Maker Faire Africa

05 July 2009

Interview with 

Chris Vallance, BBC Technology Correspondent


Ben -   Back in April, our technology correspondent Chris Vallance reported on the UK's first Maker Faire.  It's now gone global, and so he's back to tell us more.

Spinning lights at Maker Faire 2008Chris V. -   Africa is gearing up for its first Maker Faire in August.  Just to remind people what Maker Faires are, they're places where technology enthusiasts get together and make their own stuff out of odds and ends, using micro controllers and diodes and things they found and building weird and wacky invention.  I've been speaking to one of the organizers of Maker Faire Africa.  His name is Emeka Okafor.  He blogs at Timbuktu Chronicles and he told me what Maker Faire Africa was going to be about.

Emeka -   At Maker Faire Africa, we are going to celebrate innovation and it's not going to be a stayed trade fairish type event where people walk around and don't trod and poke what is on display.  People will have, in front of them prototypes, working models, finished products, things in process that everyone from the local metal worker right up to the roboticists have put together and put on display.

Chris V. -   There's also a grass roots technology that encompasses those who are really just ordinary people, using it to get by in often quite difficult circumstances.  Can you say a little bit more about that kind of homebrewed DIY kind of technology that you might find on the streets of Africa?

Emeka -   Yes.  The DIY homebrewed technology that you are referring to in many ways is actually so much more critical to the lives of these individuals than the DIY types in the United States and Europe.  These technologies actually form the fulcrum for the maintenance of their daily lives or their incomes.  So, they're doing it to a large degree out of necessity and as they say yes, necessity's the mother of invention but it's necessity that in many ways forms the foundation for more involved innovations and inventions.

Chris V. -   Well I've been to Maker Faires in the US and in the UK, in the United Kingdom.  What will I see if I wander around the African Maker Faire?

Emeka -   You will see the individuals who are hacking cell phones.  You will see the people who have developed food processing devices that aren't on shelves but actually being used in markets in across or in Lagos.  So, our hope is to have a continuum, a hybrid land of everything from the lowest of tech, the Afri-tech, if one would choose that word, right to students who are looking at their first robotics competition.  The more we can do so, the more successful we feel we will be in making Africans across the board, understand the importance of innovation as something that is integral to their development and prosperity.

Chris -   So that was Emeka Okafor, talking about Maker Faire Africa.  He does highlight the point that, you know, whatever people's access to resources, that basic human ingenuity is a global phenomenon and this desire to create technology whatever it's made out of, is worldwide.

Ben -   That was Chris Vallance, explaining that Maker Faire is going to Africa, giving an opportunity to people from all walks of life to share their talents and their love of making unusual things.


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