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!

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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!

The Mukombe – Zimbabwe’s Tippy Tap

Dr. Peter Morgan, winner of the 2013 Stockholm Water Prize and resident of Zimbabwe, recently shared the design of The Mukombe on the forum of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance. The Mukombe is a hand washing device – a “tippy tap” as it is commonly known within the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) scene – as it just requires a little tip to provide the user with just enough water to wash the hands. In water-arid areas, such a simple device can be essential to hygiene.

Naturally occuring Mukombe

“(The Mukombe) was first conceived by Dr Jim Watt when he worked in Zimbabwe as a Salvation Army doctor in Chiweshe in the late 1970′s. (…) This vegetable had a hard shell and could be used as a gourd or calabash for carrying water and other commodities. It is commonly grown in the fields. The great innovation was to turn this common plant into a hand washing device. (…) Many years ago I made a fibre glass replica of this remarkably simple and elegant device. Many if not most natural plants did not have the right shape. Using the fibre glass replica with its idealised shape, Prodorite in Harare have been able to mass produce the product. The mukombe holds about 2 litres of water and can provide enough water in a single filling to give about 35 hand washes.”

How the Mukombe works (drawings by Jim Watt)

“Modifications are made to the naturally occurring Mukombe. An opening is made in the top and a cork or plug is placed at the end of the neck as shown above, with a small opening for water to drain. Holes are drilled into the top of the mukombe and a string passed through. The mukombe is suspended by the string so that it lies at a special angle. The mukombe is filled with water and then tipped up so that some water passes up the neck. When the mukombe comes to its resting position again, some water is left at the end of the neck and slowly drains out. It is this water which is used to wash the hands. The flow stops automatically when the small reservoir in the neck runs out.” (source)

Use at a school

The beauty of the Makombe over other tippy taps is that the design is based on a naturally grown product and that it only uses a very little amount of water. Plus: you can hang it anywhere, there is no need for an advanced construction. Clearly another winner in the “it’s cheap, it works, it wins”-category.

Avid readers may remember Dr. Morgan as the inventor of the Blair Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) Latrine, which has meanwhile been adapted as the national standard by the government of Zimbabe.

Bulb 2.0 and Maker Faire Africa 2012

For the price of Kshs. 30 /= (EUR 0.27 or USD 0.35) you’ll manage to pick up this kerosine lamp from a kiosk in Kibera, Kenya:
Kibera lamp

Certainly a great visual update to the famous tin can paraffin lamp which sells for a slightly higher price and requires additional soldering. Kerosine (or paraffin) lamps are the alternative to modern solar LED lights, and also to the (otherwise great) daylight indoor illumination via filled water bottles (invented by Alfredo Mozer in Brazil in 2002).

Thx, Majala!

In other news: Maker Faire Africa is coming up again. Yay!


Maker Faire Africa on November 5th and 6th 2012 in Lagos, Nigeria.  If you are a maker, please consider registering with their website. Further info will be available soon.

Oh, and if you’re on Facebook, please check out our recently relaunched page. All are welcome! 🙂

EUR 50k award up for grabs in international appropriate tech competition

Here’s a call to all AfriGadget innovators to submit their “appropriate technical solutions” (= products and service ideas) to an international competition which was recently initiated by Siemens Stiftung (Foundation):

Siemens empowering people award

“We are looking for relatively simple, appropriate technical products and solutions in the categories Water & Waste Water, Energy, Food & Agriculture, Waste Management & Recycling, Healthcare, Housing & Construction and Information & Communication Technology in order to fulfil basic needs of people in developing and emerging countries. Each product or solution to be submitted has to be either already implemented in a project or needs at least a prototype with a proof of concept.”

(src: FAQs)

“The project also aims to build up a database of inventions that is accessible to actors in developmental cooperation.”, the FAQ go on explaining. This actually really is the sweetest part next to the 50k EUR prize for the 1st winner, because such a database on inventions is often asked for. Here’s a good example of such a database, initiated by Engineering for Change (E4C). Let’s hope they’ll also open it up to the public and not only keep it accessible to dev aid coops only.

They also address the issue of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and state that “all intellectual properties will remain with the developer/ developing team”. This is an important step because many innovators actually don’t want submit their ideas to such competitions which are often only for pooling smart ideas – and then cashing in on the potential. For those of you who are looking for some historical explanations of IPR in many African countries, here’s an interesting paper on the topic by Kenyan economist James Shikwati (ex 2004, though).

Utamu wa kazi ni…

Talking about empowering innovations that turn into businesses, here’s a smart approach ex Tanzania: Global Cycle Solutions, a “social enterprise working to disseminate affordable, quality technology for villagers around the world”.

“Uhm, a social enterprise?”, you may ask. Social enterprises may not be on everyone’s agenda when it comes to traditional business, but their products, man, the products are sweet – and hence qualify to be mentioned as AfriGadget solutions (with such a delay, considering that the following product was launched in 2009 – apologies!):

GCS Maize Sheller Kit
GCS Maize Sheller Kit

A detachable maize sheller kit that fills a 90kg sack of maize in 40 minutes and which may be removed for transport. The machine is said to pay for itself within a month and costs 60 US-$. The project also reminds us of the many other “bicycle-related” blog posts on AfriGadget. Bicycles certainly are the multi-machines in many African countries.

Or how about the GCS Bicycle-powered Kiwia Phone Charger?
GCS Bicycle-powered Kiwia Phone Charger

The GCS Bicycle-powered Kiwia Phone Charger is just another one of those mobile phone chargers that certainly sell better than the Nokia alternative – just because it’s locally available and probably also cheaper.

So there you have it – local products that also sell. How? On their blog, GCS write: “…GCS has finally figured out a sales model that works for us. With a car and PA system, and a nice spacious tent, we are having profitable road shows at the time…”.

Have a smart business idea that you’d like to cash in and which would qualify for the “empowering people. Award”? Then hurry up and submit your entry up to December 31, 2012! All winners of the competition will be announced in summer 2013. Good luck!