A few days ago I was reading an article (or was it a Youtube video instead?) about a new invention in my country, which basically could help transform/process some agricultural product grown locally. Functionally, this looked like a great invention, which was filling a real need. Design-wise however, on a scale of 1 to 10, this was at best a 1.5
It may be the fact that I have lived outside the continent for the last 15 years, or that I travel often to places considered “developped”, but what strikes me every time I come across products from Africa is the poor design. It might be that we are still at the very bottom of the development pyramid, and as such the importance is not on design but on getting something cheap that actually works. But in the long run, especially if African companies are to compete on the global market place, they will need to catch up with the newer design trends.
It is not that the African consumer does not like beautiful things. Just two months ago, I was attending the Dar es Salaam International Trade fair and my company there was introducing a new brand of power bank. There were many other vendors of power banks at the fair, and cheaper models available in Kariakoo (the local market). But what were unique with our products was the metallic, stylish design available in two colors, gold and silver. In comparison, other power banks were in plastic and screamed “cheap”. Let’s just say that we underestimated the demand and quickly run out stock.
Providing aesthetically beautiful products just makes business sense. It is a mistake to think that the only way to win in the market place is through low prices. Price matters, especially in Africa, but design and aesthetic also do, especially as the middle class starts to grow across the continent.