Munyala is an experienced service and innovation designer with a diverse skill set in different fields of expertise. Currently the Human Centered Design Expert for the USAID Empowered Youth Kenya Program and formerly a Senior Strategic Design consultant with ThinkPlace Kenya, he is an enthusiastic practitioner, design mentor, and advocate of human centered design in Africa.
How would you summarize the state of UX Design in Africa in 2021?
Rising Fast. I think there are two sides of the design coin. The corporate and public sector for instance, is in its infancy. Most organizations are slowly learning to appreciate the role of design in business and product experience strategy. The organisations rooted outside of Africa are more woke and fast getting into the design led agenda.
Africa boasts some of the world’s fastest rising economies, yet it hardly has any organisations designing exceptional UX. Your thoughts?
There are mainly two reasons for this –
Education – Design has not become mainstream in Africa’s education agenda and a majority of designers are self-taught and getting into the industry late in their careers.
Demand – The general economies are slowly appreciating the role of design in growth and most times design is adopted after extreme failures among legacy companies or just amongst startups that have the agility to adapt new ways of execution. UX Design in Africa has grown through startups led by new minds that adopt the “Silicon Savanna” mindset and the development sector that both appreciates and compensates well for design work.
What is the most significant challenge that African professionals considering a career change in UX Design face and how do you personally tackle it?
Transition into design is most times demand driven following the need from companies for local designers who have a greater understanding and are easily adaptable to local behaviors and norms. Personally, while transitioning through the space, I faced a great challenge in accessing mentorship and thought leadership in design practice, and with that getting opportunities to practice in systems that have no prior design culture nor leadership for hand holding meant a process that is not as such smooth. Design is best learnt through practice and opportunities for spaces that offer this or are ready to take time and develop design capacity are quite rare.
In your opinion, how can the global UX community help foster UX Design in Africa?
I think Mentorship and design training is top of list if I were to think literally. Africa however, with the pool of designers already in place is more than ready to drive the agenda through training and mentoring young designers and providing communities and spaces for this. I believe the growth of UX design in Africa is dependent on the success of it and the visibility of the impact is important. It is interesting, though, that most design for development case studies available globally are from Africa, so begs the question, how can this drive growth of the practice itself?
This article was last updated on November 26, 2023; Originally published on November 16, 2021