Sharing good content online isn’t always easy, as we prefer original (first-hand) content – contributed by our readers – that comes along with a permission to share these jewels. The following post first appeared in a Kenyan newspaper a month ago – we’ve tried contacting the editor in charge, but haven’t received a reply from them so far.
Still, the story is so unique, it needs to be shared:
Residents of Magomano village in Kiambu have been flocking to a homestead for a glimpse of a homemade helicopter which has been assembled by a 20 year-old farm hand.
Onesmus Mwangi started assembling the ‘helicopter’ seven months ago and has so far spent about Sh57, 000 which he started saving through Mpesa.
Mwangi said he has been buying plain sheets, boltsm filler, paint and sponge for fitting from a local supermarket.
“I bought metal bars and plastics locally and I have put an old chuff-cutter which mills animal feeds as the engine and propeller to move the wings.
The chopper weighs 25 kilograms.”The sheets are aluminum. I attempted to fly the chopper last week but it refused,” Mwangi said.”
The chopper has meanwhile been taken away by the local police “to ensure officers from the aviation sector verify whether it is fit for flying”. Right.
“If the government can educate me in engineering, I can come up with more innovations like a fast moving ship and more cohesive chopper than this one. Professionals should see whether they can improve on it.”
Full story is here!
Other objects of a certain aviational variety ex Africa include the Kahawa West Aircraft, Mubarak Abdullahi’s home-made helicopter in Nigeria, the homemade helicopter in Somaliland as well as this odd story on someone who claims to having built a single seater aircraft way back in the 1970s from an old VW Beetle engine.
Another form of “chopper” has been shared by Melissa Hogarth from South Africa:
(excuse the Comic Sans! )
“This inventive entrepreneur has taken vehicle wraps to another level!”, writes Melissa on FB.
Again – we contacted the original editors but haven’t received a reply. But since it was publicly shared on FB, we took the liberty to just repost it here.
And yes, copyright issues are important to us. Here at AfriGadget, we prefer our contributors to make use of one of the Creative Commons licences which often (not always) enable an easier sharing. AfriGadget is a group blog with no commercial interest, but we still prefer obtaining a permission to reshare the content you’ve put online.
Another part are missing stories. Often, we just have a photo and no story to come along with it. Photos or videos alone often do not tell the full story.
And here is another example:
How to fix a bicycle tube… when a glued patch isn’t appropriate:
“To fix such a problem, we designed a new way of fixing. You can simply tie the place, no need of glue, no need of nothing.”
The reasoning for this unusual fix may be a bit strange (as a correctly applied patch will also work under the influence of heat), but the solution is smart and obviously works.
AfriGadget is graduating from the small screens of laptops and smart phones to the larger screens of broadcast television. The production company Made in Africa TV is taking AfriGadget to the East African airwaves to inspire millions of viewers to become active creators of new and ingenious products, themselves. Each episode of AfriGadget TV will consist of five thoughtful stories from around the region, highlighting remarkable and unexpected hardware innovations by East Africans. These stories are inspiring mini-documentaries, portraying young and old, men and women, as well as high and low-tech innovators and their products.
Made in Africa TV plans to produce AfriGadget as separate programs in each of the Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan television markets. A local presenter will host the program and introduce the correspondents and their stories. Combined, these stories offer a unique opportunity to discover a wide range of innovations, new products and different approaches to the same goal. The program will be broadcast on a weekly basis.
Made in Africa TV is an East African social enterprise producing mass media with a social impact. We are in the process of setting up a network of video journalists from across Africa to produce the stories, which will be made available on the website as well. As an AfriGadget TV-correspondent you explore your local surroundings to find and capture the innovators and their AfriGadgets. If you are a videographer willing to become a correspondent for this program, or if you know of great AfriGadgets that should be considered for inclusion, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sulaiman Famro is a cheerful, 65 year old engineer, and a master of branding. He built the prototype “Farmking” three years ago and claims he can save the country $1 billion a year, just in savings on starch importation.
The Farmking is a one-stop processing plant for cluster and farm-site processing of root crops and grains. It has a diesel powered engine that allows for remote processing, with power out connections for lighting so that it can work all night, if needed.
On one end you have 3 devices, for chipping, grating and milling. In the middle is the power plant, and in the rear is a large steel drum that can hold 50kgs of milled cassava, that uses a spin filter to process up to 2.5 tons of milled cassava into starch.
It’s used for processing of cassava, soya beans, maize, sweet potatoes, yam and many other roots and grains. One of the more interesting uses for it is the capture of starch. Apparently there is a huge amount of waste when the processing of cassava happens in the country right now, instead of being captured it is left to seep into the ground. An incredibly wasteful, manual process currently, Sulaiman is lobbying governors of different Nigerian states to get the Farmking into their areas.
Sulaiman went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for his undergrad, then on to the Polytechnic Institute of NYU for his masters, finishing in 1976. The Farmking is a project of his that he built on his nights and weekends, claiming that he likes best to work by himself when no one else is around to bother him. It cost approximately 2.5m Naira ($16,000) to buy one, and the prototype (seen here) was built using his own money.
With the first prototype being built 3 years ago, the Farmking has yet to sell one to any other customers. Herein lies the problem for not just Sulaiman, but for many engineering-based founders of organizations. They can be incredibly good at building systems and tools, but aren’t interested, nor do they have the know-how to sell and market their product. It’d be good to see Sulaiman partner with a business person, or company, to streamline the sales and marketing side of the business so that he can make this invention work.
Note: I’ve been blogging most of this on the Maker Faire Africa blog, so go there to find more posts on the stories from Lagos, Nigeria and the innovative and fun products made there.
As one of the founding organizers for Maker Faire Africa, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of this unfolding maker movement in Africa. To be honest, it’s been going on for a while, so I guess what we’re really doing is just aggregating it in a country, and shining a spotlight on some of the great practical innovation on the continent.
Just to get a feel for the projects and people at Maker Faire Africa in Lagos this year, I put together this video with pictures from my phone. I have some more images up on Flickr.
I’ve been blogging most of this on the Maker Faire Africa blog, so go there to find more posts on the stories from Lagos, Nigeria and the innovative and fun products made there.
[Note: I originally wrote this post for Maker Faire Africa in Lagos this week, cross-posting it here]
Possibly one of the more unexpected products at Maker Faire Africa this year in Lagos is a urine powered generator, created by four girls. The girls are Duro-Aina Adebola (14), Akindele Abiola (14), Faleke Oluwatoyin (14) and Bello Eniola (15).
1 Liter of urine gives you 6 hours of electricity.
The system works like this:
- Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen.
- The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder.
- The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
- This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.
Along the whole way there are one-way valves for security, but let’s be honest that this is something of an explosive device…
Note: This is an experiment more than a real new tool for electricity generation. The net power output is negative due to the energy needed to get the hydrogen from the urine through electrolysis.
I’ve been blogging most of this on the Maker Faire Africa blog, so go there to find more posts on the stories from Lagos, Nigeria and the innovative and fun products made there.
A guest post by Kahenya, Founder of Simple Community
The name William Kamkwamba might not sound familiar to many, but he is one of the most significant technology game changers in Africa. He did not design the most glamorous device on the planet, and neither was his creation unique. However, it was extremely significant.
Using just a book, Kamkwamba, now 25, designed and built a windmill that generated electricity and pumped water in his home village in Malawi. This was significant because he proved that it was possible to build things with instant grassroots impact that did not require a business plan, a website, a marketing strategy, a funding strategy or even a glamorous launch. He gained instant fame.
Kamkwamba managed to ensure that he could meet his immediate power needs using tree branches and scrap material. He was able to generate electricity and pump water using pure green energy. That was a decade ago.
Enter the future and a decade later, we have the Saphonian Blade-less wind turbines – another African design, this time from Tunisia. It focuses on clean energy.
The inventing company, Saphon Energy, led by Mr Anis Aouini, understood that older generation turbines, built in Europe, had some fundamental flaws that no-one had resolved.
For one, they generated a lot of noise and vibration. There is the unmistakable whirring, and if you live next to one, unless it is not in motion, you could have sleepless nights before getting used to the sound. They also unwittingly kill a lot of birds. Unaware birds collide with the blades and get killed.
Not the Saphonian. It has a sail shaped body, similar in concept to sails on a boat or dhow, which makes it bladeless. The unit does not have the famous rotating blades common with older generation turbines and windmills. Even better, the advantages are not limited to aesthetics or providing environment friendly energy. The Saphonian eliminates inefficiencies usually created by moving parts in a windmill.
The lack of blades and other rotating gears means that there is very little aerodynamic energy, and this results in improved power generation. It also reduces mechanical losses. Thus, the Saphonian has been found to be about 2.3 times more significantly efficient than conventional turbines and windmills. It also means that due to the hydraulic system, the Saphonian is able to store energy, which enables it to supply a steady flow of power, provided there is wind flowing or there is energy stored in the system.
In ordinary systems, whatever is generated has to be consumed instantly. National power grids usually supply the exact amount required. This means that when demand exceeds supply, there will be some places without power. On the other hand, excess energy, not being stored, would go to waste.
The storage capability of the Saphonian is therefore significant. Further, the equipment is cheaper to produce than conventional systems. It costs 45 per cent less to develop and deploy a Saphonian Blade-less turbine. With customisations, that cost could be further reduced.
Saphon Energy has tested a 300–500 Watt system as a prototype. It has performed better than was anticipated. The company is now focused on developing a second generation prototype that in many instances, will improve on the hydro-mechanical performance of the first generation unit.
What will matter for this development and its growth is how many national electricity providers deploying wind infrastructure decide to use this more cost effective technology. The Saphonian has proved that Africa can actually improve on previously available technologies that were not as efficient as they could have been.
For William Kamkwamba, this would be a climax to his dream, that affordable energy solutions developed in Africa could actually compete with foreign platforms and even outperform them.
As Africa struggles to meet electricity needs for a growing population, it is necessary for the continent to develop its own home solutions suited for the environment and the pocket. Convenient and relevant innovations such as the Saphonian stand a good chance.
It is no wonder therefore that the Saphonian has won its parent company the KPMG innovation Grant for 2012.
For the price of Kshs. 30 /= (EUR 0.27 or USD 0.35) you’ll manage to pick up this kerosine lamp from a kiosk in Kibera, Kenya:
Certainly a great visual update to the famous tin can paraffin lamp which sells for a slightly higher price and requires additional soldering. Kerosine (or paraffin) lamps are the alternative to modern solar LED lights, and also to the (otherwise great) daylight indoor illumination via filled water bottles (invented by Alfredo Mozer in Brazil in 2002).
In other news: Maker Faire Africa is coming up again. Yay!
Maker Faire Africa on November 5th and 6th 2012 in Lagos, Nigeria. If you are a maker, please consider registering with their website. Further info will be available soon.
Oh, and if you’re on Facebook, please check out our recently relaunched page. All are welcome!
Here’s a call to all AfriGadget innovators to submit their “appropriate technical solutions” (= products and service ideas) to an international competition which was recently initiated by Siemens Stiftung (Foundation):
“We are looking for relatively simple, appropriate technical products and solutions in the categories Water & Waste Water, Energy, Food & Agriculture, Waste Management & Recycling, Healthcare, Housing & Construction and Information & Communication Technology in order to fulfil basic needs of people in developing and emerging countries. Each product or solution to be submitted has to be either already implemented in a project or needs at least a prototype with a proof of concept.”
“The project also aims to build up a database of inventions that is accessible to actors in developmental cooperation.”, the FAQ go on explaining. This actually really is the sweetest part next to the 50k EUR prize for the 1st winner, because such a database on inventions is often asked for. Here’s a good example of such a database, initiated by Engineering for Change (E4C). Let’s hope they’ll also open it up to the public and not only keep it accessible to dev aid coops only.
They also address the issue of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and state that “all intellectual properties will remain with the developer/ developing team”. This is an important step because many innovators actually don’t want submit their ideas to such competitions which are often only for pooling smart ideas – and then cashing in on the potential. For those of you who are looking for some historical explanations of IPR in many African countries, here’s an interesting paper on the topic by Kenyan economist James Shikwati (ex 2004, though).
Utamu wa kazi ni…
Talking about empowering innovations that turn into businesses, here’s a smart approach ex Tanzania: Global Cycle Solutions, a “social enterprise working to disseminate affordable, quality technology for villagers around the world”.
“Uhm, a social enterprise?”, you may ask. Social enterprises may not be on everyone’s agenda when it comes to traditional business, but their products, man, the products are sweet – and hence qualify to be mentioned as AfriGadget solutions (with such a delay, considering that the following product was launched in 2009 – apologies!):
GCS Maize Sheller Kit
A detachable maize sheller kit that fills a 90kg sack of maize in 40 minutes and which may be removed for transport. The machine is said to pay for itself within a month and costs 60 US-$. The project also reminds us of the many other “bicycle-related” blog posts on AfriGadget. Bicycles certainly are the multi-machines in many African countries.
Or how about the GCS Bicycle-powered Kiwia Phone Charger?
The GCS Bicycle-powered Kiwia Phone Charger is just another one of those mobile phone chargers that certainly sell better than the Nokia alternative – just because it’s locally available and probably also cheaper.
So there you have it – local products that also sell. How? On their blog, GCS write: “…GCS has finally figured out a sales model that works for us. With a car and PA system, and a nice spacious tent, we are having profitable road shows at the time…”.
Have a smart business idea that you’d like to cash in and which would qualify for the “empowering people. Award”? Then hurry up and submit your entry up to December 31, 2012! All winners of the competition will be announced in summer 2013. Good luck!
I.T. specialist Gabriel Nderitu from Kenya just won’t give up on his dream and did it again: after some previous experiements with a homemade aircraft, he returns with an unmanned, remote-controlled version of a microlight aircraft.
In the following video, which is unfortunately only available in Kiswahili, he takes it out for a test ride on an empty field:
Going by the info provided in the video, the “microlight” approach looks like the right way to go as it also strips the aircraft of unnecessary components. His aircraft may still be a bit too heavy though due to the lack of available and affordable light-weight materials in Kenya. Would bamboo be an alternative?
Avid readers will also notice that once again the landing gear is the weak spot and that this “natural” runway may not be the best testing ground.
The spirit though is all that matters and we salute him for his continuous efforts!
p.s.: Gabriel, if you are reading this, please register for the upcoming Maker Faire Africa which will take place in Lagos, Nigeria, later on this year. Good luck!
Update (as of June 29, 2012):
Richard Turere, the 13 year old inventor I posted about here, was selected to audition for TED. For his presentation Stefano Cassini and I made him a video.
Many people have been asking how to reach Richard. I am his guardian, please contact me Paula Kahumbu on email@example.com
“‘Here is where I come every morning to collect plastics from the garbage.’ Lucy Wambui is 50 and with a stick she grubs through the garbage in the Gioto Dumping Site in Nakuru in central Kenya. It is early morning and the stench of the waste already abhors. Lucy stays here with 30 other women forming the Minyore Women’s Group that sustains itself by selling art works made from garbage. ‘It’s not healthy living here, but we have nowhere else to go.’“
‘Gioto’ in the local Kikuyu language means garbage, and the dumping site is situated one mile outside the industrial town of Nakuru, the number four city in Kenya. Echoes of morning mist and smoke from fires mix above the garbage that lingers on the foot of the Menengai Hills. The women of Minyore are wading through the waste, looking for polythene bags and plastic soda bottles. Their name is derived from the Kikuyu word for plastic bag. Most of the women ended up here after their husbands left them behind because of drug abuse, alcoholism or having died from Aids.
The ladies collect plastic bags to make baskets and other art works for sale. Lucy Wambui is among the women and she holds a dozen of plastic bags. Some blue, black or printed in the affordable colors of a local supermarket. ‘We don’t like working here,’ she says. ‘But we are not educated and don’t have jobs. That’s the reason why we came here.’
‘When I came here I started thinking what work I could do,’ she says. ‘So I joined the women weaving baskets and making jewelry from plastic.’
Just outside the house a group of women is seated on a hill top weaving. Lucy picks some strands of plastic and joins them. ‘These baskets are very popular,’ she says while weaving. ‘They are used by mothers to go to the market, or on Sunday to carry a Bible to church. There is nowhere you can’t go with them.’ The products the women make vary from baskets, wallets, ladies bags and bracelets. They offer them on the dumping site on certain days in the week. ‘The best is to sell to tourists because then you can get a better price,’ admits Lucy. She is showing an improvised shop next to her house. A group of tourists with white legs shamelessly protruding from their shorts are admiring the products. Most of them are sent by tourist agencies and churches. ‘They come every Wednesday and that’s good for us,’ says Lucy. If she is lucky she can make 20 Euro per day. ‘When there are no tourists it can be much less.’
This self-help women’s group may just be one out of the many out there who are struggling to survive and trying to have an income based on urban waste. And while the various waste fractions suggest the introduction of a pyrolysis system or any other concept for urban waste handling, it is just remarkable how these women have managed to create a business where others just see waste. “Waste = Food”? Yes.
Richard Turere lives in Empakasi,on the edge of the Nairobi National Park, just south of the City of Nairobi. He is responsible for herding his family the livestock and keeping them safe from predators, especially lions. Being so close the park puts this family’s cattle right in the path of lions and every month they lost cows, sheep and goats. Nairobi Park has the worlds highest density of lions, and they often predate on livestock which are easier to catch.
At the age of 11 Richard decided to do something about his family’s losses. He observed that the lions never struck the homesteads when someone was awake and walking around with a flashlight. Lions are naturally afraid of people. He concluded that lions equate torches with people so he took the led bulbs from broken flashlights and rigged up an automated lighting system of four or five torch bulbs around the cattle stockade. The bulbs are wired to a box with switches, and to an old car battery charged with a solar panel that operates the family Television set. The lights don’t point towards the cattle, or on any property, but outwards into the darkness. They flash in sequence giving the impression that someone is walking around the stockade.
In the two years that his lion light system has been operating, the Turere family has had no predation at night by lions. To Richard he was just doing his job – protecting the herds. His father is beaming, stock thieves will also think twice about visiting a homestead where it appears as if someone is awake. Five of the neighbours noticed that they were getting hit by lions but not the Turere homestead. Richard has already installed the lion lights system in their bomas too.
For conservation and human wildlife Conflict management, this simple innovation is a breakthrough. The Kenya Wildlife Service report that human wildlife Conflict has cost the government Ksh71 million in compensation in 2011 alone. In Kitengela consolation of several million has been paid to the community for the loss of livestock to lions alone. This figure will rise dramatically as new legislation comes into play. Richards little device of four or five lamps, some wires and a few batteries costs less than ten dollars and has saved his father tens of cattle and therefore it has saved donors several thousand dollars in consolation. The alternative being applied elsewhere is the construction of lion proof fences but at the cost of 1,000 dollars just for materials, then there’s the cost of transport and labour it is way out of the price range fore the average pastoralist. Richards invention is cheap, local, cost effective and easy and quick to install and to maintain.
What is extraordinary about this story is that Richard has had no books or access to technical information. He says he does not know where he gets the ideas or the knowledge, and yes, he has given him self plenty of electric shocks. His father James is proud of his son, and has given him space to tinker and collect bits of gadgetry. Like so many boys, Richards dream has something to do with aircraft – he wants to be an engineer. When I first asked him about lions he said he hates them, but his invention has saved many as lions are often killed in retaliation for killing livestock. Now we need help on scaling up this idea.
Richard has just been awarded a scholarship at Brookhouse School where he intends to excel. This was all possible through support from Friends of Nairobi Park (FoNNaP) members, Michael Mbithi, Nickson Parmisa, Neovitis and Elvis, Winnie Khasakhala, Brookhouse School, AAR who have provided full medical cover.
“Safety First!”, you may think while watching the following video, but if the cheap (Chinese) polyethylene (?) extension cables just break too often due to rough handling and their low quality, chances are that someone will come up with an alternative. Like this young man in Kenya:
(no subtitles available on this one, sorry)
A young man from Kiandutu slums in Thika had always wanted to be an electrical engineer, but lack of fees denied him a chance to further his studies. And yet this has not dampen his resolve to put his mark on the world of electrical engineering.For starters, he has devised a way of making wooden extension cables, which as NTV’s Jane Ngoiri reports, is causing quite a stir in his neighbourhood. (src)
A max current set by the fuse and wooden frames that may easily burn or conduct electricity while wet probably aren’t the best conditions for this hardware hack, but hey: there’s obviously a demand for such an extension cable.
In Nyeri, Kenya a young man named Peterson Mwangi has created a way to start and switch off a car engine, via an SMS command from his cell phone. This is a lot like Morris Mbetsa’s anti-theft vehicle system using SMS of a couple years ago.
Imagineering is what it’s all about – wouldn’t you have wanted to build your own helicopter from scratch when you were 17 years old?
Joseph Omwoyo, a young Kenyan form-four student in Western Kenya, did just that and built his own version, using locally available materials. It doesn’t fly, nor does it look like it will ever take off – but what really matters is that a young boy with limited resources still had the energy to fulfill his dream:
“…Omwoyo says he got the idea while in Form One when he, together with his colleagues, toured the Kisumu Airport, and – during the short time there – the idea of making a chopper stuck to his mind”.
We’re sure that Kenya isn’t the only place where people are trying to build their own aircrafts, BUT! this certainly reminds us of the Kahawa West Aircraft story back in October 2010.
For Joseph, the helicopter may be his own escape from reality, or in his words: “Emargence Door Exit”. Touché!
Update: the original video has been removed by NTVKenya, so we can only hope it will be uploaded again in the next few days.
We’re currently fighting a bug that has affected our server [Update: Fixed! ], hence the long delay in updating this wonderful blog. Also, we recommend subscribing to this blog (because the bug doesn’t show up on our feed), so if you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to the AfriGadget RSS feed. Thank you!
“Apply Nairobi ingenuity and waterproof your house!”
Talking about reusable materials, here’s another popular reuse: a football / soccer ball made using old plastic bags, newspapers and sisal string. Demonstrated by the kids at The Nest Home, a children’s home in Limuru, Kenya:
It’s cheap, it works, it wins!
We actually prefer these creative toys as the kids learn how to MAKE things – instead of just buying cheap Chinese toys.
Anyone remembers David Mayer de Rothschild’s Plastiki, “a 60 feet (18 m) catamaran made out of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled PET plastic and waste products” that successfully conquered the Pacific Ocean last year?
Well, it seems this young man from Lamu (Kenya) had a similar idea and is in the process of building his own plastic bottle boat. Our reader Arthur Buliva from Kenya just sent us these pictures with the following explanation:
I was in Lamu recently and came across this man who was making a boat out of plastic bottles and old slippers. He was not yet finished with it yet but I took the few photos of the product that I could.
He says that he collects plastic water bottles that the tourists throw on the beach. He also wakes up early in the morning to collect bottles washed ashore from the sea. With these he has constructed the (in his own words, “first in its kind”) boat.
He water-proofs it by sealing the gaps with used slippers collected in the very same way. Then boils tar in order to glue the components all together.
Kenya believe it?
(all images kindly shared by Arthur Buliva under a CC-SA licence – thx!)
Miniature versions of vehicles are as popular with kids in Cameroon as anywhere else. Adult craftsmen across the continent use materials such as wire, beads and recycled cans to create toy bicycles, trucks and airplanes—many of which transcend the level of children’s toys and are nothing short of art objects. Indeed, some of these creations are produced for corporate clients and international buyers.
No less ingenious and fascinating are toys created by and for kids themselves, usually from the simplest of materials and tools. This includes items like toy tractors (Kenya) and SUVs (Uganda) made from recycled plastic bottles.
In Cameroon, one such popular toy crafted by kids is a ‘remote controlled’ car or ATV. These are often built from discarded flip-flops (slippers), sardine tins, bamboo or raffia palm, electrical conduit (pipe), rubber and bits of string. A variation on this theme that incorporates a split bamboo steering column and a full-sized wire steering wheel was blogged by Steve in the northwest of the country.
It’s not difficult to spot toy cars like this being piloted by kids in Cameroon—the trick is usually being able to catch up with them to photograph one. A big advantage of this design is its ability to handle rough terrain when being driven at speed. The bamboo frame, chunky tires and rubber fasteners suck up bumps in the road like a 4WD Toyota. The proud builder of this R/C all-terrain vehicle paused long enough to demonstrate his creation for me.