African Innovators: Connection, Collaboration & Community

by Mark Grimes

Start it up.When that moment happens that the entrepreneur decides yes indeed they want to put their time, effort and creativity behind their idea the startup is then launched. The idea is born. And it can be a lonely place for the entrepreneur. The idea may be so simple (Twitter) or so complex (string theory) that friends, family and coworkers just don’t get it.  The early stage entrepreneur is driven by vision, passion, risk, and desire to create something new.  Build a business. Solve a problem in a new and dynamic way.  Most people don’t get it…fellow entrepreneurs sure do.The economy and times being what they are, the idea must driven to some point of proof of concept before any potential investor would even consider looking at a business plan or executive summary and making a capital investment and bringing in their knowledge and rolodex. So where can an early stage pan-African inventor and entrepreneur find support, critical feedback, valuable introductions and creative ideas and input.

We are all connected.Entrepreneurs enjoy helping other entrepreneurs.  Learning from one another, sharing with one another. Each and every entrepreneur and innovator has something to share, and something to learn from other people. How does it work? How does it make money? Who is the market? What are they overlooking? Who else should they talk to? What are related revenue streams? How will it get marketed? Should the idea be made more simple, or more complex?

When innovators and entrepreneurs connect at Maker Faire Africa they can share what they’ve learned and what they need to learn about with one another. Perhaps they are a truly innovative inventor but not the person to run and grow they company and need a co-founder.  They can find that at Maker Faire Africa. Maybe they are the person that can run the company and grow the idea by need help with sales, marketing and distribution.  They can also look to build those relationships at Maker Faire Africa as well.

What’s your problem?

When innovators and entrepreneurs are connected by some similar challenges, they can share ideas around how to meet those challenges.  If the power goes out in your business every other day, what are the different ways that can be dealt with?  How do you effectively deal with distribution challenges in many African countries (See Riders for Health). The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity.  Sharing your problem with fellow inventors and entrepreneurs offers greater insights and the possibility of a better outcome overall.  Also, unlike most government officials and academics, entrepreneurs will usually share with one another something very important, the stories of failure, what did not work, why it probably didn’t work, and what they could have done differently.

The connected community of pan-African makers is so important because very often people outside of that community don’t quite understand the problems and challenges because they are not from those local communities themselves.  The challenges to a local entrepreneur driven by local government, cultural differences, environment, education and many varied nuanced minutia make it more difficult for a foreigner to offer meaningful ideas and concrete support (see development organizations in emerging markets over the last 50 years).

The Maker Faire Africa event provides local African innovators, makers and entrepreneurs a local platform to meet on another face-to-face, support one another, and help build and define their own culture of success.  See you in Cairo.

Mark is a Co-founder of Maker Faire Africa.  Follow his tweets @neddotcom

5 Responses to “African Innovators: Connection, Collaboration & Community”
  1. Dom says:

    Dear Mark and the maker faire crew, what you all are aspiring to do is Nobel and fine, but after having attended two MFA events, Accra and Nairobi, i feel a vital component is lacking. Concerns relating to the protection of Intellectual Property or IP of the inventor. From my experience, the key ingredient to the sustainable of any project is a true sense of ownership.
    During my “Search for Inventors” for the Nairobi Makers, I came across numerous inventors with brilliant ideas but without secured IP’s or patent protection. In order to preserve the inventors IP rights, we discourage them from exhibiting in such events for the fear of theft of their design work.
    Where I feel Makers would make a big difference and potentially a huge impact on African innovations, would be to support individuals in attaining patent protection. I’m not sure exactly how this can be achieved but i’m quite sure it won’t be rocket science. There isn’t a doubt in my mind, you will be taken a-gasp by a “NEW” level of creativity as a new dimension of inventions would slowly but surely creep in to take center stage.

    Keeping it simple,

  2. Mark great work. Vision of yours and the cause for Africa, is very nice indeed

  3. Kingsley Anyanwu says:

    Hi, i have to say that i am impressed at what your outfit stands for. Am living in Enugu state of Nigeria. I have new inventions/ innovations on scientific works. Eg an engine that is powered by atmospheric air, aqua shoe etc am also a designer of automotive machines eg car, airplane, truck etc please i need to offload some of these ideas, even an inspirated way of reaching the speed of light but i need support in other to do these.

  4. jennifer says:

    Hi Kingsley, thank you for your kind words. Your inventions sound quite interesting. If you haven’t yet applied to exhibit at our fair, please do so by selecting “Apply as a Maker” in the main menu. Hope to see you at the fair!

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