Recap of Maker Faire Africa 2009

Maker Faire Africa 2009 is over and it’s time for me to give a short résumé.


William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba

The makers

The story that impressed me the most was William Kamkwamba from Malawi – “The boy who harnessed the wind“. He built a windmill from material he found at the scrap yard just by looking at diagrams at the local library. Although people in his community considered him as crazy he kept going and is now able to power his family’s house, a water pump and some other services with the electricity created. Furthermore he teaches other people how to build windmills. His talk was quite impressive as he seems to be a very shy guy and talked very silently, but with a self-assurence as if it would be the most natural thing what he did. Really remarkable.

Another fascinating story was the one of Johannes, a maker who assembled furniture from plastic bottles and founded a company called Planiture or Planish, didn’t quite understand that. His motivation was that he had moved in a totally empty apartment in Kumasi and thought of ways to create inexpensive furniture. After a while he came up with plastic bottles as frame and leather cover. Due to his words most people who see the pieces just say “wow” – and indeed that’s how I felt as well when looking at them. They are really comfortable, too.

Dominic Wanjihia - from

Dominic Wanjihia - from

Another maker with whom I spent a great deal talking about his products and in the following also about Africa’s current state was Dominic Wanjihia from Kenya. He presented two products, both of which aimed at extend the life-span of food. One was an evaporative cooler, another one a food dryer based on sunlight. His motivation for those pieces were that in Africa obviously 60-80% of the food goes bad due to insufficient storage and refridgerating solutions – new information for me.


The atmosphere

The atmosphere of all three days was very relaxed and friendly – but at times also tense and inspiring. Everybody was up for a little chat and willing to share his story. The good weather and openness of the venue contributed to the good spirit. Furthermore the story of the makers were really stimulating and there was a feeling of positive uprising in the air. People denounced the problems of Africa – but also offered simple solutions and ingenious ideas. Everybody was motivated and significant improvement of the continent’s state seemed possible this weekend.


The venue

Small conference room at AITI

Advanced Information Technology Institute – AITI and generally Accra was a really cool place for Maker Faire.

AITI offered great internet connectivity for everybody to share the event online – and judging by tweets, really many people internationally followed it. The seperation with inside – workshop and sessions, outside – showing of devices was good and invited many visitors to stay and commute between inside and outside. Furthermore – music was great and thanks for the food!

Accra provided nice venues for a drink afterwards, only the traffic was quite annoying.



Several organizations took part in Maker Faire, two of which impressed me quite a lot.

Inveneo is an organization based in California and specialises on the creation and sale of apropriate technology. The showcased devices – computers, servers, routers, … – were really impressive. Compact and robust, they reduce energy consumption by a large amount. Additionally Inveneo offers batteries which can be solar-powered to eliminate the problem of power cuts.

Louisa (Butterfly Works), Charles (Internet Research) and me on Johannes' plastic-bottle couch

Butterfly Works, a Durch organization helped organize Maker Faire and presented several projects – including Naitobits, the original program which inspired Zanzibits, amongst others. One cool project they did during Maker Faire was called “Match a Maker” – aiming at connecting people having problems in “making things” with people offering solutions all over the world. The project was actually initiated right there at Maker Faire, I hope it will be online soon.


Suggestions for next time

Some small remarks to the organization: as the planned schedule was quite strict and didn’t consider the existence of a second presentation room, the schedule was changed several times which led to some confusion and to some skipped sessions. By offering a schedule with more empty spaces and a possibility for parallel sessions this could be solved.


Overall, the whole event was great – lots of interesting people and projects, fascinating devices, insightful talks. See you next year in Nairobi!


Here once again the links to the blogposts on on Maker Faire Africa

the Maker Faire Africa Aggregator on Maneno and the Maker Faire Africa FlickR group.

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Recap of Maker Faire Africa 2009
was published on 17.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Maker Faire Africa, Accra, Sunday: Sessions

Notes from the Maker Faire Africa 2009 in Accra, Ghana from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th August.

Follow the MFA09 aggregator on Maneno.

MFA09 program available here.


Emeka Okafor – Announcements

What is happening after Maker Faire?

Announcing of prizes:

  • Multi machine prize: encourage individuals in Ghana to put together multi machines by the end of the year – 500$
  • Next Maker Faire – hopefully in Kenya, Nairobi -> looking forward for a Maker Faire price – 1500$

Acknowledgement of the partners and sponsors


Emer Beamer,  Patricia – Match a maker

Searching for people with AutoCAD skills, for a sys-admin internship in Ghana or somebody with skills in Shae-butter production – look at Match a Maker, soon to be announced on Butterfly Works


Mark Davies – Esoko, Wayan Vota – Inveneo, Miquel – Maneno; Building SMS applications and bandwidth ICT models

Phone is perfect for applications as the reach is really good

Various examples:

Various free APIs

  • RapidSMS
  • FontlineSMS
  • InfoBip
  • YoohBulk
  • IntelliSMS
  • Clickatell

SMS – the lowest common denominator, but also hightest cost per data

Maneno – specifically designed for low bandwidth

  • everything compressed (images, …)
  • design very light-weight


  • low number of requests
  • Google page analyser
  • Ajax has to be used cautously – can be very annoying

Where do web developers in Ghana host websites?

  • usually in the US
  • because of price reasons
  • web hosters in Ghana can’t assure 24/7 availability
  • maybe hosting content in Africa would be a good idea – or at least Europe as it’s closer to Africa (lower latency)

What about only designing websites for only Africa and not caring about the rest?

For technological discussion – new Accra technology group, meeting every month


Prizes for engaged people

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Maker Faire Africa, Accra, Sunday: Sessions
was published on 16.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Maker Faire Africa, Accra, Saturday – Workshops

Notes from the Maker Faire Africa 2009 in Accra, Ghana from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th August.

Follow the MFA09 aggregator on Maneno.

MFA09 program available here.


Workshop: Localization – Suuch Solutions, Ghana


  • everybody can localize
  • provides fonts with every African symbol
  • different date formats, currency symbols
  • translations are stored in the kasaharow database


  • low presence in Africa
  • not available in many African languages – only one officially
  • call for people: localize Firefox to your language


  • site support in many local languages – currently 8
  • trying to foster creation of content in African languages
  • faster for people in Africa – optimization for low bandwidth

Localization is not just translation – new words may not have a translation in e.g. Twi

ANLoc – the African network for localization – group of localization companies, trying to formalize their procedure

Language is part of who you are – that’s a huge reason to advocate localization of content and usage of language


Maker Show & Tell

IDDS – chlorine dosing team

IDDS – chlorine production team

Notes from IDDS final presentation

Tosh – Nairobits

Offering IT and webdesign education to disadvantaged youth in Nairobi

  • Teaching also entrepreneurship
  • Also developing Flash-games
  • Many great designed webpages
  • Curriculum is online

Paul Sika – Photographer

Photographer and entrepreneur

  • scripting pictures as if scripting for a movie
  • started casting people – young actors
  • important – keeping artistic integrity at the beginning of the career, not being commercial too early

Sam Kessie – filma maker

Searching for collaborators on a new movie

  • showing the trailer
  • “Mourning movies”
  • shot in 3 days
  • cost very little money
  • high quality

Trying to make movies from Ghana more interesting to international community – Ghana has a lot of stories to tell

Where do you get your inspiration from?

  • was a former psychology student – life in general gives ideas
  • it’s often like a comedy because that’s often the only way we can handle that

IDDS – energy production team

How long will the battery last using a light?

  • 60 watt-hours of energy in a can
  • 3 D-cell batteries

Johannes – furniture maker – planiture

Rented a room when going to university in Kumasi, but there was nothing there – even had to sit on the floor

Experimented with various materials -> Decided to create furniture from plastic bottles

  • All people who ses it are amazed
  • dream: house from plastic bottles
  • raising funds now
  • trying to rebuild all the children’s centers in Ghana

All problems’ solutions lie in yourself

Production cost?

  • way cheaper than usual chairs ~60% less
  • everything was from recycling

How many bottles would a house need and how long would it take?

  • probably millions of bottles
  • many bottles are donated, a woman collects them for him at the market

Kenneth Mubuyaete – Zambulance at Disacare wheelchair centre

Organization provides aim for people with disabilities

  • should empower them to be able to earn a living on their own

Generating a device to easily move people with disabilities, creating several devices for disabled people now

Where does the material come from?

  • most things locally, things that are not produced locally from the region (Kenya)

IDDS – plastic recycling team

Florian Sturm, – Hello Africa, a movie on mobile phone culture in Zanzibar
More information on Hello Africa

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Maker Faire Africa, Accra, Saturday – Workshops
was published on 15.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Maker Faire Africa, Accra, Saturday: Makers, makers, makers

Notes from the Maker Faire Africa 2009 in Accra, Ghana from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th August.

Follow the MFA09 aggregator on Maneno.

MFA09 program available here.


Some impressions from Saturday – makers showing their products.

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Maker Faire Africa, Accra, Saturday: Makers, makers, makers
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Maker Faire Africa, Accra, Friday: sessions 2nd part

Notes from the Maker Faire Africa 2009 in Accra, Ghana from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th August.

Follow the MFA09 aggregator on Maneno.

MFA09 program available here.


Panel: African Invention – what drives innovation on the continent?

Dominic Wanjihia, Kenya

Nana Aquah Kofi, Ghana

Emeka Okafor, Nigeria

William Kamkwamba, Malawi

Impediments of innovation

  • The old generation has a mindset not trusting the youth and not encouraging them to try things
  • Teachers are often not too creative, curious pupils are often shut down
  • Often education is seen with an end – a degree


  • Delivering constant quality is hard but quality is the key for international recognition
  • Look at your neighbours (Mala, Cameroon, …) before seeking approval internationally
  • Look at what people do, rather than what degree they have


Panel: Dissemination, Models for Technology Diffusion

Erik Hersman, AfriGadget

Amy smith, IDDS

FabLab Ghana

FabLab Kenya

Engineers for change

IDDS: Create prototypes, not papers; create technology and technologists

Engineers for change:

  • repository for problems and solutions
  • project management & communication tool
  • network for engineers internationally

There is no mechanism with which to share best practices

Often people just can’t invest in new technologies because the capital and time is scarce


Scott Fifer – Go Campaign Prize Announcement

NGO supporting projects helping children – the future of Africa depends on the future of its children

Scholarship for makers organizing workshops



Makers show & tell

IDDS – playground power team

Notes from IDDS final presentation

Is this being disseminated and how?

  • Thinking about using the merry-go-round for advertising
  • Approaching school systems

What was the biggest challenge?

  • making it cheap


Jodie Wu

Just finished MIT, talking about a project started 2 years ago

Technology to shell maize

  • bicycle used for that purpose
  • bike-device was rented and payed itself off in 20 days
  • right now – create an interface for the bike to attach any technology to it

How about releasing the designs – when you actually want to make profit?

  • the basic technology has been around for hundreds of years
  • I see it as a success when people are copying it


Panel: From invention to investor – getting venture finance to perfect your idea

Emeka Okafor

Mark Grimes, NedSpace

Nii Simmonds, Nubian Cheetah

Problem in Africa: many inventions don’t get investment easily, the investment market is quite underdeveloped currently is a great idea – allowing everybody to look at entrepreneurs in various countries and invest in their business

People talk about technology – but we need to look at basic stuff

Also corporate social responsibility programs will not bridge the gap – as big companies will not fund their ultimate opponents

Due to the crisis now is the time to make money – and eventually make the world a better place

Africa is open for business (Carol Pineau) and not different to other continents


  • funding – one reason why this event is hold
  • support from experiences person – platforms such as Nedspace provide a solution
  • having an office – a company address

One model is to look at others and adapt their behavious to your environment

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Maker Faire Africa, Accra, Friday: sessions 2nd part
was published on 14.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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Afrika Maker Faire Accra, Friday: Introduction and sessions 1st part

Notes from the Maker Faire Africa 2009 in Accra, Ghana from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th August.

Follow the MFA09 aggregator on Maneno.

MFA09 program available here.


Welcome speech

Nii Simmonds

The event was a journey and a collective effort

People that came here are

  • makers
  • engineers
  • academics
  • people that understand – Africa really needs to take off


Emeka Okafor

This is a networking opportunity, especially for Africans

The event is about

  • energizing
  • amplifying
  • elevating
  • disseminating

what already already appears, fostering entrepreneurship, but also having fun


Makers Show & Tell

William Kamkwamba – created a windmill producing electricity on his own in rural Malawi

  • movie: moving windmills
  • you have to start with a first step
  • hopefully we come up with finding out about innovations as great until Sunday

Where did the idea come from?

  • 2001 – hunger in Malawi, no money for going on to school
  • -> reading books to keep up with colleagues, especially diagrams
  • picture of windmill
  • got stuff from the scrap place and just started building one
  • Later – applying knowledge acquired from travel to the US – building a bigger windmill to pump water

What happens if something breaks?

  • Williams cousin knows how to repair stuff
  • more people want to learn it, one already built an own working windmill

Where do the things come from?

  • most things are locally available

What’s next?

  • short term: teaching people
  • long term: commercial company


IDDS – refridgerator team

Notes from IDDS final presentation

How was working with the community?

  • was the greates part, many ideas/advice, great feedback
  • they tried stuff out and helped in testing -> fostered innovation

Which design principles?

  • Direct feedback by endusers
  • Co-creation
  • Letting users see and try it – exploring & improving


Pat – multi machine

Nowadays everything has to be built using a machine tool – which are very expensive

Multi machine:

  • device which is easy to build
  • combines several machine tools
  • using old (from 1830s) technology
  • anybody can build it

There are no actual plans but there is a DVD with instruction -> which is handed out for free

Feedback of people?

  • it’s built all over the world
  • the machine can be used for virtually anything
  • now working on a treadle mechanism

Q & A

William: what were the difficulties with the first prototype?

  • didn’t convince the community, only the family
  • had to get the old bicycle of his father

Pat: which website?

  • Yahoo group: multimachine newsgroup

IDDS team: where is everything documented?


William: things that didn’t work and had to be redone?

  • couple of things: eg bicycle chain went off all the time

William: what are the costs for a windmill and how many people does it serve?

  • about 50$, Williams family can live from it & it is used for charging mobile phones

General advice:

  • Pat: Persistence is vital
  • IDDS team: Sometimes the problem has to be reformulated


Amy Smith – founder of IDDS, D-Lab

Involving everybody in a design activity

5 water sachets -> build something from it!

Various solutions of the teams

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Afrika Maker Faire Accra, Friday: Introduction and sessions 1st part
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