MAKE magazine is the epitome of Western gadget and technological home-made ingenuity. MAKE magazine is very much the American version of AfriGadget. I love the magazine, it’s one of two magazines that I subscribe to.
What’s different about African mechanics and gadgetery is that it’s generally made with much fewer, and more basic, materials. Where you might find a story on how to make high-tech robots at home in MAKE, it’s counterpart in Africa might be how to create a bicycle out of wood. No less ingenuity needed, but far more useful for an African’s everyday life.
A post by Emeka Okafor of Timbuktu Chronicles was the catalyst for this post (and from which I stole the title). He makes the point that Africans are already doing what their counterparts in the West have a sudden new found interest in. They might be doing it in a rather rough way, but with some nurturing it could create a “climate of interest” and growth in African industrialization.
A MAKE for Africa will be a non-limited set of values and practical ideas that evolve, germinate, propagate and replicate with informed nudges…
So, there is a “MAKE philosophy” already present in Africa, one that continues to grow and evolve in sophistication. What we need to do is showcase that ingenuity. Doubtless, many Americans and Europeans will be amazed at some of the simple answers to everyday problems coming out of Africa.
AfriGadget is just getting off the ground. It is a team-blog, and at this time that means we need more people as part of our team.
We would particularly like some more authors who live in Africa on the team. No matter where you are located, you’ll see (and hopefully take pictures of) some intersting gadgets or mechanical wizardry. Even if you don’t have your own blog, or have never done anything like this before, you can easily get started here.
AfriGadget will cover these categories:
- Gadgets (of course)
- Water, Wood and Metal projects that are different than the norm
Lastly, this is not a full-time commitment. If anyone just happens to come across something that shows African ingenuity we’d love to have the link, pictures, or your write-up on it.
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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
The purpose of Afrigadget is to showcase African ingenuity with technology. Many times Africans do not have access to the same quality tools or items that are found in other areas of the world. What is available to be used to solve problems or fix equipment can be wide and varied. You would be surprised at what can be made, fixed or created with bailing wire, inner-tubes and wood.