Recap of Maker Faire Africa 2009

Maker Faire Africa 2009 is over and it’s time for me to give a short résumé.

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William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba

The makers

The story that impressed me the most was William Kamkwamba from Malawi – “The boy who harnessed the wind“. He built a windmill from material he found at the scrap yard just by looking at diagrams at the local library. Although people in his community considered him as crazy he kept going and is now able to power his family’s house, a water pump and some other services with the electricity created. Furthermore he teaches other people how to build windmills. His talk was quite impressive as he seems to be a very shy guy and talked very silently, but with a self-assurence as if it would be the most natural thing what he did. Really remarkable.

Another fascinating story was the one of Johannes, a maker who assembled furniture from plastic bottles and founded a company called Planiture or Planish, didn’t quite understand that. His motivation was that he had moved in a totally empty apartment in Kumasi and thought of ways to create inexpensive furniture. After a while he came up with plastic bottles as frame and leather cover. Due to his words most people who see the pieces just say “wow” – and indeed that’s how I felt as well when looking at them. They are really comfortable, too.

Dominic Wanjihia - from AfriGadget.com

Dominic Wanjihia - from AfriGadget.com

Another maker with whom I spent a great deal talking about his products and in the following also about Africa’s current state was Dominic Wanjihia from Kenya. He presented two products, both of which aimed at extend the life-span of food. One was an evaporative cooler, another one a food dryer based on sunlight. His motivation for those pieces were that in Africa obviously 60-80% of the food goes bad due to insufficient storage and refridgerating solutions – new information for me.

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The atmosphere

The atmosphere of all three days was very relaxed and friendly – but at times also tense and inspiring. Everybody was up for a little chat and willing to share his story. The good weather and openness of the venue contributed to the good spirit. Furthermore the story of the makers were really stimulating and there was a feeling of positive uprising in the air. People denounced the problems of Africa – but also offered simple solutions and ingenious ideas. Everybody was motivated and significant improvement of the continent’s state seemed possible this weekend.

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The venue

Small conference room at AITI

Advanced Information Technology Institute – AITI and generally Accra was a really cool place for Maker Faire.

AITI offered great internet connectivity for everybody to share the event online – and judging by tweets, really many people internationally followed it. The seperation with inside – workshop and sessions, outside – showing of devices was good and invited many visitors to stay and commute between inside and outside. Furthermore – music was great and thanks for the food!

Accra provided nice venues for a drink afterwards, only the traffic was quite annoying.

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Organizations

Several organizations took part in Maker Faire, two of which impressed me quite a lot.

Inveneo is an organization based in California and specialises on the creation and sale of apropriate technology. The showcased devices – computers, servers, routers, … – were really impressive. Compact and robust, they reduce energy consumption by a large amount. Additionally Inveneo offers batteries which can be solar-powered to eliminate the problem of power cuts.

Louisa (Butterfly Works), Charles (Internet Research) and me on Johannes' plastic-bottle couch

Butterfly Works, a Durch organization helped organize Maker Faire and presented several projects – including Naitobits, the original program which inspired Zanzibits, amongst others. One cool project they did during Maker Faire was called “Match a Maker” – aiming at connecting people having problems in “making things” with people offering solutions all over the world. The project was actually initiated right there at Maker Faire, I hope it will be online soon.

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Suggestions for next time

Some small remarks to the organization: as the planned schedule was quite strict and didn’t consider the existence of a second presentation room, the schedule was changed several times which led to some confusion and to some skipped sessions. By offering a schedule with more empty spaces and a possibility for parallel sessions this could be solved.

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Overall, the whole event was great – lots of interesting people and projects, fascinating devices, insightful talks. See you next year in Nairobi!

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Here once again the links to the blogposts on ICT4D.at on Maker Faire Africa

the Maker Faire Africa Aggregator on Maneno and the Maker Faire Africa FlickR group.

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Recap of Maker Faire Africa 2009
was published on 17.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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4 Responses to “Recap of Maker Faire Africa 2009”

  1. ChristophD Says:

    Excellent article and sounds like you had fun! :-)

  2. Martin Tomitsch Says:

    Great stories and interesting insights. Thanks for sharing this, Flo!

  3. ICT4D.at » Blog Archive » Internas #Q3 2009 Says:

    [...] Especially Maker Faire was a unique possibility to show our movie Hello Africa and to make a lot of great contacts. I met and talked to many people from the IT scene in Ghana, several makers from around Africa, the organizers from Butterfly Works, Erik Hersman, Nii Simmonds, people from Inveneo, Nairobits, and lots more. Recap of Maker Faire on ICT4D.at [...]

  4. ICT4D.at » Blog Archive » Hello Africa festival screening in Wales Says:

    [...] shown in Accra, Ghana, at the Maker Faire Africa event, 14-16 of August (Which we attended and covered in detail here) , and just recently we were honoured to be invited and have it screened at a festival event called [...]

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