Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Photo courtesy Maker Faire Africa

Technological innovation is a tricky thing. Often a technology seems great at first, but then when it’s used it has unintended consequences, or doesn't work well in a particular setting. (Like PlayPumps – merry-go-rounds that pump clean water when kids turn them – seemed like a great idea but many that were installed in Sub-Saharan Africa ended up not being used or maintained.)

It’s also easy to put hope in technology rather than address the root cause of problems like inequity or lack of access to resources.

Still, technological innovation can be a good thing. (Aren’t I sitting here with my laptop creating a blog that you’re reading online?)

So in today’s post I thought I’d feature a few of the many people in Sub-Saharan Africa who are innovating and creating. Rather than selecting one or two, I’m going to point to some links and you can go from there. (Today I’ve decided to talk less and let others do the explaining.) So here’s a start – consider this the tip of a very big iceberg:


Afrigadget is a website and blog dedicated to showcasing technologies developed in Africa. Half a dozen editors and contributors from several countries post stories about innovations like biogas systems, or working radios built from scrap parts. Here’s another example, of products made from used flipflops (sandals):
Used Flipflop (sandal) products. Reuse. #MFA10  on Twitpic
Photo courtesy Afrigadget

Maker Faire Africa

This event features "innovations, inventions and initiatives [that] can be brought to life, supported, amplified, propagated etc." Check out the numerous photos and videos, like these ones:

Photo courtesy Maker Faire Africa

Photo courtesy Maker Faire Africa

There are many more blogs and sites with links to innovators but I thought I’d leave you with just one more for now. This is William Kamkwamba, who at 14 developed a windmill from scrap parts for his family’s farm in Malawi (there's lots more about him on the web or in this article from Africa News):

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