Quartz, a digitally native news outlet founded in 2012, launched their first Africa platform over a year ago with the mission of telling the continent’s story through the lens of innovation. With that mission, the online publication has selected a group of notable innovators from across the continent for recognition two years running, hosting the 2016 Africa Innovators Summit this past Wednesday, July 20th in Nairobi.
This year’s cohort included 36 Innovators from 12 countries in Africa representing a variety of areas including tech, fashion, health, media, and the arts. Among them were Wanuri Kahiu and Ciiru Waweru, both from Kenya.
Wanuri Kahiu is a science fiction filmmaker and author with award winning credits to her name including her 2008 debut From a Whisper. Wanuri read a short story co-written with fellow 2016 Quartz Africa Innovator Nnedi Okorafor. Without including a spoiler, it involves traffic robots in Kinshasa and was a fantastic read that I highly recommend.
Quartz Senior Editor Gideon Lichfield interviewed Wanuri about her interest in science fiction and the discussion touched on the how the genre differs on the continent compared to the West and elsewhere. “So often we’ve been written out of our histories, so we want to write our children into their futures,” Wanuri told the audience.
Another Innovator of note was Ciiru Waweru, founder and CEO of FunKidz Limited, the continent’s first global children’s brand. Ciiru, who recently received recognition from US First Lady Michelle Obama, manufactures quality children’s furniture in Kenya.
Ciiru lamented that Africa is a “continent of consumers” and urged Africans to begin to manufacture on a large scale. Aside from her successful company, Ciiru also runs a mentorship program that exposes primary and secondary school students to robotics, product design, and engineering in an effort to inspire young minds. She also called for an education overhaul, adding that manufacturing should be taught in schools and technology should be added to the classroom. “Michael Jackson sold out a concert as a hologram; what if we had Shaka Zulu in a history class? I would never forget that.”
For more on the 2016 cohort, see Quartz’ listing here.
Adedana Ashebir is the African Leadership Network’s Program Director for the Africa Business Fellowship.