One of the disturbing things about the informal sector of the economy in much of Africa is that, despite a strong entrepreneurial spirit, there is little opportunity for millions of small-scale businesses to expand and move into a position where they can do more than eke out a subsistence way of life. Rarely is there any access to finance, training in business skills or establishment of incubation hubs where businesses can be nurtured. Even where sellers are provided with space to set up stalls, there are no facilities for sellers who want to grow their business.
Next weekend (14-16 August 2009) is Maker Faire Africa, an event "to create a space on the continent where Afrigadget-type innovations, inventions and initiatives can be sought, identified, brought to life, supported, amplified, propagated, etc." In the spirit of AfriGadget and Timbuktu Chronicles, this event in Accra, Ghana is to bring together African inventors and innovators for networking and hooking them up with the resources they need to strengthen what they do.
Maker Faire Africa will engage on-the-ground breakthrough organizations like Ashesi University and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to sharpen focus on locally-generated, bottom-up prototypes of technologies that solve immediate challenges to development. Specifically, Maker Faire Africa will take an approach that will achieve three principal aims:
- Brighten the light on local examples of the “fabrication” ethos
- Provide mechanisms to incubate these innovators and their products to a point where they can be taken to market
- Connect refined plans to disseminate innovations with venture finance
The aim is to identify, spur and support local innovation. At the same time, Maker Faire Africa would seek to imbue creative types in science and technology with an appreciation of fabrication and by default manufacturing. The long-term interest here is to cultivate an endogenous manufacturing base that supplies innovative products in response to market needs.