Did You Know 3D printing is saving lives and the environment in Africa?

Did You Know 3D printing is saving lives and the environment in Africa?

3D printing is a trend that doesn’t look to fizzle out. It is changing the way industry works and enabling small businesses all over the world. The prices of printers are coming down steadily and it is even possible to scavenge the parts and make one yourself! 3D printers and the availability of effective 3D scanners are giving unlimited opportunities to individuals, businesses and even medical suppliers, as you will see below. There are some negative aspects to this, with security threatened as it is now very easy to scan and print house keys using fairly rudimental 3D printing equipment. But, on the whole, 3D printing will speed up the supply chain and change people’s lives in a positive way.

3d printing prosthetic.png
3D printed prosthetic by RoboBeast

3D printing has already been drastically changing the lives of some Africans. RoboBeast have been printing prosthetic limbs for people off the back of a Landrover in the African bush. This durable 3D printer is working under tough condition in remote areas and proves how versatile the 3D printing industry has become. It is now even possible to 3D print in metal, which would cut out the transportation fees for many industries. (The metal 3D printers are still very expensive)

ReFab Dar, based in Tanzania, are hoping to take advantage of the increased effectiveness of 3D printing. The aim to create the opportunity to 3D print vital medical supplies across Africa. This would enable Africa to take control, supplying itself with medical equipment it can not do without. They have set up a hacking competition and invited participants to design 3D printed medical tools. The competition focusses on tools that hep prevent HIV and birthing equipment. The submission date was on the 20th, and finalists will be announced on the 31st of March.

refab competition 3D printing.png

ReFab Dar have another innovation up their sleeve, also in the 3D printing sector, killing two birds with one stone! Currently they are taking plastic waste and turning it into the raw material for 3D printers, unlocking its value. Plastic waste is a scourge that plagues the continent. Countries like Rwanda seem to have been able to deal with it, but in many other countries, plastic is seen everywhere throughout the major cities in Africa. Currently, 3D printing is not utilised enough in anywhere in the world to clean up all the plastic waste, but as it becomes more and more effective, and with competitions like ReFab Dar’s for creating medical supplies, it will become more prevalent across the continent. The raw material is just sitting their waiting to be used. It is even possible that the bottling and packaging companies realise that they are missing out on an income and will do more to clear up and recycle the waste after its usage. Check out the video from their website, it is incredible innovation that can change Tanzania and the whole of Africa!

3D printing can be utilised in so may industries. Medical supplies may be one of the most important for the general health of the continent, but equipment for farmers, mechanics,  tradesman, like plumbers and electricians, scientific equipment for schools, and even bigger industries such as laptop manufacturers like Positivo in Rwanda, could take advantage of 3D printing to make their operations more efficient.

Good luck to all those taking part in the ReFab Dar 3D printing hack. We can’t wait to see the results! If you know of any other 3D printing solutions and innovations in Africa, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via  email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and FacebookAlso, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!



Did You Know drones and better seeds will feed Africa and the world?

Did You Know drones and better seeds will feed Africa and the world?

Without farms, we wouldn’t survive. Well some of us may manage to scavenge for food, maybe even pick up hunting again, but life would not be the same again. The life of a farmer is not plain sailing. There are many hurdles to cross whether they are growing crops or producing livestock. The weather, disease type of seed, availability of machinery, storage and transportation all play a role in whether or not a farmer is successful.

The weather, sadly, can not be controlled, as we are seeing now in parts of East Africa where they are facing a devastating famine. There are some methods of farming that may have been able to mitigate against some of the hardships they face, such as aquaponics, a method of farming that uses much less water, or cow insurance, which offers an innovative way of providing security to farmers in high risk areas.  Access to machinery is also a possibility using the power of cooperatives, which enable farmers to come together, pool their money and invest in machinery like the Tryctor, which will benefit them all. There are even mobile apps that enable people to sell their produce at the right price and to easily transport it to the market.

Tryctor was developed to empower small scale farmers in Africa

Seeds also play a big role in the quality of farm produce. It may seem obvious (without a seed there would be no plant) but choosing the wrong variety can drastically alter the success of a farming season. There has been great strides taken in recent years by companies like Syngenta, who are producing seeds that will be more effective in certain areas.

In Kenya, MbeguChoice are focussing directly on that issue. They have a system that enables farmers to easily decide on which seeds they need, depending on the location of Continue reading “Did You Know drones and better seeds will feed Africa and the world?”

Did You Know events across Africa are focussing on Innovation?

Did You Know events across Africa are focussing on Innovation?

Africa is innovating, but in many instances the world refuses to see it. I have many conversations with people that are very sceptical about African innovation. But, within the continent there is a feeling of enthusiasm towards innovation and optimism that innovation can improve the lives of individuals and the continent as a whole.

In these changing times, the Africa youth are potentially best placed to take advantage of the changing circumstances that new technologies are creating for the world we live in. I say potentially because, despite the optimism, Africa is still lacking important infrastructure. Measures are being taken by governments and private organisations to close the digital divide and enable the youth to take advantage of technology and innovation. One upcoming event that is approaching that very topic is the Quantum Leap Career Fair, which will be taking place on April 12th in Accra, Ghana. The event is part of a collaboration between Stars From All Nations (SFAN), who aim to enable the next generation of African Leaders, and iSpace, one of the leading technology hubs in Ghana. The theme of the event is ‘Technology and the Future of Work in Africa’.

Automations will change the job market

A Mckinsey study suggests that when current  primary school students reach working age, 65% of the jobs will have been newly created and not existed today. Automations are making many jobs more efficient and there is more and more need for computer programmers as well as other positions. As well as being a careers fair, and preparing job seekers for work, SFAN and iSpace are seeking to highlight the importance of being prepared for these new job functions. If Africa can take the lead in these preparations, then it is possibly to close the gap to the rest of the world much more efficiently.   Continue reading “Did You Know events across Africa are focussing on Innovation?”

Did You Know using aquaponics Africa can farm all year?

Did You Know using aquaponics Africa can farm all year?

If you have ever done a spot of gardening, you will realise that, unless you have green fingers, it is pretty hard to get your plant to grow exactly as you like it. Getting the right amount of water, putting it in the correct place, feeding it with the right kind of soil and nutrients are all important, and a little mistake, could be the end of your beloved plant. Some plants seem pretty easy to maintain, but trust me, anything can be killed. (I even managed to destroy a cactus by over watering it!)

So, scale this up to an actual farm and put that farm somewhere in Africa where there is a lot more to contend with than just watering your tomatoes on your balcony. I am not keen on writing about the negative stereotypes of Africa, but farming can be nay on impossible in some regions of the continent. Right now in East Africa they are preparing, with some difficulty for the onset of a potentially devastating drought. The UN estimates that roughly 6 million people in Somalia, northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and South Sudan are at risk and will need some sort of aid. El Nino is this time the cause of this drought, but this is the third to sweep the region in the last 25 years. With climate change also impacting on weather, it is more and more important for African farmers to cultivate techniques that get the most out of the land and resources available.

east africa drought.png
East Africa is facing a devastating drought – photo from dw.com

One technique that is becoming popular worldwide is aquaponics farming. Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture, which is the farming of fish or any other water based animal, such as snails and prawns, and hydroponics, the growing of plants in water. Essentially, it is a micro climate, or a mini water cycle, which needs very little input from the farmer. The fish are fed, and then excrete into the water, then, after a little treatment, the water is pumped up to the plants. The water then travels through the plants where it leaves all the nutrients and is filtered before it returns once again to the fish.

Screenshot 2017-03-10_13-29-32.png
How Aquaponics works – from Aquaponic ideas online

As you may have guessed there is a little expense for running this, with a pump needed. It is also important to have a small oxygenator to keep the plants and the fish healthy. But, with sun as a great natural resource in Africa, this can easily be run via solar power and small batter for the night time. But, it is only one pump that is needed as gravity does most of the work. The water is pumped to the highest point and then flows down towards the lowest.

So, why is this good for Africa? With water shortages and unpredictable rainfall in much of the continent, aquaponics is the perfect solution. It uses an estimated 2% of the water used in irrigation farming. That is staggering difference that makes you realise exactly how much water is being wasted in irrigation farming. The efficiency doesn’t stop there, some have said that aquaponics is 10 times more productive for crop growing than normal farming. This is because you can grow crops on more than one level, and because they have a constant supply of nutrients. It could even be turned into a sustainable circular system, where the fish essentially grow their own food, so no need to spend on expensive fish food. Not only do you get a food crop, you get a fish crop, so there are two types of income, which are more reliable.

The system in the below video is a great set up in Kenya by Nelson Mmbando.

I don’t want to make aquaponics sound too easy. A little mistake can destroy your whole fish stock, so it is important that people are properly trained in the management of the farm. Even cleanliness is important, as the wrong bacteria entering the water supply could lead to disaster. The acidity of the water and the amount of nitrate in the water is are also important. But, if this system is used and maintained properly it can bring profitable and sustainable farming all year round in a region that usually has to sit and hope on an unreliable water supply.

If you have an aquaponics system, please send us some photos and let us know how it is going. If you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via  email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.

Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!

Did You Know you can talk to a Chatbot about sex in Africa?

Did You Know you can talk to a Chatbot about sex in Africa?

Around the world kids have their sex education in different ways. In the UK, we had classes starting in primary school (where I was completely shocked at seeing a baby being born) and going into secondary school. Methods of learning vary across Africa, with some young people gaining good knowledge and some gaining none at all and having to rely on the stories from their friends. I remember during my time in a small Ghanaian village, it was kind of a taboo to discuss sex, so it was very hard for the youth to gain information from their parents or elders.

In that village, it was not uncommon for girl in their early teens to have babies, putting their education on hold, in some cases permanently. With a little support and education, these girls could have gone through school and made a difference in a village that is striving for success. I was always dismayed that some men were able to take advantage of these girls, by first withholding knowledge from them, and secondly abusing their positions within the community. So, where can these kids get access to information, if they can’t get it from talking to family or in schools.

Technology has the answer. Chatbots have been a big topic in the marketing world over Continue reading “Did You Know you can talk to a Chatbot about sex in Africa?”

Did You Know you can get free mobile data in Africa?

Did You Know you can get free mobile data in Africa?

Mobile phones have become an integral part of our life. When we have a question, we take out our phone and ask google, when we get lost, Google helps again with its maps. We job search, chat with friends, find a date, complete academic certificates and everything using our phones and the internet. Most of us in Europe walk around with our contract phones and either have either unlimited data or a set amount of per month that we can use almost without thinking about usage. In Africa, that is not the case.

Although payment methods are changing with the increased usage of mobile money, data plans in Africa are relatively unchanged. People top up their phones, and either use the basic price per megabit, or buy a bundle which will give a set amount of data to be used over the month. The bundles are the better and on the whole the cheaper option, but for some reason, that data runs away like water from a leaky pipe. These days phones are so dependent on data that they seem to slowly steal it behind your back when you are not looking! (or your phone is in your pocket minding its own business) This isn’t a problem for those with contracts, but when you have a limited about of data, it can be extremely frustrating.

mtn seller ghana.jpg
Phone credit seller in Ghana

According to the Affordability Report, the cost of 1 gigabit of data in Africa is the the equivalent to 18% of the average African’s monthly income. That is a staggering amount of money to be spending on a gigabit of internet that could quite easily run out in a few days. Continue reading “Did You Know you can get free mobile data in Africa?”