africa studioCredits: Africa Design School

Africa Studio

L'École de design Nantes Atlantique at Cotonou

The Africa Studio, opened in September 2023, is the fifth permanent international branch of L'École de design Nantes Atlantique, after those opened in China (2008), India (2010), Brazil (2017) and Montreal, Canada (2018).

Africa Studio: supporting the growing need for design in Benin

Following the opening in 2019 of the Africa Design School, the first design school in West Africa, L'École de design Nantes Atlantique wanted to strengthen its presence in Cotonou (Benin) by offering a master's degree program there. Cotonou is a port city and the economic capital of the country. It faces the Gulf of Guinea and has a population of over 1.2 million.  

africa studioCredits: Africa Design School

The site: Sèmè City, international city of innovation and knowledge

In order to reflect on and respond to the social, economic and ecological challenges of Africa in general and Benin in particular, Sèmè City offers a unique space in Cotonou bringing together entrepreneurs, researchers and students with the common goal of imagining the Africa of tomorrow. A place of innovation, promoting the emergence of start-ups that create jobs and growth, Sèmè City has been home to Africa Design School since 2019, a school that trains the designers that Africa needs to accompany a more sustainable and virtuous development. 

It is therefore no coincidence that it is also in Cotonou that L'École de design Nantes Atlantique is reinforcing its presence on the African continent and offering its master's students a unique and exciting international experience.

Africa studioCredits: Africa Design School

The degree: Master's in International Design Strategy/Africa Studio

A unique two-year master's program specialized in International Design Strategy

This program leads to a Master's degree in design, approved by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. The program, spread over four semesters, each validated by 30 ECTS, begins with a minimum 13-week internship as a junior designer. The objective of this period of immersion in a company or agency is to highlight and broaden professional skills in the context of another culture, in addition to allowing a better understanding of social codes in the host country.

Themes rooted in African reality

The Africa Studio's International Design Strategy program focuses primarily on themes inherent to the specific nature of development in West Africa. Thus, the projects carried out during the two years of the master's program are oriented towards the societal and ecological challenges that Africa must meet, as well as the digital transition, the digitalization of services, and access to culture.

5 good reasons to study design at Africa Studio

Our International Design Strategy master's program in Cotonou is designed for students who have completed three years of design studies at L'École de design Nantes Atlantique or elsewhere. This program is a long immersion program that allows students to learn in a highly international context. Here are 5 good reasons to pursue your design studies at the Africa Studio:

  • Try a change of environment

Open-mindedness, empathy and the ability to confront different points of view are all qualities inherent to the practice of design, as it is taught at L'École de design Nantes Atlantique. Thus, having the opportunity to put one's vision of the design profession into perspective through a two-year immersion in a context that is the antithesis of the one experienced in France is a real boost to your training. 

  • Enjoy a pleasant and stimulating living environment

Cotonou, the economic heart of Benin, remains a city on a human scale. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, it also allows quick access to the more rural areas of the North. Ganvié, a lakeside city on the shores of Lake Nokoué, "the Venice of West Africa", is only about thirty kilometers from downtown Cotonou. The integration of students in the city is facilitated by the inexpensive accommodation, food and transportation available. In addition, the city is undergoing a transformation and has initiated a vast urban renovation plan that includes more green spaces. Finally, it is here that the most innovative projects are born under the impetus of the development agency Sèmè City.     

  • Live a rewarding field experience

Doing a master's degree abroad, and particularly in Cotonou, allows students to be in direct contact with the field. The projects are concrete and the needs are growing. There is a lot of work to be done in disseminating design in a region that is both full of resources and challenges. Training in a city where so much remains to be done is bound to be enriching, and will allow design students who have made this choice to stand out when they enter the workforce. 

  • Participate in meaningful projects 

Like the African continent, which faces multiple development issues (demographic imbalances, poverty, difficult access to health care and education, pollution, the environment, etc.), Benin knows how to rely on a generation of students, researchers and scientists who are willing and eager to lead useful, positive and virtuous projects. Doing part of one's design training alongside the actors of these ambitious programs, supported by the government, gives even more meaning to the Design Thinking approach, whereby the act of innovating is done to serve the users and to make a more responsible world. 

  • Practice design in close collaboration with craftsmen

One of the strong points of the International Design Strategy master's program at Africa Studio is the fact that design is practiced in direct contact with local artisans and producers. This not only allows for more effective communication within the ecosystem of each project, but also gives the student designers a wider scope of action and more leeway to carry out their missions.

Learn more about Africa Studio


Tymélia Zanifé - Head teacher


Africa Design School
SP, 01302-90701 BP 2028, Cotonou, Bénin

Africa Studio's environment and facilities

The Africa Studio is located in the premises of the Africa Design School, which is itself housed in the Sèmè City agency, within the recently opened Sèmè One building. The students of the studio thus work in an ecosystem favorable to innovation, in contact with diverse profiles but all driven by the desire to meet the challenges of the African territory

The students of the Africa Studio's Master's program will have access to the facilities made available to the students of the Africa Design School at SCOP (Sèmè City Open Park), also known as Sèmè Two. These facilities make it easier to implement the design projects undertaken during these two years:

  • Multidisciplinary manufacturing laboratory to experiment, test and prototype (3D printer, laser cutter, etc.)
  • Laser printers,
  • Photo studio,
  • Coworking space, etc.
Teaching staff and partnerships

Tymélia Zanifé, an interior architect and designer by trade, is the head of the Africa Studio's teaching team. The training is carried out in close partnership with Africa Design School, a structure directed by Stéphane Gouret, deputy director general of L'École de design Nantes Atlantique.

Updated on 23.03.23