A makerspace (or hackerspace) is a space for members to showcase their innovative ideas and share tools and knowledge. It can be viewed as a open community lab incorporating elements of machine shops and workshops where people come together and build and make things. The individual character of a makerspace is determined by its members and as these spaces are not uncommon around the world, spaces with different specialisations have emerged. With the advent of crowdfunding and Kickstarter, the tools required to build makerspaces is put to a larger audience.
Erik Hersman a.ka WhiteAfrican and the iHub team are responsible for making Kenya’s first Makerspace come to life. The iHub community got started by its own without enough resources to be viable and was sort of a pre-makerspace. The main difference from a makerspace being that there are no tools except internet connectivity at hand. Gearbox is geared towards changing the way “techies” work by nurturing a community working on projects in computer technology, robotics, industrial art and electronics. “I’ve said for a long time that I think we in Africa have an advantage in making things. It’s a culture that’s never been lost, and we’re used to improvising, adapting and overcoming challenges that come our way. This is our first foray into that meeting of the worlds between high-tech and low-tech making, and I’ve not been this excited about something for a long time.”– Erik Hersman said to Techpost.ug. The newly opened hackerspace will be open to all at $12 monthly subscription.
Although this is the first Makerspace in Kenya, there are several forerunners in Africa. WoeLab, the first makerspace in Togo, created by Koffi Sénamé, can brag about working with W.Afate 3D printer. The first 3D printer made from recycled e-waste. BongoHive is a technology and innovation hub in Lusaka (Zambia) and new makerspaces and hubs are created each month.1
Companies such as Fablab already exist in Nairobi and the difference between a makerspace and a Fablab is easily explained. Fablabs are a network of spaces started by Neil Gershenfeld at MIT, while a makerspace is not usually affiliated with either a business or a program. Another Makerspace franchise is TechShop, a for-profit Open-access public workshop.
Many cases, one being the W.Afate 3D printer, show that these makerspaces bring innovation and as seen on the map linked below, there are still too few of them in Africa. Sharing the stories of these newly made makerspaces may inspire others to create their own or join an already existing. ”I’ve said for a long time that I think we in Africa have an advantage in making things. It’s a culture that’s never been lost, and we’re used to improvising, adapting and overcoming challenges that come our way. This is our first foray into that meeting of the worlds between high-tech and low-tech making, and I’ve not been this excited about something for a long time,” says Erik Hersman on his blog.
1 This map shows the location of current hubs and makerspaces