March 8, 2023

What African designers can learn from science fiction - and Africanfuturism in particular?

Shanty Mega-Structures by Lekan Jeyifo

What African designers can learn from science fiction - and Africanfuturism in particular?

Africanfuturism and Afrofuturism (from Wikipedia)

Africanfuturism is a cultural movement that centers on the fusion of African culture, history, mythology, point of view, with technology based in Africa and not limited to the diaspora. The term was first coined by Nigerian American writer Nnedi Okorafor in a 2019 blog post. Nnedi Okorafor defines Africanfuturism as a subcategory of science fiction that is "directly rooted in African culture, history, mythology, and point-of-view..and...does not privilege or center the West," 

According to her, Africanfuturism is centered on optimistic "visions in the future," and is written for (and centered on) "people of African descent" while rooted in the African continent. As such its center is African, often does extend upon the continent of Africa, and includes the Black diaspora, including fantasy that is set in the future, making a narrative "more science fiction than fantasy" and typically has mystical elements. 

It differs from Afrofuturism, which focuses mainly on the African diaspora, particularly in the United States. Works of Africanfuturism include science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, horror, and magic realism.

Idumota Market, Lagos, 2081 A.D  by Lekan Jeyifo

Why is it important for designers in Africa?

The Africanfuturism aesthetic and its pieces of art, be they novels, movies, or paintings, project us in a future that is seen as much as possible without the influence of the western world. It helps us imagine an alternative, generally positive, of a future where the African human being strives and uses all of their culture, history, and mythology to define who she or he is. 

At YUX, we believe that all designers should have a strong vision of what our continent can be in the far future. It’s even more important to see this world with the least possible influence from the Western world. It is a tough task when you are in “Tech”, overwhelmed by media, training, and softwares mostly coming from the US or Europe.

In particular, for the UX designer or UX researcher, who imagines new digital services, science fiction and Africanfuturism can help inspire them and dig deeper into the behavioral changes that technology will bring around us in the future. It will lead the UX researcher to ask intimate questions to users about their beliefs, traditions, or how their communities used to do things in the past. Moreover, it will lead the UX designer to think differently about interfaces, user flows and overall experiences.

Together, their goal will be to craft services that will try to adopt the most relevant cultural elements and replicate in a digital world what the users used to do before; instead of just replicating the product as it is done today in the western world.. 

Think for instance of a car sharing app… Instead of pushing for the adoption of Uber-like experiences, that is proven hard in many African cities - why don't we try to go back to more ancient meanings of sharing and/or transportation, and then ideate on all the possibilities these concepts could lead to in a futuristic and digital world. 

Naturally this will have to come after a phase of prioritization and of defining a feasible journey ( a service blueprint can be used for this), but at least this sets us up for a much more creative approach that will not only nourish our product design, but also our marketing, ops and customer support.


What to read or see to get started (not an exhaustive list at all)

Disclaimer: some of these could be labeled as “Afrofuturist” more than “Africanfuturist”

Books & Comics

Tochi Onyebuchi 

Nnedi Okorafor

Tade Thompson 

Namwali Serpell

Comic Republic Global Network

Visual Art

Olalekan Jeyifous



coming out on Disney in 2023​​​​​


Enjoy the read guys