Re-using a wheeled carriage for babies to make a living

Madmoet Abrahams has been living and working on the street for more then 20 years now. He found a great way to make a living. Everyday you’ll find him in the streets of Cape Town, South Africa collecting White paper. 1 KG of White paper will pay him 23 South African Rand (approximately $2.35) at the paper scrap yard.

Madmoet Abrahams

Per day he makes more or less 50 Rand. He is a hard worker. I met him in the pouring rain, which didn’t stop him from spitting through the bins in search for more paper. He saved money and bought a bicycle for 300 Rand last year. The bicycle, in combination with his creative re-use of a wheeled carriage for babies connected to it, allows Madmoet to make twice as much money per day! His big dream is to have a paid job and a house.

This friendly, clever and hard working man can be reached under the Sunlam bridge in Cape Town or somewhere on the street…

Madmoet explains where to go with the paper
The tools to success..

Paraffin Lamps and the Informal Recycling Industry

Franco Mithika works in Gikomba, an industrial area in greater Nairobi. His job is to take scrap metal tin cans and a soldering iron to fabricate paraffin lamps. Paraffin lamps are used by millions of Kenyans, especially those who cannot afford or get electricity into their home for lighting.

Creating Paraffin Lamps in Gikomba

It costs about 110/= Kenyan shillings to make, and it sells for around 150/= ($1.90). You can buy them wholesale for 1550/= ($20) for 24 pieces. It takes about a minute to make one (less for the truly gifted fabricators).

Here is a video of him making one:

Thinking about the unofficial recycling industry

What’s particularly interesting here, is that this scrapes the surface of a rather larger recycling industry that hums beneath the surface of the city. How it works is this. The youngest and poorest go around the city and collect scrap metal of all types. These are then taken to a buyer who sorts them into their different types. This is who people like Franco then buy from and create their wares.

The scrap metal picked up gets sold for just a few shillings per kilo. When sorted, the tin cans that Franco buys, are sold for 300/= ($4) per kilo.

So, there’s a rather efficient system at work. It’s run by entrepreneurs who figure out a way to make things work. A byproduct is that everything (metal) is used, and much less waste than there would be otherwise.

Gathering and transporting the scraps:
Informal Recycling Industry

The scrap sorting place (Kawangware):
Informal Recycling Industry

The cans for the paraffin lamps sorted:
Creating Paraffin Lamps in Gikomba

Other “sorted” scrap metal items:
Informal Recycling Industry

Your Old Keyboard and a Shoeshine Stand

Sometimes when you’re walking around Africa you come upon something that at first appears mundane. Then, upon second glance, you realize it is actually is mundane – but it’s still interesting.

Keyboard as a shoe shine holder's tool

Such was the case when I passed a shoeshiner (who didn’t want to be in the picture). On his stall there was an old, keyless keyboard, and it just didn’t seem to fit. He then told me that it serves as a perfect shoe holder that keeps the shoe polish and repair materials off of him, and as a simple non-slip surface.

Think of it as a laptop desk for shoes.

Here’s another shot:

old keyboard as a shoeshine holders tool

[See more images like this on the AfriGadget Flickr group.]