University of Cape Town: UCT to host Africa’s first design thinking conference

The Hasso Plattner d-school Afrika at the University of Cape Town (UCT) together with the Global Design Thinking Alliance (GDTA) will be hosting the prestigious d.confestival, the first design thinking event of its kind in Africa, and will open the doors to its new home on the university’s middle campus – an architectural marvel and first of its kind in Africa.

This year’s event will run from 12 to 14 October. As Africa’s first Global Design Thinking event, this three-day conference-meets-festival will take place at the HPI d-school Afrika at UCT. The hybrid event will be hosted live and will also be accessible to virtual participants.

Themed “Design thinking matters now”, the d.confestival will bring together international innovators, design thinkers and change makers from business, government, education and the social development sector to exchange ideas, share best practices, and map the future direction for design thinking practice to deliver value and impact in our world. Keynote speakers include German entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) Professor Hasso Plattner; Stanford d-school co-founder and executive director, George Kembel; and UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

Connecting the global design thinking community

Richard Perez, the director of UCT’s d-school, said that the d.confestival is an incredible opportunity to connect the global design thinking community, who are curious about design thinking as a human-centred framework and mindset to solving complex problems.

“Africa is a continent brimming with creative potential and this, together with design thinking’s human-centred problem-solving approach, has the potential to birth powerful responses to the challenges we face not just on the continent but around the world.”



“We’ve seen how design-led thinking can unleash graduates’ potential to lead in diverse contexts.”

Professor Phakeng said that since the d-school was established at the university, “We’ve seen how design-led thinking can unleash graduates’ potential to lead in diverse contexts, work across disciplines and tap into their creativity to respond creatively to real-world challenges.”

People attending the unique event, which will merge the rigour of an academic conference with a festive interactive experience, will also be able to experience the brand new Hasso Plattner d-school Afrika building, situated on UCT’s middle campus.

An architectural marvel

An architectural focal point, the building has been designed in such a way as to allow people, who may not be entering the building as students, to interact with the building, pass underneath its big, curving glass roof, and feel the energy and passion of what is happening inside and around it.

Designed by KMH Architects in Cape Town, the project began in 2017 and had to meet strict sustainability requirements to fit in with the university’s sustainability goals. A major target was for the building to be granted a 6-star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council South Africa.



“We imagined a building that would become a birthplace for the teaching and learning of the mindset that leads to the bright ideas needed to secure a better future for Africa and the world.”

To be certified and become the greenest building in academia on the continent, the d-school will have to prove sustainable across nine categories, from adopting environmental management principles during construction, to encouraging the use of alternative transport and improving surrounding socio-economic conditions.

“So, it’s an awesome building,” said Perez. “But it has an awesome purpose and responsibility too. From the start, we imagined a building that would become a birthplace for the teaching and learning of the mindset that leads to the bright ideas needed to secure a better future for Africa and the world.”

Comments are closed.