A Locally Fabricated Radio Station at MFA

Locally fabricated radio station: Ghana 101.7 FM

I’m a sucker for radios and antennas, and was just so excited to see the guys from Accra Polytechnic at Maker Faire Africa. Hayford Bempong, David Celestin and Michael Amankwanor are three members of the National Society of Black Engineers who have created a full radio with their own funds and brains.

They showed up at the event and setup the local Maker Faire Africa radio station, running at 101.7 FM. In conjunction with the speakers that they setup for the close proximity announcements, the radio was used to transmit up to a couple thousand meters away and spread the word about upcoming activities.

Basic electronics

David Celestin has been building power inverters and other electronic devices from scratch since he was a teenager. Below is one of his first power inverters, that still works, and which runs out of a little box. You can tell it is all fabricated from scraps and locally available materials.

Locally fabricated radio station: Ghana 101.7 FM

Here is their home-brew VHF SWR meter:

Locally fabricated radio station: Ghana 101.7 FM


The team also creates their own antennas from scratch, including the “slim jim” below, “ground plane and a circular antenna.

Locally fabricated radio station: Ghana 101.7 FM

Agriculture and Metal Fabrication Meet in N. Ghana

Corn seed planter

Corn seed planter

This is a corn planter. It costs approximately $10 (15 Cedis) to make, and it significantly decreases the time that it would normally take to plant corn. This invention came about by taking a look a medical pill dispensing devices and transferring that knowledge to his communities needs.

Shamsudeen (“Sham”) Napara lives in the norther part of Ghana, which is a lot more rural and isolated than the southern part of the country where you find Accra, or the central part, where you find Kumasi. He has a metal fabrication shop where he builds tools, mostly for agricultural needs of those in the surrounding areas.

He was at Maker Faire Africa this weekend and I was completely amazed at both the ingenuity and the quality of his work.

Shea Nut Roaster

Maker Faire Africa: Ghana 2009

That’s not all that Sham has been up to though, in fact, he’s been busy with a couple other projects. Specifically, he’s been working with Amy Herman from the Univesity of Indiana to figure out how to enhance traditional processes familiar to those in Norther Ghana. This means he does a lot with Shea nuts and the processing of them. It is one of the few fields dominated by the women in the community, and a lucrative business, since the processing from raw to refined can net a good margin of profit.

Below is a shea nut roaster – a small version, since the large ones are the size of a table. It costs around $40 (60 Cedi), and it decreases the time and energy normally expended in the work of getting the nuts ready for processing.

Shea Nut Roaster

Shea Nut Roaster

Soap Cutter

Though he has many more inventions in his workshop in Northern Ghana, the last of the three items that he brought to Accra was a soap cutter. It’s a device that has a hinge on one end that opens and closes with piano wires and guitar screws to hold wire tight across the device. As it is closed, it slices the soap cleanly.

A soap cutter

Retrofit Turns a bicycle to an ‘Ambulance’

Zambikes is a project that retrofits bicycles by adding a trailer. This is especially useful in rural Zambia (and other parts of Africa) where there aren’t many cars to get the sick to hospital, much less an ambulance.

Watch how the ‘Zambulance’ retrofit is made…

The ‘ZamCart’
A multipurpose trailer


Interestingly, the Zambike project sells and outfits bikes under the local brand name of ‘Amaka Sana’, the Bemba word for ‘very strong’ .

To learn more: Zambikes.org and follow @ACIRFA_Zambikes on twitter

via Timbuktu Chronicles

What Do You See?

I have a talk that I give when people ask me to speak on AfriGadget at conferences that is called, “What do you see?”. It’s a visual and interactive quiz where I take the audience through different images of AfriGadget and ask them what they’re looking at. It’s a lot of fun, and it proves to everyone why it’s so hard for people in the West to come up with contextually relevant life hacks in Africa.

Below are some images from an old family friend who has spent his life working in rural Southern Sudan and Kenya. Under each image you’ll see why it’s interesting. By the way, I too missed the relevance of the flip flops at first glance…

Old flip flops made into door hinges

Making use of available resources for a hinge. I really like the way that Ben has used these old slippers and shoe for the hinge of his small kiosk/shop at Butere.

Home made African chair

This old chair at Mahanga in Western Province shows the ingenuity of the local carpenters in making use of available resources, with the carton and stuffing from sisal and wood shavings.

Bottles and plants in Kenya

Using available containers in a nursery for medicinal plants in Asembo area of Western Kenya.

Fanta bottle pipe

Making use of a Fanta bottle to channel water from the rainwater downpipe to a storage container in Nairobi.

A special thanks to Roger Sharland of REAP East Africa for sending in the pictures.