An incisive and engaging overview of informal makers, the book Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Economy. Launches jointly this month at Maker Faire Africa and Maker Faire Rhode Island. The press release states:

In a global economy dominated by large corporations and advanced technology, Steve Daniels has head to the least likely of places to learn about the nature of innovation—Kenya’s crude clusters of small enterprises. On a fellowship from the Brown University International Scholars Program, Daniels spent three months in Africa as an undergraduate investigating the resourcefulness and creativity of the engineer-entrepreneurs that drive the global informal economy of unregulated and unprotected businesses, primarily in the developing world. Now, after years of research and writing, he has aggregated his findings, along with engaging data visualizations and stunning photographs, into a self-published book entitled Making Do—the first book on indigenous African innovation in over 15 years. The work includes a forward from Daniels’s advisor and author of Appropriate Technology, Dr. Chris Bull, Senior Research Engineer at Brown University.

Making Do

Making Do is now available and will launch at the Maker Faire Africa in Nairobi and Maker Faire Rhode Island in Providence on August 28 as a symbol of collaboration among Western and African makers. Daniels’s experiences are a testament to the potential for students to foster cross-cultural dialogue around pressing global issues and opportunities.

Book Synopsis

Wandering through winding alleys dotted with makeshift worksheds, one can’t help but feel clouded by the clanging of hammers on metal, grinding of bandsaws on wood, and the shouts of workers making sales. But soon it becomes clear that this cacophony is really a symphony of socioeconomic interactions that form what is known as the informal economy. In Kenya, engineers in the informal economy are known as jua kali, Swahili for “hot sun,” because they toil each day under intense heat and with limited resources. But despite these conditions, or in fact because of them, the jua kali continuously demonstrate ingenuity and resourcefulness in solving problems.

In Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Economy, Steve Daniels illuminates the dynamics of the sector to enhance our understanding of African systems of innovation. The result of years of research and months of fieldwork, this study examines how the jua kali design, build, and manage through theoretical discussions, visualizations of data, and stories of successful and struggling entrepreneurs. What can we learn from the creativity and bricolage of these engineers? And how can we as external actors engage with the sector in a way that removes barriers to innovation for the jua kali and leverages their knowledge and networks to improve the lives of those who interact with them?


Maker Faire Africa, 2010 has an event page on Facebook where we would like to invite you to join us. There you can see who else is coming already. We already have 74 people coming, but of course we want lots more people to join us.

We have quite a number of interesting makers coming to show their work and workshops for people to follow. Just heard for example that Fab Lab from Nairobi are expected to join us, the Fab Fi team are known for making very resourceful wireless systems and of the people from BLOC UK who have been working up country in Kwale with making interesting solutions to peoples needs there with designers form the UK and Kenya joining forces. Workshops such as ‘Ask an Engineer’ are being orchestrated as we speak.

So join us on Facebook and hopefully see you at the University of Nairobi for ‘Makers’ interaction

Dear Friends of Maker Faire Africa,

We have two important changes to announce regarding this year’s MFA.

First, we are happy to have secured a new venue for the event, the University of Nairobi, which greatly improves our exhibition needs and provides attendees with greater amenities.We are thrilled to be partnering with the University of Nairobi on what promises to be a seminal event.

Second, we have decided to reschedule this year’s MFA from August 6th + 7th to August 27th + 28th, 2010. This is being done for the following reason; Kenya has scheduled August 4th, 2010 as the referendum date for its new constitution, two days before our original start date. We have been advised that its timing could greatly inconvenience the travel and or participatory intentions of those attending MFA; the voting will take place in schools and training institutions, including the University of Nairobi.  As a result, we have given ourselves a buffer of about 3 weeks from the original date but retained the event within the month of August.We regret any inconvenience that this change of date may cause.

Please feel free to contact us via the form if you have any questions on this date change.  The entire MFA team will be in Kenya for MFA10 and we are all looking forward to seeing you in August.
Maker Faire Africa Team

This excellent Maker Faire Africa video compilation was created by the good folks at AfricaNews.

Pat Delany inventor of the MultiMachine who we were so lucky to have at MFA09 talks about “the really big things that happened” at the event. As if that was not enough he shrugged off the abortive takeoff his departing Delta flight experienced:

Pat Delany (L) makes a point at MFA09

Pat Delany (L) makes a point at MFA09

Should be home by now but plane had engine trouble on takeoff.Better here than over the ocean in a 2 engine plane! Really big things have happened.A trade school will probably expand to other parts of the country and take the MM with it.An MIT lab is going to make and test the drill.People are going to make a “jungle” drill to make bolt holes to plank a bridge with wood that is so tough that nails just bounce off.Maker Faire Africa is sponsoring a country wide MultiMachine building contest.
A Nigerian venture capital guy is going to make my penetrating oil.I have been invited to join an American Association of Mechanical Engineers developing country group and maybe make a couple of speeches.And really big deal..I have started a program to provide African welders with better eye protection than the sun glasses they normally use. They often lose much of their sight after just a few years. The goal is to get the rod makers to provide filtering glass with boxes of rods. As it is now they are blinding their customers

Way to go Pat! Sourced from the MultiMachine user group

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All the fun of the technology faire – The Gaurdian

BBC Digital Planet podcast interview (starts around minute 13:00)

Nana Kofi Acquah with his photos

Recap of Maker Faire Africa 2009 – ICT4D.at

Maker Faire Africa ’09 thrills – AfricaNews

Maker Faire Africa update – MAKE Magazine

Maker Faire Africa showcases ingenuity – Crossing the Streams blog

Interview with Emer Beamer and Emeka Okafor of Maker Faire team