Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summary Report on MakerFaireAfrica '09

From the 14th to 16th August, 2009 MakerFaireAfrica (MFA) was held on the premises of the Advanced Institute of Information Technology (AITI) in Accra, Ghana. As quoted from the homepage of this group; MakerFaireAfrica (MFA) is a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention.

The 3-day event drew innovators and inventors from countries including: Brazil, Guatemala, Tibet, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, South Africa, Liberia, Pakistan, Uganda, Madagascar, India, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. There were several guests of who mostly came from the USA.

MakerFaireAfrica aims to stoke the fires of innovation, catalyze the seeds of ingenuity, and amplify the pace of invention, wonder and curiosity amongst the young and young at heart,” said Emeka Okafor organizer of MFA and director of TEDAfrica. “We intend to dial back the negative reinforcement that pervades the continent in matters of career choice and conformity and will give center stage to the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things.”

Among the Makers that intrigued visitors at the Faire were William Kamkwamba from Malawi also known as the "boy who harnessed the wind". He was a school drop-out who was inspired by the picture of a windmill he saw in a book in a local library. “Once someone had made it I believed I could make it too and I am happy I did. I hope to train a lot more of the local folks and to eventually start it on a commercial venture". William said.

Perhaps the most compelling of all the inventions at MakerFaireAfrica was a Maker Faire radio station designed from scratch by Hayford Bempong, David Celestin and Michael Amankwanor from Accra Polytechnic. They announced upcoming Maker Faire activities, broadcasting on 101.7 FM, and it could be heard up to a couple of thousand meters away using gear they designed and fabricated from scratch.

Dominic Wanjihia from Kenya exhibited two products, an evaporative cooler and a food dryer both of which aimed at extending the shelf-life of food. His motivation for those pieces were that in Africa obviously 60-80% of the food goes bad due to insufficient storage and refrigerating solutions.

Another Maker/Inventor; Johannes made his entire room furniture with recycled plastic water bottles. He plans to experiment building a home with these plastic bottles and eventually all children homes across the country with these plastic bottles. He needs funding however to achieve this dream.

The Kofi Annan ICT Centre of Excellence hosted the three day event providing makers and visitors a relaxed and friendly atmosphere to witness the event as it fold by. Internet connectivity was good though with intermittent brakes and slowness it provided people with opportunity to share the event online via blogs, tweets, Skype, flickr … for the international community. Mac-Jordan H. Degadjor and his team of IT Geeks were always keeping the ears and eyes outside Ghana informed by their tweets.

Quite a good number of organizations took part in the Maker Faire event amongst which included the Butterfly Works, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, NairoBits, MIT- International Development Design Summit’s (MIT-IDDS), Inveneo, Mozilla, AndSpace Labs, BusyLAB, eSoko, Internet Research, eCoband and BusyInternet.

MFA has also attracted a host of industry thought leaders, bloggers and news organizations who are dedicated to building the future of Africa including Amy Smith; Founder of MIT’s D-Lab, Miquel Hudin Balsa; Co-founder of Maneno, Florian Sturm; co-founder, Nana Kofi Acquah; a Pro photo-blogger, Sam Kessie, Africa News, AshokaTech, Ghana Bloggers, Next Billion, and TechBridgeWorld.

Participants were served with delicious Ghanaian dishes favorite amongst them “Red Red” - cooked cowpea with palm oil, served with fried ripe plantain-, Vegetarian meals, Fried Rice and chicken. Water and pure natural fruit drink was also available for everybody.

As a result of the event, a project dubbed “Match-a-Maker” was launched. The project aims at connecting Makers/Innovators/Inventors offering solutions all over the world and will be made available online soon. The GO Ingenuity Award also known as the GO Campaign was also launched by Scott Pfeiffer to stimulate the next generation of "makers."

Among the organizers were Erik Hersman, Founder of AfriGadget; Emeka Okafor of Timbuktu Chronicles and the Director of TED Africa; Lars Hasselblad Torres, Director MIT IDEAS Competition; Mark Grimes, Founder and Founder NedSpace, Emer Beamer; Founder of Butterfly Works, Nii Simmonds of Nubian Cheetah & Afrobotics and Henry Barnor of Afrobotics/Internet Research.

The next edition of MakerFaireAfrica would hopefully be in Nairobi, Kenya in 2010.

Compiled by Mac-Jordan H. Degadjor, Worlali Senyo and Charles Amega-Selorm.

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