Photo Contest Reveals Africa's Challenges -- and Opportunities - presented by IBM and SlateCustom

See How A Photo Contest Reveals Africa's Challenges – And Opportunities

See How A Photo Contest Reveals Africa's Challenges – And Opportunities

Photo Contest Reveals Africa's Challenges – And Opportunities

What happens when you ask an entire continent to illustrate its challenges and opportunities in photos?


Illustration by Sophie Butcher

That’s exactly what IBM’s newest research lab wanted to find out. IBM Research – Africa, which opened its doors last November, was created with an ambitious mission: to conduct applied and far-reaching exploratory research into the grand challenges of the African continent by delivering commercially viable innovations that impact people’s lives. Though it opened with clear objectives and an understanding of many of the infrastructural concerns across the continent, the Lab wanted a more personal understanding of the challenges.

Thus was born The World is Our Lab - Africa picture project: a three-month competition that asked participants to use cameras and smartphones to capture images that illustrate the continent’s grand challenges, city systems and examples of innovation.

Together the images create a rich collage of life across Africa  its people, systems, and infrastructure -- from the continent’s toughest realities to the most modern and inspirational. The project provides unique perspectives on the areas of water, education, transportation, energy, public safety, healthcare, mobile and entrepreneurship, all focus areas of IBM’s new lab, which will soon benefit from Watson's cognitive technologies through the $100M Project Lucy initiative.


Over the course of contest, more than 1,200 contributions were uploaded by 900 participants from 25 African countries ranging from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa to Algeria, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The winner was snapped by Lawrence “Shabu” Mwangi, who photographed the children playing in an Nairobi, Kenya slum. The children were using a broken TV set to pretend to be on TV, presenting the news.

A version of this story appeared on IBM's A Smarter Planet Blog on March 3.

Winning Photo:


To see other winning photographs, click here: