Where the World Sees Junk, Africa Recycles

This post is dedicated to Blog Action Day, where thousands of blogs around the world unite to talk about one theme. This year it is the environment.

Recycled Sheet Metal Crocodile

Simon Mwangi calls himself a mabati (sheet metal) blacksmith. He takes junk and creates beautiful metal animal sculptures. If you happen by his roadside shop on Ngong Road in Nairobi, you’ll see a number of crocodiles and if you’re lucky, a full sized giraffe.

If you’re in the market for a crocodile, which he sells primarily to hotels, be ready to pay 30,000 Kenya Shillings (about $450). They take about one week to make.

A Successful Business Entrepreneur in Africa

What’s remarkable about Simon, beyond the actual artwork that he fabricates, is that everything he does and works with is made from left over metal junk. Even the welding machines that his team uses are made by the team from leftover metal plates and copper wire. (See an example of the welder at this earlier AfriGadget post)

This is an excellent example of how Africans reuse and recycle to meet their needs. Many times their ingenuity creates thriving businesses, proving that entrepreneurship and environmental needs aren’t mutually exclusive.

(More images in the AfriGadget Flickr Group)

Author: Erik Hersman

Erik is the owner of White African, a blog about technology and Africa. He is the co-founder of Zangu, a new web and mobile phone application that he hopes will change communication in Africa. AfriGadget is another web project of his, not that he doesn't have enough of those already...

31 thoughts on “Where the World Sees Junk, Africa Recycles”

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  4. I liked this series of photos on flickr and the blog entry is very informative. Who would his client base be?

    If you do more series like this, you should submit it to one of the ABANA (www.abana.org) publications. A lot of USA blacksmiths/steel artists would love to see it.

  5. The Jupiter Drawing Room
    Telephone: +27 21 442 7000
    3rd Floor, The Terraces, Fir Street,
    Observatory, Cape Town 7705
    South Africa
    17th Sep 2008

    Attn: Mr. William Kamkwamba

    Dear Mr. William Kamkwamba


    I am a representative from the Art Buying department at The Jupiter Drawing Room, Cape Town, one of South Africa’s largest independent advertising agencies.

    I am writing to request your permission to include a reference to Mr. William Kamkwamba and his/your windmill design, as part of a print advertising campaign developed for one of our clients, Interactive Africa.

    Interactive Africa hosts the annual Design Indaba Conference, a multi-disciplinary event, which celebrates the twelve sectors in the creative industry. These sectors include: architecture, product design, graphic design, advertising, music, fashion, film, photography, craft, interior design, visual & performing arts. Design Indaba Conference 2009 will be the 12th year the Conference has been held in South Africa. Speakers from all over the world participate in the teachings at Design Indaba and Design Indaba strives to allow South Africans to showcase their various talents and in the process, learn & gain inspiration from various national & international speakers.

    Design Indaba 2009 is about celebrating the genius and ingenuity of the everyday man. In the past, Design Indaba has focused on high profile artists and designers. However the theme this year is ‘What can your creativity do?’ It is a call to everyone to use their creativity to solve problems we encounter in our world. In order to develop a sustainable future, everyone will have to make a difference. It is best summed up with the line: “It’s your future, design it”.

    We have selected Mr. William Kamkwamba and his/your windmill design as one of our case-studies as we feel this is a fantastic example of innovative product design that has resulted in social benefits for a community.

    We would humbly like to request your permission to reference Mr. William Kamkwamba and his/your windmill. Pending his/your permission, we would also like to request your further assistance in providing us with photographs of yourself and your windmill invention that will form part of our first print ad.

    I look forward to talking to you in person. I would greatly appreciate it if you could supply me with a direct telephone number.

    Thanking you in advance.


    Alex van Tonder sent on behalf of
    Mandy Hendler
    Art Buyer
    The Jupiter Drawing Room

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