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Joel Baraka and Anson Liow
September 29, 2022

A quest to learn: Baraka and Liow create educational African card game

Written By: Alex Holloway

Joel Baraka and Anson Liow’s newest game can take its players on an educational quest across the African continent.

Baraka is working with his longtime friend and fellow civil and environmental engineering student Anson Liow to design and test the new game, called Your African Quest. It’s inspired by their first creation, the 5 STAZ board game, which they designed for elementary students in Ugandan refugee settlements.

Your African Quest is a dynamic and fast-paced educational card game focused on the African continent’s nature, people, countries, culture and food. Baraka and Liow are currently completing testing on the game and reviewing feedback, and hope to soon make it available for order. Baraka and Liow will use all proceeds from Your African Quest to continue supporting 5 STAZ.

5 STAZ was a knockout fund-raising success, garnering more than $12,000 in crowdfunding through GoFundMe, with additional support flowing in through grants and other sources in fall 2020. Baraka says a supportive community sprang up around the game, and he and Liow wanted to repay that kindness.

“People wanted to support us, but also wanted to get a copy of the game,” Baraka says. “The challenge is that the 5 STAZ was geared toward Ugandan students and might not be suitable for a general audience in the United States. But people supported us, and we didn’t want to continue asking for donations when we’re not able to give our supporters anything.”

Baraka and Liow, like any good engineers faced with a challenge, decided to create a solution. By spring 2021, they created a rough prototype of their new game. They’ve collaborated with the UW-Madison African Studies Program on it and tested the game in spring 2022 with friends, family and students in the Madison Metropolitan School District.

The game is currently under production. The game’s proceeds will go to continue supporting their social mission with the 5 STAZ in Uganda. The duo remains driven to improve educational access for refugee children in Uganda, and hope Your African Quest helps to keep their supporters in Madison and across the United States engaged. With Your African Quest, Baraka and Liow hope to give something tangible back to their supporters — they plan to hand-deliver the game to anyone who donates more than $40.

“We wanted to make this a product that’s accessible to everyone, whether they’re a college student or a family wanting to try out a new game,” Liow says. “It’s a game that we want diverse groups of people to be able to play.”

The 5 STA-Z, while designed to be fun for students, is first and foremost an educational tool. Baraka and Liow have kept that focus in the forefront in their efforts with Your African Quest, and want it to be something that people can use to learn about the many diverse peoples and cultures of the African continent. Both students say designing the game has been a humbling, eye-opening experience as they themselves realized how much there is to learn about Africa, and hope the game provides the same opportunities for others.

It’s especially important for Baraka, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and grew up in Uganda, to illustrate that the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent is so much more than the monolithic “Africa” it’s often reduced to.

“Africa, as a whole, is quite underrepresented compared to other continents, and there’s so much for people to learn about its cultures, geography and history,” Baraka says. “We see this as one of the few games out there that’d tackle Africa in such a broad manner. Whether you’re a kid in high school or a parent, I think it’s important to be aware of all the diversity across Africa.”

Top photo caption: Graduate students Joel Baraka (rght) and Anson Liow (left) created Your African Quest as a fun card game that can be used to learn about Africa.