Field Stories

Can you help Africa tear down its walls?

Marie Thérèse Fatou Sall,  winner of the Falling Walls Lab Dakar 2014
Marie Thérèse Fatou Sall, winner of the Falling Walls Lab Dakar 2014

Discussions about Africa’s challenges appear to be never-ending. But amongst the common perceptions of Africa, often the fact that charismatic leaders like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Wangari Maathai drew their power from the environment they lived in, found support in their communities regionally and eventually received international recognition, is ignored.

Many African and international experts agree that a sustainable solution to the severe challenges still faced by many African nations can only come from African societies, national governance and the people themselves. When the drive for change and improvement of the political or economic setting comes from within and is led by the people concerned, then international exchange of expertise and technical support will play a crucial role.

This is a notion explored at the annual Falling Walls Conference, which aims to highlight home-grown ideas and breakthroughs from throughout the world, as these innovations can hold the key to development. Asking the question: Which are the next walls to fall? The idea is to penetrate the invisible walls around us that challenge our generations like food insecurity, environmental destruction and limited political participation.

The event brings together the brightest minds from the worlds of science, business, politics, the arts and society for a high-level exchange of ideas and breakthroughs linking up the world’s continents and cultures.

For example, Professor Jill Farrant from the University of Cape Town highlighted findings into how molecular plant physiology can create drought tolerant crops when addressing the conference in 2013 – a project of particular importance for the African continent, where the impacts of climate change have devastating effects on agriculture and food security.

Meanwhile, in 2012, Senegal’s Minister of Health Awa Maria Coll Seck addressed that they are looking to use “new technologies if we really want to accelerate what we are doing.”

Preceding the 7th edition of the conference, which will take place in Berlin on 9 November 2015, regional Falling Walls Labs will be held around the globe to find young academics, entrepreneurs, researchers and professionals who have ideas, projects and initiatives to share.

Whether you have paved the way towards a scientific breakthrough in your field of research, or you’re an entrepreneur with a mind-boggling business idea to improve the lives of people in your community, the Falling Walls Labs provide a platform to present your unique solutions.

The winners of each of the regional events will qualify directly for the Falling Walls Lab Finale on 8 November 2015 in Berlin where they will present to a broad audience from all parts of society. The three most intriguing presenters will be awarded the title “Falling Walls Young Innovator of the Year 2015”, will receive a cash prize and will have the opportunity to present their idea on the grand stage of the Falling Walls Conference.

The competitions are open to all disciplines from medicine, to economics, engineering and humanities. If you are under the age of 35 you can apply here. Applications are open until August 31, 2015.

To find out more about the Falling Walls Lab or if you are interested in hosting a regional Falling Walls Lab at your academic institution, you can find more information at:

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