Inventing in the “punk of the bush:” Maker Faire Africa 2012

Picture 4“To Be a Maker is Not a Day Job,” reads the motto of the 2012 Maker Faire Africa, held earlier this month in Lagos, Nigeria. The event’s colorful branding also includes phrases like “No sitting” and “Horn before overtaking,” and serves as a great reminder that innovation is happening everywhere, not all start-ups are born and bred in a coastal city of the the United States, and not all founders wear Ray-Bans.

The “pan-African” event, now in its fourth year, describes itself thusly:

“A fellowship of creators who believe making is the most authentic form of manufacturing, and manufacturing is what forges a vigorous middle class.  We’re bold & we’re gritty. Curious & quirky. Our inventions have largely stayed hidden in the ‘punk of the bush’ and the outer reaches of the informal sector. Until now.”

While many of us think of start-ups in terms of apps and sharing services, Maker Faire focuses more on inventors and gadgets that have an eye on changing how everyday activities get carried out. The Next Web profiles one of the most interesting entries, a group of four teenaged girls–the youngest one is 14 years old!–who have created a generator powered by urine. (Robert T. Gonzalez at io9 captures our reaction nicely, writing, “it’s so freaking brilliant it makes me want travel back in time and punch 15-year-old me right in the solar plexus.”)

While innovation is inspiring in all its many forms, I’m always particularly fascinated by those who conceive of and execute new ideas in developing countries, where the parameters bear no resemblance to those in Silicon Valley. With no talk of angel investors or IPOs, Maker Faire creates an environment for innovators to form connections, and joyfully celebrates new things that make life better, and the people who created them.

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