IBM Africa Announces Winners of the The World is Our Lab – Africa photo competition.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Here are the top three most definitive images of the competition:

1. ‘Digital Migration’ – Winner of Innovation Category (Overall Competition Winner)
Lawrence ‘Shabu’ MwangiVisual Artist, Nairobi, Kenya

Shabu Mwangi grew up in the Mukuru slum in Nairobi. As a visual artist he uses his creative abilities as a way not only to earn a living but to communicate his experiences of life in the slum where he still lives to this day. As one of the founders of the Wajukuu art project, he teaches art to children in low-income areas in an attempt to broaden their horizons.

The judges selected Shabu’s image ‘Digital Migration’ (above) as the overall winner of the competition because of its iconic representation of the human ability to innovate and overcome a lack of infrastructure.


2. ‘Boda Boda’ – Winner of City Systems Category
Frank OdwessoTV Producer, Nairobi, Kenya

“The ‘Boda Bodas’ (bicycle taxis) have always defined the towns of Western Kenya and Nyanza,” Odwesso said. “Public transport systems are often not reliable so locals have devised new modes of transport using bicycles, which are faster and easy to maneuver.

This particular rider looked quite maverick. The vibrant colors of his bike, the look on his face and the speed at which he was riding down the market street captured the vibrancy of this cheap mode of transport. ‘Africa is on the move’, it seemed to say.”


3. ‘Babysitting’ – Winner of Grand Challenges Category
Imole ‘Tobbie’ Balogun, Photographer, Lagos, Nigeria


Many kids in Nigeria are forced into work or overwhelming family responsibilities as a result of poverty and lack of social support,” said Balogun. “As a result they often stay at home while their parents struggle to make ends meet.

The picture is often worse for girls who are often required to look after siblings like this girl in the Mokoko slum in the lagoon area of Lagos. Through the images in this project I hope that people outside Africa will see not only the challenges we face but also how much is being done to address them and how far Africa has come.”

Later this month the three winners will travel to IBM’s new lab in Nairobi to attend the scientific colloquium ‘Africa in the New Era of Computing’ at which IBM’s research staff will demonstrate its strategy for executing on Project Lucy. At the event the winners will be presented with their laptop prizes and receive a workshop with celebrated photographerMutua Matheka. The winners already in Kenya will also receive a trip to the Kenyan coast

Source: IBM Africa Blog

To see other winning photographs,


  1. I like what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to blogroll.


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