Inspiring Africa’s Maker Movement

Afrimakers – the brainchild of ex-Google engineer Stefania Druga – is an initiative that strives to “inspire young African Makers and plant the seed of local change through social entrepreneurship, digital fabrication and regional collaboration.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the project is backed by HacKIDemia, which recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help create Maker workshops focused on local challenges in 7 key locations: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Egypt.

Each of these locations are slated to receive a Maker kit packed with equipment, including Atmel-based Arduino Uno (ATmega328) boards. Meanwhile, a local team will be recruited and trained by HacKIDemia to organize and run hands-on workshops in local private and public schools.

According to Druga, the social problems the world faces today are quite complex and require multiple perspectives, along with a diversity of opinions, ideas and initiatives. This progressive global philosophy is championed by the Maker Movement.

“I think [the] Maker Movement is still very close to people’s hearts in emerging markets and they have a much more intimate relationship with the things they make and use because they have to value them more,” Druga recently told VetntureBurn. “I hope these communities will understand that this Movement can also empower them to make their own decisions and take their future in their own hands. I believe this attitude changes faster when people are young which is why I think we should give young people a voice and a role to play in the Maker Movement.”

Druga also emphasized that DIY hands-on learning has always played a critical role in human development.

“This is how we started to learn from the beginning of times – with our hands, while discovering and exploring the world around us and trying to survive. Using our hands helps us think and understand,” she continued.

“In a world where everyone looks at online education, I believe that we should bring the hands-on learning back in the conversation and give children an opportunity to understand old know-hows and adapt them to our current reality. We don’t want to live in a society of just consumers but one of creators where collective intelligence and connected local communities are given the tools to solve their own problems.”

In addition, Druga said she believes the world is currently facing a form of cultural neo-colonialism, where tech leaders believe technology will solve all our problems.

“[Some believe] we should just give a tablet/a computer to every child and education will be re-invented,” she explained. “I am afraid I don’t share these beliefs and I am very concerned by the fact that we tend to have a more uni-directional view on problems – from developed countries towards emerging markets – making constant assumptions about what people need and what they should do.”

As such, Afrimakers is geared towards an environment where people are worried about daily needs.

“Everything we do has to be connected to practical solutions that could immediately touch their lives. Children care a lot about their families and their community and in order for them to contribute in a meaningful way to their daily lives they need to master both practical and entrepreneurial skills,” added Druga.

“This is naturally achieved when the children are working on very specific prototyping projects which allows them to get to design and implement all the stages of iteration of a new solution and think both about the fabrication process and the costs and impact. The children are using design thinking applied to solving real problems with extremely affordable prototyping and this enables them to be smart, fast, think about ecosystems and calculate all possibilities.”

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