Ghanian mechanics bring cars back from the dead

The BBC Website carries a story about a Ghanaian mechanic called Frank Darko who claims that he can make any car from wrecks and scrap.

From the article:

Mr Darko is a “straighter” – so-called because he can straighten crooked vehicles.

He is one of an estimated 80,000 mechanics, engineers and artisans who work in Suame Magazine, an industrial slum, possibly one of Africa’s biggest.

Frank Darko specialises in straightening wrecked vehicles. On the outskirts of the Ghana’s second city, Kumasi, the Magazine’s origins lie in the city’s long history of working gold and other metals.

Over time, more and more of these artisans turned their hands to vehicle repairs and engineering, eventually moving to Kumasi’s Suame suburb after World War II.

In a continent and a country where buying new can stretch already overburdened pockets, the Magazine’s artisans show how far you can get with ingenuity, skill and a few mechanical tools.

How-to: Rebuild an Alternator in Africa

Bernard took me to see Stephan, an auto mechanic who is a master of fixing things with very few tools or supplies. Stephan is truly amazing, an example of an African who uses his ingenuity to solve problems that would seem insurmountable to others.

One of the things Stephan has done, is figured out a way to rebuild alternators with limited materials. Below are some pictures and a video that discuss how he does it. Supplies needed:

Rebuilt Alternator   newish alternator

  • 17 gauge copper wire
  • plastic sheet
  • bamboo
  • broken alternator

Here’s the video showing how it’s done:

Karts for Rural Africa

African KART ProjectPractical Action is a group that endevors to help solve problems in developing nations from the perspective of those in poor or rural areas. One of their projects is to help solve transportation needs.

The programme employs the following to improve transport:

  • Introduction and improvement of affordable means of transport such as bicycles, trailers, animal carts, pack animal and push carts
  • Development of local level transport services
  • Improvement of transport infrastructure such as foot paths and tracks as well as roads
  • Non-transport interventions to bring facilities closer to people e. water wells and grinding mills.

The karts shown here were designed to carry 180 liters of water. The owners make money by either hauling goods, or by leasing out the kart to others.

Bicycles: Transportation for Everything

One thing that I’ve always been amazed with is the limitless uses that bicycles are put to in Africa. It really is amazing to see them hauling everything from people, to 10 stalks of bananas, to coffins.

The “Black Mamba” bicycle – Low cost, steel-framed, traditional bicycle imported to Africa from England in the 1900s, revolutionizing road transport in Africa. A sturdy and reliable workhorse now to be found in the remotest corners of the continent.

Boda Boda – The bikes found in Central and East Africa used as taxis. The term came from being located on the border. The bodaboda taxis are part of the African bicycle culture, they started in the 1960s and 1970s and are still spreading from their origin (the Kenyan-Ugandan BORDER) to other regions.

Boda Boda Bicycle
Wooden Bicycles – Handcrafted, locally made bikes using wood and rubber for the tires. Yes, they do have brakes, which are much needed in the mountainous areas of Uganda, Zaire/Congo, and Western Kenya.

Wooden Bike
Banana Hauling – I was truly amazed as I travelled through the villages in Eastern Uganda to see the amount of banana stalks that could be loaded onto one of these bikes. The most I ever counted was 12 stalks, but I’m sure that someone out there can say they saw someone beat that recored. I’m digging through my archives for a picture of the 12 stalks, but until then this one will have to do.

Banana Hauling on a Bicycle
The Fundi – Ahh, the bicycle fundi, a magician with a baiskeli. Using only a pair of plyers, an old innertube and bailing wire he can make your ride new again! Don’t worry, if the innertubes are beyond repair and you have no money to buy new ones, my friend the fundi will show you how to pack grass into the tire to make it like new.

Bicycle Mechanic in Africa