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Interview with Hicham Lahlou

From 28 to 30 June, the World Design Organization held its fourth World Design Talks in Rabat, Morocco, organized by African Design Days (ADD). iF's Ralph Wiegmann was a jury chairman at the associated AFRICA DESIGN AWARD event. He spoke with ADD's CEO Hicham Lahlou about design in Africa and his favorite designers.

"I was honored to serve as jury president at the AFRICA DESIGN AWARD 2017," said Ralph Wiegmann. "What struck me most about the winning entries – a mobile app, a solar lamp, a realistic comic, a showroom concept made of containers, and a creative space for children's art courses – was the variety of ways they made a contribution to life in Africa."

"It was great to meet Hicham and his team, and I wish him all the best with the African Design Days event."

Would you please say a few words about the Africa Design Days?

Africa Design Days is a Panafrican and international event for design, organized to promote the potential of African creativity and innovation. We also organize the Africa Design Award, dedicated to identify new talents and projects and promoting them at the Africa Design Days.

In Africa we need initiatives of this kind because it is not easy to identify designers or organizations promoting design.

We expect to grow in the coming years, to create bridges and open gates, and to interact with other events in Europe and Asia.

Can you say a few words about the state of design in Africa?

There are some graphic design and digital agencies scattered across Africa. It is certainly time that designers, companies and the state realize the potential of design.

We can say after the initiative of Africa Design Days & Award, Morocco has become a design hub. Hopefully we can inspire other countries to create new intiatives like Nairobi Design Week and the like.

What can you tell us about design education in Africa?

There are several design schools of note in Africa: at universities in East Africa and Tunisia, as well as private design schools in South Africa, Tunisia and Morocco. In West Africa, there are no design schools, just architecture and interior design schools.

You can imagine the potential. West Africa alone has 300 million inhabitants!

What might design do for the Africa, from consumers to the state and industry?

We need to create an ecosystem to build up the understanding of design on the part of the state and the private sector, and sensitize all parties on what design can do for the economy.

What are your hopes and expectations for the event in five years?

We intend to hold this event every two years in Morocco, and every other year in a different country in Africa. Our idea is to promote the South-South economy. We also want to present Africa Design Days at other events outside Africa with exhibitions like the one we did in September 2015 as a guest during the Paris Design Week at Cité de la Mode et du Design.

Which designers do you personally respect highly?

I truly respect African designers such as David Adjaye, Cheick Diallo, Hamed Ouattara, Fatimata Ly, and Jean Servais Somian.

Of course, I also respect many designers from the rest of the world: Tom Dixon, Jaime Hayon, Zaha Hadid, Karim Rashid, Jean Marie Massaud, Jean Nouvel, and Ora Ito, to name a few.

Photo credits: 1.) Hicham Lahlou, 2.) Kio Kit, 3.) Pottery in Africa, 4.) Kio Kit, 5.) Africa Design Days, 6.) Africa Design Days