Who said that Africa does not have brilliant minds? Who said that Africa does not have inventors?
We all tend to look upon Western countries to learn about fabulous creations. Yet, a lot of “ordinary people” in Africa have created inventions that ease life in their communities. Unfortunately, many of the great technical inventions have been left unnoticed by African and international media. That is why I decided to make a short compilation of some great gadgets created by Africans as a reminder that Africa does not lack in brilliant minds or creative inventors.
Let us first visit Cameroon, where a group of 10-year old kids crafted a remote-controlled "car" from recycled products such as old flip-flops, pieces of wood, rubber, and cans. I find these kids amazing because not only do they enjoy playing with their toys, they have the immense pleasure to say that they created them.
In Kenya, we pay a visit to two young men who have created gadgets with such scanty resources that even I was amazed. On the one hand, we have Mr Peterson Mwangi. With a passion for physics, he created a system that allows him to remotely control his car. Indeed, he is using simple SMS commands to move and even track his car by distance.
Mr. Simon Mwaura, on the other hand, created a system that controls different features in his house including, but not limited, to the opening and closing of the doors, the lights, the coffee machine, and more. The theory is simple: every feature is connected to a main system and accessed by a mobile call. It is quite ingenious.
In Ghana we have a unique inventor named Apostle Kwadwo Safo Kantanka, who successfully manufactured electrical drums, loud speakers, mixing consoles, amplifiers, preamps, and 7-stringed bass guitars. He also designed and fabricated new devices such as sewing and embroidery machines, and flat-screen sensor televisions with volume or channels that can be increased or decreased by just clapping one's hands (among other features); weed slashers, spot-welding machines, and sensor taps, too. Now he is starting to construct vehicles. Inventions by Kwadwo Safo and his team are mostly made with local materials.
In Morocco, a 29-year-old man named Aadin Akhazine created an engine that runs using as a carburant made of 80 percent of water and 20 percent of fuel. The engine of Mr. Akhazine, in simple terms, consists on using the heat produced by the water as energy. This is not a new idea: he simply modified the “unsuccessful” idea of the American inventor Paul Pantone. Currently, he is using his invention to power up various items such as his vehicles, generators, water pumps, etc.
Mohanad Mekky is a 20-year-old Egyptian inventor who created a system that allows disabled people to use a computer. The mouse is moved by moving your head and you can click by blinking your left or right eye or taping your left or right foot.
These inventors represent just a fragment of the huge pool of inventors we have in Africa. Unfortunately, most of them remain unknown to the public. Now, the question we need to ask ourselves is why is that so. The answer is simple to figure out. None of those inventors received funding from the government to use proper material for their research. Thus, those inventions never reached a state where they can be commercialized and sold to the mass public. If we compare the percentage of GDP that countries invest in research and development (excluding defense), we realize that most of the Western countries invest more than 1.9 percent of their GDP, where as our best investor, South Africa, uses just 0.70 percent of its GDP. It gives us a lot to think about.
Though Africa has a long way to go in order to be considered the most innovative continent in terms of technology, we should keep in mind that those inventions are created by people who understand the real need of our continent, thus creating technology that will truly be adapted to resolve African problems.
Malick Alexandre Sarr is a graduate of the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in South Africa and a first year student at the American University in Bulgaria. The Senegalese youth has a deep passion for technology and ran an on-campus technology company at ALA. Malick is also a talented dancer.