Creative Confidence in Afrika; a
source of self-identity and

Sam Nii Adjaidoo

Interim PADI Board Member, 2020
Founder, DreamBrander and IDS, Ghana


In February, 2020, I was blessed to be in the midst of good spirits in a creative space full of diverse cultures and identities. Graced with the opportunity, as a young design advocate and a panel member to share ideas with global design giants like ico-D executives, IF Design Foundation and some of the leaders of PAN Afrikan Design Institute such as Prof Des Laubscher and Prof. Mafundikwa, it was a call in time, a historic evening towards the future of good design in Afrika.

Prof Mafundikwa, a renowned TED Talk speaker with an Afrika identity whose talks resonate the need to recognize our identity as Afrikans was symbolic in his regalia. He was not the only representational identity but the walls, textures and smiles on the faces of different shades of color and tones beamed with colorful reflections of light…this was home, yes this was Afrika. Not only did it feel awesome to be an Afrikan, it was also a blissful moment to share our story to the world of design that our identity as Afrikans is not only an outward display of colourful visualizations but a reflection of an inward awareness that we are to evolve.

Hearing such Afrikan voices in a room bathed in hope and confidence, a candle lit in me as I listened and observed the international opinions on design in Afrika. The lights were soft on the eyes but so bright and clear; the time had come for us Afrikans to gift the world with our culture, diversity, courage, kindness and colour. This time, it will be through our design philosophies, values, styles, processes, products and services.

Globally, we live in uncertain times and living in Afrika gives you a vivid collage of the uncertainties. Our cities are getting choked, our people are dying due to poor healthcare, poverty, corruption and insecurities stare us in the face. Our streets are unsafe and our future leaders are unclear about our identity as Afrikans due to the silent infiltration of foreign influences through imported educational systems. Even in this context, we have what it takes to exhibit our confidence as Afrikans.


This has been and will forever be our
identity: diverse in one, resourceful,
resilient and ubuntu. 

With my little experince in design business and education over the past decade, to design is to evolve, and to develop creative confidence is to be bold and free to adapt and respond to one’s daily problems. Based on these definitions, it is evident that the Afrikan has his/her roots in design. Afrikans still strive to do well even in difficult times, revealing the fact that we are resilient, courageous and hard-working individuals who seek to solve our own problems and evolve our continent. We are faced by the turbulent effects of today’s global economy with corruption rife in our lands but we are not dead yet, that is something vital to note: our skin is thick and tough to weather the storms; to change the narrative. We need not be fooled to think otherwise!

We are raised to be creative enough to feed ourselves, confident enough to get up every day and face the world not knowing what will bring us joy at sunset. We are born to fight, evolve and solve our wicked problems. Afrikans can get more to laugh about, create more innovations and be highly inspired to change the narrative about Afrika with our own impactful stories. The good news is good design is the only way to lead us to the future we seek; a continent with happier, healthier and confident people, this I believe is the essence of our great ancestors and we must rise to sing their songs now. 

We must agree and be inspired with Sir David Adjaye, British-based architect of Ghanaian descent that “Africa is an extraordinary opportunity at the moment.” Afrika has always been a source of pioneering innovations and stories. This has been and will forever be our identity: diverse in one, resourceful, resilient and ubuntu. This is our time to explore and make good use of such great opportunity; contributing to making Afrika and the world a better place.

This is our time, to not only design with our natural resources or our rich history which has been distorted and misrepresented, but a time to develop ourselves and bless the world with all that we are and have. This is our time as Afrikan designers, both young and old to leverage our diversity; be it cultures, languages, philosophies and human capital, to design better solutions for our communities and spaces. We do not lack the resources for good design. We need to nurture our creative potential and serve our own as good citizens of the continent. We all have what it takes to design a better Afrika and share that story with the world.

Our ancestors had the will to change and improve on their stories in creating healthier communities; their Afrikan blood still runs in our veins. From our mud (thatch-roofed) houses to today’s sky-rises, from our rich ideograms like Adinkra and Nsibidi symbols, from our subsistent farming to today’s large agricultural exports to Europe and the Americas, from our calabash cup to today’s interior products, this is our time to aspire for greatness, for we have what it takes to make our continent and the world smile again.

At PADI ADD, 2020, Johannesburg, the experience and voices in the room had one message: all are born with the capacity to learn, adapt and evolve. Afrika, this is our time to rise as good local/global citizens, to share with the world what we are blessed to be; AFRIKANS!!!


  • Fredrick OSEI Reply
    September 7, 2020

    Interesting piece

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