Design and sustainability in Africa

8th November 2016 BY checkoutafrica

Social media has once again worked its magic on me. I was recently delighted to discover a documentary on Facebook portraying a group of women in Burkina Faso who had the genius idea of recycling plastic bags to turn them into handbags and other accessories. I was also pleased to see that these women took matters in their own hands when it comes to the recycling of plastic in their streets. Let’s not forget that all too often in Africa, women at the lower end of the social scale do not always have the same opportunity as men to get too creative when it comes to work, unless it is linked to traditions. And though we are not talking about high end accessory design, we must acknowledge the fact that it is innovative and sustainable. These women have managed to create a source of income for themselves and their family. They have spotted and grasped an opportunity within their environment and were creative enough to set-up a sustainable business.

While we’re on the subject of sustainability and design, some African designers have decided to use their talent to make something of the waste that can be found in their country. A way to display the consequences of a type of consumption that disregards the environmental damages it causes. I’m talking about imports of poor quality products such as furniture, machines and gadgets, in an attempt to imitate the occidental way of life.

Like Burkinabe designer, Hamed Ouattara, said: ‘My goal is to provide a key point in a continent which suffers from imports and all kinds of imitation furniture, especially of poor quality and which does not reflect our culture.’
Ouattara is a talented designer that developed a very distinctive style by designing contemporary furniture entirely made of recycled metal. Though his studio is located in Ouagadougou, he’s attracting clients from Spain, Sweden, France, US and Switzerland. His intention is to create products that reflect the colors, traditions and cultures of Africa. So while the style of his design has all the characteristics of African handcrafts, using recycled metal adds a rough edge that makes his signature style.




I’ll finish this post with another designer that I discovered last month…only. Yinka Ilori is another young rising star of design from Nigeria, who stands out by his playful and colorful style. Using up-cycling vintage furniture, the touch of African prints and bright colors create original and vibrant pieces. Yinka lives and London and after studying furniture design at the London Metropolitan university, he was able to take his passion for furniture recycling to the next level.




At a time where the damage of climate change are more apparent, it is important to explore different ways of recycling the existing waste which is produced by our consumption, so that we don’t end up turning corners of the world into giant landfill sites. So I’m very proud to share the work of creative minds that turn waste found in West Africa and in Europe into contemporary living design.

Happy New Year everyone!!