Maker Faire Africa Nairobi Kenya 2010: Maker_Faire_Africa_Concept
While the ICT space has developed a head of steam in some parts of Africa, a “maker philosophy” is yet to occur. [It is imperative that the educated do not perceive technology as what appears before them on a computer screen]. The aim of a Maker Faire-like event is to create a space on the continent where Afrigadget-type innovations, inventions and initiatives can be sought, identified, brought to life, supported, amplified, propagated, etc. Maker Faire Africa asks the question, “What happens when you put the drivers of ingenious concepts from Mali with those from Ghana and Kenya, and add resources to the mix?”
Maker Faire Africa will engage on-the-ground breakthrough organizations like Ashesi University and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to sharpen focus on locally-generated, bottom-up prototypes of technologies that solve immediate challenges to development. Specifically, Maker Faire Africa will take an approach that will achieve three principal aims:
- Brighten the light on local examples of the “fabrication” ethos
- Provide mechanisms to incubate these innovators and their products to a point where they can be taken to market
- Connect refined plans to disseminate innovations with venture finance
The aim is to identify, spur and support local innovation. At the same time, Maker Faire Africa would seek to imbue creative types in science and technology with an appreciation of fabrication and by default manufacturing. The long-term interest here is to cultivate an endogenous manufacturing base that supplies innovative products in response to market needs.
When discussions of wealth creation and poverty reduction are made in reference to the continent, for a variety of reasons manufacturing is left off the table. This is partly the fault of education and or orientation. Making fabrication the next “big thing” in a sense could go some way in changing these attitudes. Manufacture – literally, fabrication by hand – is exciting, and exists across the continent of Africa, and is abundant – from centers sited at dumps, where scrap metals are abundant, to more formal collections of mechanics and repairers who have set up shop in the urban core. Much of this curiosity, talent, and entrepreneurial spirit in manufacturing remains trapped in the informal sectors - bricoleurs and tinkerers who ingeniously meet hyper local demands and tend not to scale.
Part of this comes from the irony that universities haven’t gone far enough in “pairing off” with, or trying to mutually reinforce the existing fabricators in their own backyards. This is partly the result of sub-optimal educational systems that emphasized extractive industries over centers of manufacture, and administration at the expense of creativity and production. A Maker Faire with the associated novelty and appeal could reinforce the centrality of fabrication processes in the imagination of the curious and young and accelerate its uptake on the continent.
To grow and respond to needs and priorities on the continent, Maker Faire Africa will require a strong continental organizing force, which will be centered at Ashesi University. This team will collaborate with the organizers of the International Development Design Summit, which will be held at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in mid/late Summer 2009, to ensure a well-timed, visible, and celebratory event that draws upon IDDS outcomes and attracts new participants The aim of Maker Faire Africa 2009 will be to establish partnerships and an organizing infrastructure that could lead to a series of events across the continent. No formula or single model for how this could evolve exists, and this will be a part of the challenge taken up by leaders on the continent who take up the Maker Faire Africa concept.
Some key organizing principles: - Make Faire Africa will engage leaders on the continent across sectors – industry, finance, high-tech, agriculture, academia - self-selected individuals and institutions that already express the attributes necessary for such an effort. So the broad outlines and possible levels of support/shepherding (ie endorsements and seed funding) would be provided by those with the wherewithal (those outside?) and the granular conceptualizing would be more bottom up. - Involve “external innovators – for example the developers of products like Lifestraw and Hippo Roller – could create revenue streams that in turn could be used to off-set the costs of involving innovators from other parts of Africa who might not otherwise be able to participate. - Twinning with the arts to create opportunities both to involve them in fabrication conversations (for example, the relationship between “appropriation” and “creation” a la DJ Spooky a.k.a. Paul Miller that Subliminal Kid ) as well as create relaxed times and spaces for networking. - Attract inventors, venture capitalists, philanthropists, media, and NPO/NGO actors in great numbers.