‘Go forth and build Wakanda’

13 December 2019 | Story Niémah Davids. Photo Brenton Geach. Read time 5 min.
Guest speaker Abbas Jamie urged graduands to help build the Wakanda of their dreams.
Guest speaker Abbas Jamie urged graduands to help build the Wakanda of their dreams.

“In my future vision of Africa, the real ‘vibranium’ of this continent is sitting in this room. The youth of Africa is the real vibranium of our continent.”

This was guest speaker, Abbas Jamie’s message to engineering and science graduands on Thursday, 12 December – the first day of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) summer graduation season. The university has dedicated its December graduation ceremonies to Chancellor Graça Machel, whose term of office comes to an end on 31 December. Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe will take over as UCT’s sixth chancellor in the new year.

Jamie, the founder of The Innovation Mentor, titled his speech: “Building Wakanda”. Wakanda is a fictional country in sub-Saharan Africa and the home of superhero Black Panther. In Black Panther, Jamie explained, the power of Wakanda comes from vibranium, an alien material kept secretly from the rest of the world.

“We all saw the Marvel version of Wakanda, but what does the real Wakanda look like? When will it be built, and how are we going to build it?” he asked graduands. 

Africa’s biggest asset 

Jamie described the youth in the audience, who were moments away from being capped, as the continent’s biggest asset and told them that building Wakanda is in their hands. 


“Make no mistake, the young people sitting in this room today will be the shapers of our future African cities.”

He said it will take grit, zeal and an innovative spirit to get it right, and encouraged them to go fourth and make it happen.

“I travel across the continent and I encounter youth that are agile, ambitious and have an innovative spirit. This innovative spirit becomes crucial if you are going to navigate the massive disruption that is fast approaching,” he said.

“Make no mistake, the young people sitting in this room today will be the shapers of our future African cities.” 

Develop human centricity 

Jamie also shared with graduands his four-point plan for rebuilding Africa

As the brains and ideas behind building a better Africa, he urged graduands to adopt a human-centric approach as they start their careers.

Since human centricity is “fundamentally different” on the continent when compared to other parts of the world, he encouraged graduands to tailor their approach to Africa’s needs and to avoid an “inappropriate” copy/paste approach informed by the Global North.

“When we bring solutions, systems and technology into Africa, make sure it is through the lens of Africa and appropriate for Africa,” Jamie said.

Get creative 

Although the modern world is driven by science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), combining this phenomenon with the world of artists, musicians and dancers could be the start of great things. 

“If we can bring these two worlds together, we can find a sweet spot where innovation can really flourish,” he said. 


“Make creativity an important part of your ongoing learning and life experiences.”

He also encouraged ways of reinventing the boardroom by adding a creative flair, and potentially even including creativity in certain technical projects. If that’s what it takes to nurture creativity, he advised graduands to do just that.

“Make creativity an important part of your ongoing learning and life experiences.” 

Think out of the box 

To help address some of the country’s, continent’s and the world’s acute challenges, he challenged the next generation of engineers and scientists to think out of the box. This, he explained, means thinking beyond the codes and regulations, and beyond the size of the pipe and thickness of a slab. 

“We need to understand social complexity. We need to understand the role politics play in infrastructure. We need to understand where the money is coming from,” he said. 

Look into the future

Finally, deep dive into the future, he urged. To get this right, he told graduands to let go of the now, to lift their heads from the codes, regulations and constant deadlines and simply look into the future.

“You have to spend some of your time looking forward and dreaming. [Ask yourself] what does Wakanda look like?”

“In my future, we don’t keep our vibranium secret. We unleash it onto the rest of the world. Go forth and make us proud, go forth and build Wakanda.”

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December graduation 2019

The University of Cape Town will be celebrating the graduation of 1 960 of its students over six graduation ceremonies on 12, 13 and 23 December, which include the conferral of three honorary doctorates and the presentation of the UCT Book Award and the UCT Creative Works Award. This graduation season, we also bid a fond farewell to our chancellor, Mrs Graça Machel, who has been the titular head of the university for the past 20 years. Her compassionate and dedicated service to the university will be deeply missed.
Farewell Chancellor Graça Machel

Our stories: inspirational graduates

UCT part of PhD graduand’s destiny As Olivia Matshabane prepared to receive her PhD from UCT this month, she said the highs have outweighed the lows during her journey. 20 Dec 2019
Former Miss SA’s road to graduation Tamaryn Green will graduate with her MBChB from UCT on Monday, 23 December, and says she will forever remember the “challenging yet fulfilling” seven-year journey. 19 Dec 2019
Through dysphoria to a doctoral degree Velile Vilane’s journey to a PhD from the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment goes beyond the degree – it’s about coming into being. 12 Dec 2019
Balancing a baby and the books Rejoice Gorni, a student at UCT’s Graduate School of Business, returned to lectures just days after giving birth to complete her PGDip in management. 12 Dec 2019
‘Education was my only hope’ Monica Damane, who will graduate on Thursday, 12 December, with her MSc in engineering says the road to this achievement has been far from easy. 11 Dec 2019
‘I refused to be called a failure’ Having endured personal setbacks and defied the odds, Furaha Abwe will graduate with his PhD in Architecture and Planning on Thursday, 12 December. 11 Dec 2019
Swimming upstream – the second-chance graduand This week UCT celebrates its inspirational graduands, students such as staffer Nombuso Shabalala who reclaimed her life after a traumatic event had left her becalmed. 10 Dec 2019
Burn the boat to win the island Having worked her way through to her doctoral studies, Delta Ndou will soon don the sought-after red robe to receive her PhD in Media Studies at UCT. 10 Dec 2019
Dream big and apply yourself fully Musa Kika arrived at UCT to study for an LLM, but his master’s was upgraded and he will be graduating in December with a PhD. 09 Dec 2019
Graduation speakers