After several months of anticipation, the first ever African installment of the Maker Faire technology conference is underway, in Accra, Ghana.
Coverage so far is a bit scattershot (the Maker Faire Africa website
was down as of the writing of this post update: the site is up again, and sports some profile of participating makers, a frequently updated blog, photos, and a feed from the event's Twitter stream), but there are some tantalizing early posts on Afrigadget , including the results of a 30 minute design challenge using repurposed plastic water bags, and a solar-powered food dryer of Kenyan design. A MFA photostream has been set up on Flickr as well, and should be filling up as the conference progresses.
Ghana's been playing host to some other locally-sourced design events as well. The 2009 International Development Design Summit just wrapped up in the inland city of Kumasi, a five week conference and workshop, developing projects ranging from low-cost batteries to more efficient rice threshers:
At the high end of the gee-whiz spectrum, MFA will also see some of the first field-testing of the FLAP bag project, a collaboration between SF-based bagmaker Timbuk2, and the non-profit Portable Light. Introduced at last year's Pop!Tech conference, FLAP (Flexible Light And Power) is an experiment incorporating solar panels into a typically sized messenger bag, allowing it to charge electronics via an integrated USB cable.
There's a long history of well-intentioned high-tech failing in the developing world due to lack of infrastructure, but FLAP seems to be proceeding in a cautious and well thought-out way, seeking feedback on their products among early adopters in potential target markets before undertaking wider distribution. We're curious to see what the tech-savvy Ghanaian makers make of it.