, i.e. an extra incentive to see these solutions work because they are “African owned”. A perceived “genuine love” for the continent and a desire to see it achieve its potentials will make African solutions more effective.
Philanthropy from western donors hasn’t been able to provide answers to most of the issues around Africa. While it has provided much-needed funding in some sectors of African development, it has also created a thriving industry for corruption and government negligence. Some of the criticism has also been that philanthropy is not focused on the problems it is trying to solve; it has often looked “throwing the money at the problem”. Like an American philanthropist once said, “If you hold a hammer in your hand, every problem looks like a nail. What happens, then, when all we hold in our hand is a checkbook…?”
Hence, CcHUB design lab is taking advantage of growing narrative on the continent to devise solutions for it and put square pegs in square holes: the growing tech sector on the continent, a young population keen to change the perception about the continent, and a country that’s open for business in Rwanda.
“African countries share many differences but also many commonalities when it comes to developmental challenges,” a spokesman for CcHUB told Ventures Africa. “By expanding into Rwanda through the CcHUB Design Lab, we are building on 8 years of networks and partnerships across the continent and the globe. The Lab is a space where stakeholders in the region work together to create our own solutions.”
CcHUB follows in the footsteps of Andela, arguably Africa’s biggest tech company, who also opened a new hub in Rwanda last year. Andela’s Rwandan hub is part of its dedication to growing a pan-African workforce. With a visa-on-arrival policy for African countries, a thriving and innovative tech ecosystem, and a key advocate for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, Rwanda offers many indigenous African companies more.
“Rwanda is keen on collaborating with world-class partners to establish ourselves as a leading destination that nurtures innovation-driven enterprises. We see technology as an integral gateway and means of developing society – an ethos and mission shared by CcHUB” said Paul Ingabire, H.E. Minister of ICT and Innovation, Rwanda during the launching of the lab. “As we strive to become a knowledge-based economy, we will continue to build long-lasting, strategic partnerships that celebrate excellence, forge ahead with the progress that’s, essentially, a force for good that will impact thousands of people across the continent.”
Africa has some of the biggest challenges in health, education, and governance. Some of the worst indices for maternal and child mortality, the incidence of HIV, out-of-school children, low rate of girl-child education, infrastructural, and sustainable development are found in Africa. A multidisciplinary design team of designers and engineers will be using design and innovation to proffer solutions to these issues. As CcHUB’s Co-founder and CEO Bosun Tijani commented, “We’ve been building tech businesses alongside African entrepreneurs for almost a decade and in that time, we’ve identified a common challenge that businesses face when it comes to sustainable growth – Design and Innovation.”