From a group of Nigerian high school girls who made an app to scan and detect fake medications, to an outdoor aluminum oven that preserves locally farmed crops in Kenya… . Africa Maker has given a platform through the Africa Maker innovation faire, as well as its online publication -- to African inventors, regardless of their age, location and even physical abilities.
This company’s success lies is in its passion for propagating and building today’s African creator.
By making a year-round open call to inventors to submit a video, essay, slideshow and /or other media that accurately depict their work, Kemi Ukadike, the woman behind the movement, is hoping to have a continuous conversation with the world about the positive and disruptive products and services that have the power to shake up the global tech climate.
“I wanted to really find breakthrough projects that were created as a response to some unique factor happening on the African continent.” Says Kemi, sipping her tea. “It really doesn’t matter if this inventor lives in Africa or not, but my preference is to feature those enduring the environment there, and choosing to make a product that affects some kind of change.”
Furthermore, Africa Maker has also provided the Africa Maker API, a tool to distribute information, educational resources and connections to funding for this burgeoning sect of inventors.
No doubt, there is more than a buzz in Africa about these smart technocrats, of whom cut across education and age barriers. They are making products for themselves and their immediate environment; not necessarily for Microsoft, Google or Facebook.
But, if any of these new technologies were to be discovered by these larger corporations, will they just merge into the corporate buyout game and become obsolete? Food for thought and digression.
These inventors are making videos and other media about their products and releasing them on social media platforms, with the hope of being recognized and gaining funding. Africa Maker has now made a home for this content.
What makes Africa Maker different from an organization like the Tony Elumelu foundation? Here African entrepreneurs whose businesses, mostly in technology, have been operating for less than three years, are invited to apply for an incubator program. This program then provides access to funding, mentorship and marketing opportunities.
Another similar project is Social Media Week Lagos (SMW Lagos.) In what is being touted as one of the biggest African technology events, SMW Lagos is week-long event featuring keynotes and panels, workshops, presentations and interactive installations with a focus on trends in emerging technology and social media.
Or even Kickstarter, why not just have an African version?
“I really want to collaborate with organizations like SMW Lagos (run by Africa21,) as well as forces like the Tony Elumelu foundation,” says Kemi. “Many organizations that are not as visible have a strong interest as well. Our particular focus here at Africa Maker is on the invention. Not only do we want to feature these inventions, we want to provide ‘maker’ tools through our API to empower people.”
So who is this Kemi Ukadike, and what qualifies her to want to push this particular envelope?
She re-invented herself after being in the online Journalism industry for over 20 years. While recovering from a long-term illness (Guillian-barre,) she attended New York University's renown Interactive Telecommunications program, where she learned about creative technology and prototyping electronic devices. Adekemi is also a maker of diy adaptive technology and small electronic gadgets.
Some of her work includes a soft robotic hand prosthetic and a jewelry set that illuminates as a person moves. She is currently working on a gesture-controlled African music artifact that also doubles up as a therapeutic and teaching tool.