What happens when you ask an entire continent to illustrate its challenges and opportunities in photos? That’s exactly what IBM’s new Africa research lab wanted to find out through its three-month photo project: The World Is Our Lab.
The project has generated over 1200 photos by more than 900 participants in 25 African countries.Together the images create a rich collage of life across Africa its people, systems, and infrastructure – from the continent’s toughest realities to the most modern and inspirational.
Enjoy the pictures!
Innovation – Winning Image: “I took the winning image outside our workshop in the Mukuru slum in Nairobi. These kids had found the plastic frame of an old TV and were playing at presenting a TV show. I took the picture because I wanted to show the world the innovative way that kids from the slums play – using the material around them to express themselves in a creative way” – Lawrence ‘Shabu’ Mwangi.
City Systems – Winning Image: “The ‘Boda Bodas’ (bicycle taxis) have always defined the towns of Western Kenya and Nyanza. Public transport systems are often not reliable, so locals have devised new modes of transport using bicycles, which are faster and easy to maneuver” – Frank Odwesso.
Grand Challenges – Winning Image: “Many kids in Nigeria are forced into work or overwhelming family responsibilities as a result of poverty and lack of social support. As a result they often stay at home while their parents struggle to make ends meet. The picture is often worse for girls who are often required to look after siblings at home like this girl in the Mokoko slum in the lagoon area of Lagos” – Imole ‘Tobbie’ Balogun
Seven out of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies will be African nations over the next ten years; Nairobi is rapidly emerging as one of Africa’s business and technology hubs.
Human migration began in Africa and continues to this day at one of the highest rates in the world – in the next 15 years the number of cities with over 1 million citizens will almost double. This presents a challenge and an opportunity for African nations which need to modernize aging infrastructures but are able to leverage a young and ambitious workforce to drive further economic prosperity.
A child performs a handstand in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya – the biggest slum in Africa and one of the largest informal settlements in the world. There are approx 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the Nairobi population, occupying just 6% of the land.
Once the heart of trade in many regions, today much of Africa’s rail system is in a state of disrepair after years of neglect. Foreign investors are playing a key role in rail modernization programs such as Kenya’s Chinese-financed line linking East Africa to South Sudan, DR Congo and Burundi.
Huge amounts of money are being pumped into Africa’s infrastructure build out – a record amount of US$50 billion was invested in 2012. Photo: a pedestrian bridge in Cape Town.
‘Makoko’ is one of Nigeria’s biggest and best known slums – most of it resting on stilts above the Lagos Lagoon. It has an estimated 85,840 residents many of whom are fishermen and some have migrated from neighbouring Togo and Benin.
A mobile knife sharpening business in Kenya highlights the entrepreneurial nature of the millions of Africa’s micro-businesses.
A culture of entrepreneurship and the need to make ends meet results in millions of hawkers working the streets of African cities. While many drivers stuck in traffic jams rely on the goods they sell, many African cities have attempted to rein in this underground economy.
Wind turbines in the Ngong region of Kenya. Renewable energy sources have huge potential in Africa as it seeks to address an electricity shortage that has left more than half of the continent’s one billion people without access to power. Many people still rely on kerosene or candles for light and most businesses rely on expensive and polluting diesel generators as back up to unreliable grid power. Investments in wind and solar power are starting to gain momentum and could help to reduce the cost while increasing the reliability of energy.
Windpumps are an effective way of drawing groundwater in many parts of Africa.
Mali is Africa’s third largest gold producer. At least 20,000 children, some as young as five, work in the county’s artisanal mines.
A Somali boy watches as the family’s drought stricken camels drink water from a tank near Harfo 70km from Galkayo northwest of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, in 2011.
With a total length of 11.8km, Third Mainland Bridge is Africa’s longest bridge connecting Lagos Island with the mainland.
Ghardaïa is the capital city of Ghardaïa Province, Algeria. Ghardaïa is part of a pentapolis, a hilltop city amongst four others, built almost a thousand years ago in the M’Zab valley by the Mozabites.
Passengers ride an overloaded commuter train at the Makadara station in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, January 5, 2010. The larger than normal numbers was due to a strike by matatu (minibus) drivers and conductors on allegations of extortion and corruption by police.
Many African cities rely on complex networks of public buses and smaller private minibuses to get people to and from work each day. Nairobi is well known for its 60,000 yellow matatu minibuses which race around carrying a third of the city’s 830,000 public transport users.
Two-years old Doris Nyambura cries as she receives a dose of measles vaccination during the launching of a vaccination exercise in Rongai, Nairobi.
Africa’s water resources are abundant, but owing to an absence of water storage and infrastructure, they are grossly underutilized meaning that 345 million people don’t have easy access to this life giving resource.
Huge progress has been made in the past 10 years in realizing the UN Millennium Development Goal of bringing safe water to half of the world’s estimated billion people who are still without it. However, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) estimates that 50,000 water supply points are not functioning across rural Africa due to lack of maintenance.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest share of banked households in the world with 50% of the population living on $1.25 a day. 90% of African women work in the informal sector.
Despite huge efforts by governments, families and NGOs, approximately half of African children will reach their adult years unable to read, write or perform basic numeracy tasks.
Because of its low-cost and accessibility, radio is still the biggest media in Africa and in some rural areas it plays a vital role in education.
Five years old boy, Ken Kyalo, wears a goggles improvised from a scrap wire during the laying of the foundation stone for a new building at the Heritage of Hope and Faith Children’s Rehabilitation Centre in Mlolongo in August 29th, 2009. Little Kyalo appears comfortable and attentive with his wire goggles which he made during the event.
Somali refugee girls attend Koran classes at the Liban integrated academy at the Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border. Africa has more people aged under 20 than anywhere in the world and the continent’s population is set to double to two billion by 2050. The future of the continent lies in the hands of the youngest members of society – creating great challenges but also great potential.