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Aurecon launches new approach to engineering in ‘Afrika’

Aurecon has launched its pioneering approach to engineering in Africa, Afrikan Design Innovation (ADI), which focuses on fusing traditional technical skills with design thinking to find innovative solutions to the complex problems confronting Africa.

Centred on anticipating disruption, connecting the dots between various global events and developing human-centric solutions, Aurecon believes that ADI has the potential to revolutionise the way engineers approach Africa’s problems.

Afrika Design Innovation old

And it’s an approach that’s already making a difference, with several case studies incorporating design thinking demonstrating its efficacy in developing targeted, relevant solutions which are readily championed by end users.

This impact will echo into the future as we develop a sustainable vision for Africa. “These case studies will provide the blueprint for a movement that will be replicated in projects across Africa as we collaborate with several continental and global organisations – in addition to a wide range of stakeholders – to future-proof Africa,” says Abbas Jamie, Aurecon’s director for innovation and transformation, Africa.

Hitting ‘ctrl-z’ on copy/paste solutions
Instead of having a solution imposed on them, the end-users’ needs become the nucleus around which a co-design process is driven. This entails applying design thinking to the process.

Design thinking is a methodology that focuses on engaging with the people who we’re creating for. In Nairobi for example, in collaboration with the University of Nairobi, we’ve run design workshops with the youth of Nairobi to reframe their participation and activism in ‘claiming back the river’ – which is fundamental to designing a sustainable waterway solution.

“Empathy for our end user involves considering the developmental challenges and issues that we as Africans face,” says Jamie, “Which is why the case studies we’ve undertaken are so essential to mapping the way forward.”

At Aurecon, this mapping implies embracing the unknown and exploring every possibility. It’s a process involving innovation, co-design, applying design thinking to key case studies, engaging in crucial partnerships with a range of stakeholders, as well as getting involved in events instrumental to shaping an African developmental narrative.

“It’s an incontrovertible truth that copy-paste solutions from the west will not work in an African context. Using design methodologies which view our continent through a uniquely African lens is the only way we’re going to be able to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to future-proof Africa,” says Jamie.

Which is why we ask ourselves two critical questions across every aspect of the projects we design: what if and why not?

“Their importance cannot be overstated because the responses to these questions form the bedrock for the future scenarios we create. Scenarios that anticipate whatever changes disruptive technology may bring about and find new ways to transform our clients’ businesses,” says Portia Derby, Aurecon’s senior regional director for Gauteng.

Why Afrikan with a ‘k’?
ADI acknowledges that the continent's people and entrepreneurial promise are like none other globally; and it places them at the centre of the design process to create innovative solutions.

This is why they’ve intentionally used ‘Afrika’ with a ‘k’ – to express Afrika as seen from the ‘inside out’, as opposed to Africa as viewed from the outside in.

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