Ackeem Ngwenya

This South African-born designer created the Roadless wheel for use in rural areas, an innovative product that turns scarcity into opportunity.

South African-born Ackeem Ngwenya is a product designer focussed on African development and founder of Roadless Ltd. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Jewellery Design at the University of Stellenbosch and went on to complete a master’s in innovation design engineering from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London in 2014.

For his graduate project, he designed the Roadless wheel system, a wheel that adapts to different terrain conditions typically found in rural areas like those in which he grew up in Malawi. As a 10-year-old child, he would walk with his cousins for more than 10 km carrying corn to be milled.

The wheel’s design addresses the difficulties locals experience moving goods, accessing markets and making a living. It expands to create more contact area for muddy conditions, or contracts to give better ground clearance for rough terrains. The Roadless Project takes the absence of basic infrastructure and services as a playground for creativity and innovation. It was on display at the Africa is Now exhibition at Design Indaba Expo 2014 under the Africa is Resourceful theme. 

Ngwenya’s design approach is to explore the scarcity of basic services and infrastructure as a playground for innovation and creativity, and apply design and technology to achieve development through creative solutions to crippling and persistent problems faced by Africa. "With Roadless I want to establish a capacity-building platform that will allow and offer the users of Roadless products opportunities to escape the grasp of poverty, become self-suficient and attain a decent quality of life," he says.