September 26, 2023

Bridging the Gap: The 2023 State of HCD in Africa

     Over the past decade, Human-Centered Design (HCD) has made its mark on the African continent,with numerous projects being initiated and implemented across diverse contexts and sectors applying the HCD principles. With its roots in empathy and collaboration, HCD resonates deeply with the cultural diversity within the African continent. Whether it's improving healthcare access in rural areas, crafting inclusive financial services, or leveraging technology for agricultural innovation, HCD places people at the forefront of the design and innovation process, making it especially well-suited to addressing the unique challenges and opportunities present in diverse African contexts and sectors. 

       While HCD holds significant potential for driving positive change, a substantial portion of its impact remains unknown. This observation highlights a gap in knowledge dissemination and sharing. Although some notable HCD initiatives have succeeded within the African context, others have faltered, and the valuable insights gained from both successes and failures have often remained locked within the confines of the consultancies and organizations involved. Consequently, the actual value and impact of HCD in the African context often remain elusive. 

      Adding to the mix, recent critiques of the HCD methodology have highlighted some valid concerns. For instance, there's been a tendency to prioritize empathy and creative brainstorming at the expense of practical implementation and domain expertise, as pointed out in the article "Design Thinking was supposed to fix the world" by Rebecca Ackerman.  


         At YUX, while we recognize the significant benefits of HCD, we are also cognizant of its limitations. This is why we've made the decision to initiate The State of HCD in Africa Study. This study aims to address the existing gaps and challenges, by breaking down the barriers that have traditionally confined HCD knowledge and insights within distinct silos. Our goal is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the extent and impact of HCD practices throughout the African continent.

          A notable  inspiration for the State of HCD in Africa study is the State of User Research In Africa Study, a research initiative led by YUX since 2021. Since its inception in 2021, the State of User Research in Africa study has emerged as an impactful research endeavor . The primary objective of this study has been to consistently uncover the evolving landscape of the User Research industry in Africa and to function as a guide for UX professionals throughout the continent seeking insights and inspiration. The study's impact in the UX world has been undeniable, swiftly establishing itself as a pivotal reference point for UX practitioners throughout Africa. It has not only disseminated crucial information across various tech sectors but has also catalyzed insightful discussions regarding the present and future state of User Experience Research within the African context. The success and knowledge-sharing arising from the State of User Research in Africa Study have, in turn, sparked a demand for an exploration of HCD practices within the development sector. To address this need, and to clarify the distinction between UX and HCD domains which are often mistaken to be the same, the idea of conducting two separate studies emerged, each dedicated to independently delving into these distinct fields.

       The data derived from the State of HCD in Africa Study will  be used to guide organizationsor independent HCD practitioners across the continent in strategically implementing HCD to enhance their development initiatives. By identifying challenges, the study enables targeted interventions to overcome obstacles that organizations might encounter. Also, the study seeks to amplify success stories, serving as a source of inspiration and learning for others in the development sector across Africa.The outcome of the survey intends to equip HCD practitioners within the African continent with data-driven insights that can influence decision-making, inspire innovation, and create positive change. By empowering HCD practitioners, we elevate the collective impact of HCD within Africa.

Ready to be a catalyst for positive change and knowledge sharing? Start now by filling out the 2023 State of HCD in Africa survey and sharing it to other HCD practitioners doing incredible work on the African continent!

Written by Oluchi & Rajay