Aalto in Africa is an expedition organized by students from Finland’s Alto University with plans to to take 50 students, staff members and other partners from Aalto University through the Zambian wilderness all the way to Cape Town, South Africa to learn from and co-create with local communities in Africa.
Speaking to TechMoran, Asta Länsimies, the Chief Organizer said “We found out that a lot is happening in Africa and especially in Cape Town for the World Design Capital 2014 and decided that since Africa is not very well known by European people, it would certainly open minds and build bridges for the future by bringing the Aalto community to southern Africa”
“There are many interesting start-ups and innovations coming from Africa, and these could be better known in Finland. In our country, the news and discussions often concentrate on poverty and development aid, and people as well as businesses do not realize the great potential of Africa,” she added.
Länsimies says she has already learned a great deal during the last year while organizing this project but she is expecting to learn a lot from the local culture, not only the traditional one but also how business works in Africa.
“It will be interesting to see how innovation and entrepreneurship is approached in comparison to Finland. I would be beyond happy if I learned something from the locals and take it back to Finland,” she added.
The 55 participants will be led by Lansimies, as the Chief Organizer, and in charge of project management and ensuring that overall things are running smoothly. Mari Terrio and Anna Vavilova are the team’s Program Coordinators. Vesa Luusua is leading the Communications team, and managing their website and different channels. Anthony Jones and Inka Wellman are Fundraising team leads. Iida Myllymäki is taking care of practicalities of our travel and Emilia Rantala is managing the finances.
Lansimies’s inspiration to come to Africa is just a dream. She said that during her studies, she has been active in student associations and been to many inspiring places in the world.
In 2010, she was part of a group of 80 Aalto University students that took a train to Shanghai China. The 80 were representing all disciplines within her university. The trip dubbed Aalto on Tracks, saw participants design their own learning – by organizing workshops, courses and even holding exams on the train. The project united the students and gave them a unique, multidisciplinary learning experience. In 2011, Aalto on Waves took 100 students and staff members to Brazil by ship with the same goal of creating a unique learning experience.
“We gathered a team to find the most interesting destination for 2013. Since southern Africa appeared to be an interesting area, still quite unknown for Finnish people, we decided to arrange the next project there,” Lansimies said.
According to Länsimies, “Part of the travel cost is paid by participants themselves. Most of the budget is covered by company sponsors and partners, as well as foundations. In addition to visibility, we offer our partners workshops, market research and other forms of collaboration that benefits both parties.”
Recently, there have been major innovation tours into Africa consisting of people coming to see what it is Africa is building. Innovation is becoming Africa biggest centre of attraction apart from its wild.