by ADERAYO SANUSI, Princeton University
What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa?
Edited by Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga
256 pp, MIT Press
"Imagine a positive Africa—creative, technological, and scientific in its own way." (1)
Several countries in Africa are in a critical period of expanding tech entrepreneurship and foreign investment. Innovation hubs are proliferating, following decades of rapid local adoption of mobile phones and digital platforms. And in the past three years, top Silicon Valley executives like Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai, and Jack Dorsey have visited the continent to meet emergent developer communities and learn about new products and ventures.
As these developments are documented on various media platforms and business school case books, an emerging group of scholars, practitioners, and activists have begun to critique what they characterize as incorrect, harmful discourses about the technological contributions of Africans. They are typically represented merely...
International Finance Corporation
Case Study—Trust motivates people’s uptake and use of digital financial services (DFS). Understanding the socio-cultural determinants of DFS trust are needed to scale financial access and drive financial inclusion. These are core components of international development strategies, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Universal Financial Access (UFA2020). The IFC-Mastercard Foundation Partnership for Financial Inclusion (the Partnership) conducted ethnographic research to understand factors that impact people’s attitudes and perceptions of DFS. Nine months of field work each in Cameroon, DRC, Senegal and Zambia were conducted, in collaboration with local research institutes’ Anthropology departments and the African Studies Center at the University of Leiden. The results of the ethnographic research produced a framework for understanding drivers and barriers to people growing trust in digital financial services.
This paper analyzes the...
WILLIAM SCHINDHELM GEORG
PETER HAYWARD JONES
This paper investigates how a close understanding of human activity can inform the design of culturally and contextually sustainable innovations for subsistence markets. Building on existing literature related to poverty alleviation initiatives and an ethnographic field study, this project attempted to understand the cultural and contextual challenges to the substitution of unhealthy and unsustainable biomass as cooking fuels by cleaner and competitive cooking alternatives in Kitintale, an urban slum in Kampala, Uganda. We share new research findings and experience from a recent ethnographic study that reveals the incompatibility of modern innovation theory with the realities of the deeply knitted everyday practices in the social ecology of slum life. As the findings of this project suggest, broad claims that disruptive innovation can shift existing practices, change demand and displace market leaders through the creation of new value networks might not fully...
by PATRICIA L. SUNDERLAND, Practica Group, LLC
You’ve probably been there—in a security line at Laguardia airport, still fuzzy with jet lag. I stood in one recently—just a few days after returning from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—and certain quotidian details of life in the US were still jumping out in shocking relief.
In front of me were two women and a baby around 18 months old; perhaps mother, daughter, grandmother. In a sudden gesture the older woman got out of line, hastily bid her goodbyes, and ran off. Why run away like that, leave her daughter and granddaughter just standing there in line rather than spend the mere minute or two more it would take see them go through? Did she have an appointment to keep? Was she eager to avoid an extra charge at airport parking?
I was surprised because this casual scene in the US is an unlikely one in Ethiopia. There, relations with people matter more than almost anything else, and time is not a precious commodity; time extends, “time is your friend” I heard there.
As I mused...
As Africa becomes the next frontier for consumer innovations, researchers and designers will be faces with a challenge: how can one get deep and meaningful insights on ever-accelerated project timetables? The following case study offers one such possibility. Drawing on work in rural Ghana, I describe my team used co-creation as a means to generate insight, as well as iterate on concepts. Particular attention is paid here to challenges that are unique to Africa (and the base of the pyramid in general), such as how to construct a ‘third space’ for co-creation when the participants may have no cultural referent for the roles and responsibilities inherent in a market research interaction. Once this third space was established; however, we were able to leverage storytelling and technology to rapidly and co-creatively generate actionable insights....