Afrimakers is an initiative that wants to enable African makers to use digital fabrication for solving local challenges like access to clean water, energy, information.
The idea is to plant the seed of local change through social entrepreneurship, digital fabrication and regional collaboration.
We want to kickstart maker workshops focused on local challenges in 7 hubs around Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt).
I think this is an interesting strategy. My first reaction was here’s another top-down campaign to help Africans. But on second-glance, it is a maker training and learning platform that African makers, or trainers can tap into as a learning/teaching resources. It is the “pull” distribution aspect as opposed to the pushing it down the development pipe. I think this is a platform that local innovator initiatives like Solomon King’s Fundibots in Uganda could tap into.
Put another way, they are attempting to lower the technology branch so young “proactive” makers and enablers can easily reach up and grab it.
As much as I like it though, I think the strategy isn’t quite complete or as robust as it could be. I keep thinking that this would have been a perfect initiative for Afrilabs, the umbrella organization that manages the 20+ tech hubs on the continent.
AfriLabs exists to support the growth of communities around African technology hubs and to encourage expansion of the network by providing tools and resources for new and emerging labs. We do this by providing best practices, mentoring, networking opportunities and other resources for high-potential entrepreneurs.
Another organization tailor-made for this kind of partnership could have been Maker Faire Africa.
Maker faire africa is both a yearly pan-african maker faire & a community of makers. A compendium of handcrafters that hail from africa’s tiniest villages to her most expansive urban burgs. What we have in common is an unwavering commitment to origin, ingenuity & innovation. A fellowship of creators who believe making is the most authentic form of manufacturing, and manufacturing is what forges a vigorous middle class. We’re bold & we’re gritty. Curious & quirky. Our inventions have largely stayed hidden in the ‘punk of the bush’ and the outer reaches of the informal sector.
I like ideas like this, but I think they could go further by seeking to operate or enhance what’s already existing, rather than trying to distinguish themselves as yet another enabler organization.
Currently, there’s a conscious shift in the aid industry to get away from the top-down mentality of development projects. Ironically, technology has ushered in a very conscious and vocal Developing South community weary of being victimized. I think Afrimakers is a transitional project, one rooted in the outside-in strategy, but making an effort to pull from the bottom in the process.