100 African thinkers and doers gather in Marrakesh

December 11, 2018

While the UN conference on migration takes place in Marrakesh, a group of 100 African entrepreneurs, artists and techies will gather just outside the city center to discuss the latest trends in technology and arts that are shaping the future of the African continent.

From Cape Town to Cairo, cutting-edge developments in technology, art and innovation are drastically reshaping societies and influencing expression in unprecedented ways.

The people driving these innovations and ideas can be found across Africa in hubs and makerspaces, within startup communities, artist collectives and festivals. Often separated by geography and discipline, these diverse entrepreneurs and artists hardly ever meet face to face to discuss trends across the continent and form new alliances.

Over 100 African entrepreneurs, artists, technologists, philosophers, and innovators will come together for the inaugural edition of โ€œAfrican Crossroads: the fourth industrial revolution,โ€ which will take place on December 11, 12, and 13 in Marrakesh, Morocco. African Crossroads is organized by Hivos, in partnership with Untitled, a Marrakesh-based curatorial duo.

Hivos innovates for social change. We believe that when a desire to change the world meets creativity, courage and intelligence, we can positively shape the future of our societies together. That is why Hivos is the proud organizer of African Crossroads.

What is African Crossroads?

African Crossroads is a community of future-oriented African thinkers and doers which meets annually to exchange ideas and critically reflect on the most cutting-edge developments anchored in African intellectual and technological traditions. Through design exhibitions, invigorating workshops, art installations and more, this three-day event will spark deep discussion about the latest inventions and innovations in science, art, and technology.

Background

Throughout history, African societies have been connected to one another through expansive networks of knowledge, science, and innovation. For centuries, the ancient city of Timbuktu thrived as a center for arts, scholarship, and commerce as scholars, poets, and merchants traversed the Sahara to trade and exchange ideas. To the South, massive stone complexes in present-day Zimbabwe and Mozambique hosted hundreds of knowledge and trade centers dating back to the 12th century, while to the North, scholars in Alexandria broadened their knowledge in the worldโ€™s largest library. In the East, Swahili traders sailed the Red Sea and crossed the Indian Ocean to trade gold with Asia, and the Moroccan scholar and explorer Ibn Battuta once travelled all the way to Zanzibar from his starting point in Tangier.

Today, new technical infrastructure has refined these ancient networks and hubs. Across the continent, fiber optic cables have drastically improved traditional African land and sailing routes. From the Dakar Biennial to mobile hackerspaces in rural Egypt, tech and art clusters are bringing together scientists, entrepreneurs, and creatives to collaborate on the physical, digital, and biological. And from science and technology parks in Botswana to Google’s first artificial intelligence (AI) lab in Ghana, new communities are driving novel practices, supporting new professions, and amplifying experimental forms of expression.

Meanwhile, advances in AI, blockchain, 3D printing, and more are disrupting industries in every country. In Kenya, Safaricomโ€™s M-Pesa has registered over 17 million users for its mobile-phone-based, encrypted monetary exchange platform, while the National Bank of Kenya may soon incorporate blockchain into its operations. In Egypt and Morocco, the world’s largest solar parks are now being built. Health tech companies in Nigeria are using AI for fast medical diagnoses, drones in Rwanda are delivering blood to hospitals in remote locations, and rural farming communities across the continent can now ascertain the market price for their crops with the press of a button on their phones. Going even further, some African countries have recently launched their own space travel programs.

Poised at the intersection of space and time, 100 participants of the inaugural African Crossroads will gather for three days in Marrakesh, Morocco to connect, collaborate, and explore their own roles in shaping the regionโ€™s technological and intellectual revolution, and build new routes and centers of knowledge, art, and entrepreneurship.

There is R.O.O.M. at Hivos

Several of African Crossroads’ participants are partners of our Resource of Open Minds (R.O.O.M.) program.ย R.O.O.M supports the work of musicians, artists, filmmakers, gamers and other media producers who use online platforms to ignite social debate. Hivos believes giving R.O.O.M to a new generation of artists will benefit society by expanding spaces of civic freedom where citizens can challenge and influence existing social norms. Alex Kirui is one of them. Withย his cartoonsย he fights police corruption in Kenya.

Supporting collaborative spaces

Other members of the African Crossroads community are partners of Hivos’ Coworking for Sustainable Employment Program (CwSE). CwSE supports collaborative spaces such as coworking spaces, makerspaces and technology hubs in North Africa. These spaces in turn enable impact driven start-ups, particularly youth- and women-led businesses, that develop, scale-up and create sustainable forms of employment in marginalized communities.

 

African Crossroads