We’re back online with our old blog! What started in 2006 by Erik Hersman, founder/co-founder of, and other ventures, was quickly turned into a group blog, which featured various authors from around the world. Our mission: To showcase innovative humans who come up with different solutions to problems in environments that lack industry norms, access to professional tools, a supply of the right materials or just anything that is not made in a factory.

In Kenya, where most of our authors grew up or live in, this approach to problem solving is often called “jua kali”, as in “working under the hot sun”. Steve Daniels, former advisor at the now defunct Makeshift magazine, created a wonderful paper called “Making Do – Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Sector” in 2010 on this innovative culture that we never really mentioned on this blog:

making do wouldn’t exist without this jua kali spirit, and it doesn’t matter if you live in India and call it “jugaad, heard about the DIY culture in Cuba during the Castro years or experience all of this resourcefulness yourself when you live in an economy of scarcity and need to solve a problem. AfriGadget was and still is our answer to showcase that in a world of norms, patents, regional, financial and other restrictions, people are able to change objects and create something new out of them. It also is a testament to the maker culture that has always been around.


Back in 2005, we quickly came up with the term “AfriGadget”, as gadget blogs were the latest trend back then and we wanted to show to the world that even on the African continent there are a lot of nice “gadgets” that spice up your life.

Also, many of the innovations (!= inventions) aren’t an Africa-only thing. The knife-sharpening bicycle, for example, one of our popular posts in 2007, talks about a bike that is also used to propell a grinding stone. This bike may be Made in China, the setup may be locally assembled, but is this really an “African” invention – as it is equally found in other parts of the world? We don’t know. And there are a lot of other cool things on the internet in 2018 that may not originate from Africa, but perfectly fit the AfriGadget frame.

Backups, Backups, Backups…

This site went offline in 2016 due to administrative and technical issues with the website host. Some data was lost, the last undeleted backup is from 2012. Yes, you should always keep your backups.

We love this blog, the shared stories and often missed linking back to some older content on this blog, so we urgently needed to relaunch this site. We have meanwhile managed to redirect the domain to a new server and are now in the process of slowly recovering old content and will set up a new template. Which means that this website is still under construction and if things aren’t the way they should be or if something important is missing, then please contact us – thank you!

Our platforms

We are active on four different platforms: This website, Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter provide us with global audiences that don’t have to be directed to a single blog somewhere on the internet. Also, there used to be this service called which allowed users in certain countries to access Facebook free of mobile data charges. This in itself is already an interesting observation and a topic for AfriGadget (that someone else should write about – maybe you?), as user behaviour changes when services are free of charge vs. cost money. “A peculiar calling habit”, as the former CEO of a huge telecommunications provider in Kenya once called it, is the result of such financial limits that have a huge impact on how people buy, use and recycle products. Likewise, our Facebook audience is different from the other audiences on this website or even Twitter.

Talking about audiences, there was a popular TV show on Kenyan TV in 2017 that used our tagline, our logo and reported nice stories from Kenya. Unfortunately, we are in no way affiliated with the tv show, the producers never replied to our mails and on the other hand viewers kept on contacting us via Facebook, asking about the products that were showcased on the show. We’d love to help, but we just don’t know better. Sharing is caring. Some producers apparently don’t care. The show is great though and features some of our content that we wrote about in the past:

Low Tech vs. High Tech

Whenever we presented AfriGadget to other audiences, we also talked about which enabled the iHub in Kenya, a coworking / innovation hub, and we also mentioned all the other hubs that came up in the last few years. We talked about digital projects that are created in Africa but we never really mentioned them on this blog. AfriGadgets aren’t limited to low tech solutions. In fact, there are a lot of very smart things that happen in the digital sphere that could also be termed as AfriGadgets. And not only software tricks that are never published due to software patents or because only a few people understand the magic of programming code. We also talk about business ideas that work in African socities because they target the local user/consumer behaviour. All of those things are AfriGadgets to us. So whenever we mention AfriGadgets, we don’t limit this to some Made-in-Africa wire toy cars (which are great, also because they are the complete opposite to the ex-cathedra teaching still found in many schools, i.e. studying vs. being creative and doing something). AfriGadgets are local solutions to local problems. This site exists to show them to the world.

Still, the low-tech approach is near and dear to us, and one of our favourite sites online is the Low-Tech Magazine that features a reasonable approach to anything low-tech, has lots of detailed information and asks the right questions. Where we only scratch the surface and deliver the audience, the Low-Tech Magazine goes into detail.


AfriGadget also exists because people from all over the world have in the past contributed interesting stories. We got boingboing’ed  a few times and always appreciated being part of a global community that understands the importance of documented innovations. AfriGadget has always been a group blog and we will gladly post your story as a guests blog post. There is a Flickr group that pools very interesting and original AfriGadget material. Some of the photos turn into stories, other are just interesting to watch or are tagged accordingly. There is so much material out there, and in the begining, many contributers wondered why we are sharing normal things that can be found in any African village. Well, to some people they may be normal, to others they are very strange. Which is why we want to encourage you sharing stories, photos, videos, and comments on everything AfriGadget. Just contact us!

eMail subscriptions

If you have previously subscribed to using an eMail subscription service such as Google’s Feedburner service, please note that we have lost login data to that service and can not provide any assistance to that and/or change anything about it. In case of doubt, please cancel your subscription and use our RSS-feed instead. Thank you!

The DIY Three-Wheeler

Kevin Becker recently moved to Kenya and built this great DIY three-wheeler for his son.

diy three wheeler

“My son wants to be outside all of the time. This three-wheel cart allows him to pedal himself around like Fred Flintstone, or I can push him from behind with the handle. The larger wheels are good for the rough terrain on our farm. He can turn the front wheel to steer himself, or I can tilt the cart back so the front wheel is off the ground when I need to steer.”

The Three-Wheeler in action:

“Except for the wood, I used parts that I had on hand which I brought with me from the U.S., but I’m sure everything could be found here in Kenya. The wheels came from golf club bag carts, but any spare wheels, around 10″ diameter, should work. The rear handle and front wheel support are made from 1″ PVC. The front handle is 3/4″ PVC.The seat is a piece of spongy foam used for padding your knees when doing yard work.”

diy three wheeler

Parts list

1 – 5″ angle bracket
approx 10′ of 1″ PVC pipe
approx 2′ of 3/4″ PVC pipe
4 – 1″ PVC T-joints
2 – 1″ PVC 90° joints
1 – 1″x3/4″x3/4″ PVC T-joint
2 – 3/4″ PVC 45° joint
2 – 3/4″ PVC end caps
1 – foam pad
4 – 1″ washers to attach the foam
1 – 19″ 2×4 board
1 – 21″ 2×4 board
1 – 12″ 1×2 board
2 – 16″ 1×2 boards
assorted screws and bolts as needed

diy three wheeler

Let’s see how long it will take until this is replicated in Ongata Rongai!

A Tablet for Africa?

Guest post by Jay Cousins:

For many of you reading this, the title of this article might lead you to a vision of one laptop per child – or some other Silicon Valley vision of progress for Africa.

The technology I wish to discuss is slower and simpler. Full disclosure: it’s my invention.

The Betabook is a portable whiteboard, which can be used with a smartphone for archiving, content creation, and social media sharing.

During my time in Egypt working with the icehubs network, I tested the initial prototypes. Uses in this context included:

  • Translation – through drawings (and the written text of others) I’ve been able to communicate with Deaf Egyptians in Aswan and others who cannot speak English.
  • Improved communication – visual aids, allow for clearer communication of objectives or ideas
Part’s list for Air Quality Kit – Preparing for a Hackidemia workshop in Alexandria – see previous post for outcomes.
  • Note taking during field work, and archiving using my smartphone
  • Annotation of photos as a form of resource documentation.
A visual model of the problems of land inheritance in Egypt, along with potential solution.
  • Creating an illustrated children’s story with my wife (story by me, illustrations by Zeinab)
I found the Betabook to be an invaluable tool, and something I could share and use freely with my peers. Asking collaborators to “draw it for me” allowed for clearer communication, and easy creation of new ideas.

Three deaf brothers I used it with in Aswan liked it so much we decided to do a spontaneous workshop to show them how to make their own.

Early prototype showing difference between readily available plastic and custom created.

We used locally sourced plastic sheet – not as good as our custom material but enough for their needs.

I hope that the project can also serve as inspiration, demonstrating that Technology need not always be digital. This project started in a bedroom with a pair of scissors, and developed in the open.

An early prototype built from an old notebook, some plastic sheet and some tape using a pair of scissors.

Since the end of my contract we have funded the product on Kickstarter. I’m pleased to report it’s been enthusiastically received by the Egyptian Market.

We recognise the current price of the Betabook makes it less accessible to all tiers of the African market. To address potential demand we are making our material available for people to produce their own. We are also encouraging group buying to reduce postage costs.

For Hubs which already use new process models such as:

  • Graphic Facilitation
  • Open Space
  • Hackathons
  • Service Design Workshops
  • Business Canvas Workshops

The Betabook offers the opportunity to reduce long term material costs and generate additional income streams.

There are lots of discussions about localised production within various hubs and organisations. We can see the potential of local micro-businesses to profit from producing their own versions of the Betabook. We’re interested to connect with communities who upcycle local waste. Collaboration with local artisans could also lead to unique product offerings.

While its too early for us to get this network of producers up and running at this point, we are eager to gage the demand for this model. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to be one of the first to know when we are ready to take this conversation further.

SK8OPIA – Skate Ethiopia

These are great news from our Ethiopia-based partner iceaddis: a student recently designed a new wheel for skateboards that can be produced in Ethiopia – made and designed in Africa. Reinventing the wheel? Eh!

Bauhaus product design student Daniel Scheidler presented his bachelor project on affordable and locally appropriate vehicles for individual transport in Ethiopia. Through extensive field research in Addis Ababa, Daniel concluded that new roads of good quality have been built across the city and the country, but owning a car is still far too costly for the great majority of the population, while the public transport system (buses & taxis) on the other hand is overcrowded. Derived from personal experience in the skateboard scene, Daniel’s proposed solution is a locally adapted type of skateboard, as a viable option for the daily transport needs of the urban masses.

Of central importance to the concept is the wheel, which was especially designed for easy production with locally available materials. Up until now, any complete wheel on the Ethiopian market, be it for bicycles, wheelchairs or skateboards, has been an expensive import from abroad. Daniel’s prototype relies on a core out of spray foam insulation, cast with a reusable mold and supported by a fiberglass coating and leather or rubber from used tires. The wheel design is meant to be gradually enhanced and adapted through the iterative process of small-scale local manufacturing.

See it all in action here (@ 01:33):

(via icebauhaus, thx!)

Maker Faire Africa comes to Jo’Burg

Maker Faire Africa was first held in Ghana in 2009, then Kenya 2010, Egypt 2011, Nigeria 2012 and now in South Africa 2014. It’s been an amazing thing to be a part of, and the best is to be there and see the local ingenuity, the practical inventions that are made by some of the smartest and scrappiest people in Africa.

Maker Faire Africa 2014

Makers from across Africa will join ZA Makers for 4-days of meet-ups, mash-ups, workshops, and seed-starting ideas for new collaborations in open innovation across the continent.

When: Sept 3-6, 2014
Where: WITS (University of the Witwatersrand), exact location TBD
Who: You + all the other Makers, just sign up

Maker Faire Pop-Up Makerspace

Maker Faire Africa 2014 will bring together over 5,000 attendees, along with featured inventors, world-class makers, self-made entrepreneurs & workshop experts from South Africa, across the continent, and around the world, to manufacture real solutions for some of Africa’s most pressing challenges & opportunities in the areas of agriculture, health, education, power, and more. Whether your interest lies in technology, engineering, science, humanities, design or fabrication, you’ll find the best grouping of enthusiastic hardware innovators at MFA 2014.

At the heart of the Maker Faire Africa Community experience is our Pop-Up Maker Space – facilitated through a collaboration between local hackerspaces & volunteers and visiting world-class makers. Open the full length of the faire, it caters to all ages, skill levels, and interests. Visitors can organize their own impromptu maker projects using available tools & supplies, attend demonstrations such as 3D-Printing Indigenous Patterns, Light Up Your Gele, or Strawberry DNA Extraction, or participate in supervised workshops such as Learn to Solder, Solar Energy for Personal Power, Microelectronics 101 or AfriRobotics for Beginners.

MFA is structured to encourage visitors to actively make, not just observe. We integrate students and professionals alongside informal inventors in a way not happening elsewhere across Africa.

Some school girl makers in Nigeria 2012

Some school girl makers in Nigeria 2012

Handmade hydraulic toys at MFA 2012 in Nigeria

Handmade hydraulic toys at MFA 2012 in Nigeria

“Solutions for Africa’s economic growth must emanate from Africa to be wholly understood and integrated. Maker Faire Africa has the potential to be the birth- place of African invention fundamental to the continent’s development… these are Africa’s unsung heroes, as it is their understanding of what is needed, rather than what is simply cool, that translates into the most valuable economic asset on the continent today.”
– Deo Onyango, GE Commercial Development Director for East Africa

Handmade Fashion Glasses - MFA Kenya 2010

Handmade Fashion Glasses – MFA Kenya 2010

(crosspost from