Maker Faire Africa
Tunza spoke to Jennifer Wolfe, co-organizer of Maker Faire Africa.
‘Making things in Africa, processing our own raw materials, is one of our continent’s most formidable challenges. Maybe the tech-influenced DIY philosophy – design it yourself, make it yourself, then sell it yourself – could help create jobs, especially for young people, and allow raw materials to be converted into products at home, whether cocoa from Kenya or coltan from the Congo.
‘Maker Faire Africa seeks to help inventors understand and access the entire innovation landscape, from electronics to food processing and metal work to biotechnology. Most participants have already identified a need and may have spent at least a year working on it; others are students seeking to apply what they have learnt and create employment. Anyone who has an idea, invention or product can come, get feedback and advice, get help in bringing their invention to market, and meet and collaborate with others.
‘Local and international businesses come, too, looking for new ideas and inventors to work with. This can help build networks or lead to apprenticeships and internships with large corporations. In Nairobi in 2010, for example, General Electric awarded a cash prize and internship to one of our makers.
‘We began in 2009 with just 40 makers in Accra, Ghana. In 2010, Maker Faire Africa Nairobi had more than 70 exhibitors, then in Cairo in 2011 we had nearly 100 makers and ran workshops on DIY biology and product development. There was also a hackerspace complete with a Makerbot 3D printer. This year, we’ll be in Lagos, Nigeria.
‘Maker Faire Africa is determined to encourage individual invention and provide a platform for communities to push for policies for productive environments. It’s still in its infancy, but we’re seeing an increasingly enthusiastic response, especially from youth. Across the continent, from Cairo to the Cape, large numbers of people are unemployed or underemployed, especially young people. From a purely economic point of view, it’s absolutely essential we give them what they need to become productive.’