It is one thing to drool over the coming digital age in Africa just by studying the numbers, charts and info-graphics. It is a whole other experience to encounter the early signs of all of those numbers and projections in real life. An even bigger experience when you stumble upon genius in the making right in your back yard.
Remember these kids that built their own toys? Turns out creative genius runs in my family. (Must have skipped right over me, this gift. Le sigh.)
As I was leaving my mother’s house in Masindi after an all too brief visit, I stopped into the boys quarters to say bye to my little brother and two of my nephews. They were busy listening to the radio and I was wondering where the radio came from cause certainly my mother wouldn’t afford them such a luxury.
My jaw dropped and Afrigadget logos started spinning above my head in excitement all cartoon-style! After pestering my mother to get them a radio for the room they used as their club house to no avail. They decided to just embark on building one themselves.
So while on holiday from school, my brother Caleb, 12; my nephews Ronald, 15 and Jesse, 12 rounded up some scrap parts and built what you see above in about a day. I didn’t have enough time to interview them properly, but man was I smiling all the way to Kampala.
Mind you that this was done out of curiosity and not some educational endeavor. Can you imagine what else Africa’s kids could build given even a slight revamp of the education system? With nearly 50% of our population under the age of 15, just how many curious minds are just waiting for an opportunity to do something like this?
As an aside, you can’t tell me you would have thought to use a jerrican as a boombox! That’s just beyond mad genius. Anyone know of cheap engineering kits I could get them to continue to play?
Maina, Rhoda and little Winnie are a typical Kenyan family who live on the outskirts of Nairobi in an area that has no electricity.
But they have solved the problem of getting the daily news
When I visited their home I was impressed that despite the lack of electricity, Maina has come up with an innovative solution and is able to keep up with whats going on and listen to his favourite Kikuyu music all day long!
Here’s a better look at the system – a second hand car battery hooked up directly to his radio
The wiring is simple
Fully charged the battery last 2 weeks. To recharge Maina has to take it to a place in town for 24 hours at a cost of Ksh 50 (about 80 cents US. If he were to use ordinary batteries Maina would be paying several hundreds of shillings per month (15$) and creating toxic waste with their disposal (Kenya has no battery disposal system). No wonder used batteries are in such huge demand!
And no wonder this family is smiling!
I’m wondering how much it would cost to hook up Mainas battery to a solar panel and some lights. They currently depend on hurricane lamps. Powered with kerosene these are not only a weak source of light but are dangerous and prone to cause fires.
Got any ideas anyone – can we charge a car battery from solar?
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.
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.
Here is their home-brew VHF SWR meter:
The team also creates their own antennas from scratch, including the “slim jim” below, “ground plane and a circular antenna.
Not all inventiveness is utilitarian (or, business can be fun and fun can mean more business…).
Such is the case with this video by Eric Kabera – the maker of the genocide film “100 days” and inventor of Hillywood – Rwanda’s version of Hollywood. In it he interviews Alphonse Maniriho, an unschooled young 23 year old with an idea: take the classic “Black Mamba” bicycle and completely customize it.
Being a smart young businessman, Alphonse uses his unique bicycle to his advantage, getting extra business from young men who want to ride with him so they can listen to the beats along the way.
A quick list of customizations:
A watch, set in an old shoe polish can
Lights, that flicker in the front and back at night
Radio, for his passengers to listen to
A little background on what being a taxi man is in East and Central Africa is probably important for most who haven’t been to Africa. They have a seat on the back of the bicycle and use that to take passengers around. In East Africa they also go by the term “boda boda” (because they originated around the border of Uganda and Kenya).
Bonus: at about the 8:30 minute mark there are some nice videos of the wooden bikes used around Africa.
AfriGadget’s second monthly BBC/PRI interview with The World is now live. Juliana, one of the editors who also blogs at Afromusing, was interviewed this month. You’ll hear her start talking at about 17:15 in the podcast.
(I took this shot of Juliana while at DEMO, where we did a panel on tech in Africa)
It’s been a lot of fun to start sharing some of the stories and vision behind AfriGadget through the radio. Clark Boyd is a real pro, so it makes it easier for us amateur radio interviewees to figure out what we’re doing. (thanks Clark!)
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