Africa’s prodigies are probably the most exciting in all the world. Theirs is a story of lack meets genius. A story of need meets innovation. Africa is one of the most interesting places on earth. Cultural, wild and yet it’s lit up by some of the brightest minds on the planet. While we may be poor and technologically backwards, we have some of the most compelling tech stories. This is the home of innovation. A place where the dustbin gives life to amazing innovations. Here is Kaguvi Digital’s top 3 African prodigies and their innovations.
TOP 3 OF AFRICA’S PRODIGIES
3. Lion Lights: Richard Turere, Kenya
Lion lights is a story about survival. The Masai people of Kenya are largely dependent on their livestock. It is a huge part of their livestock. At only 8 years old, Richard Turere started tending to his family’s cattle. Leaving on the edge of the Nairobi National Park, the Turere’s herd was terrorised by lions. It was at the age of 11 when the big idea came through. “One day, when I was walking around,” he says, “I discovered that the lions were scared of the moving light.” It is then that his idea came to be. Using an old motorcycle indicator box and LED lights, he designed intermittently flickering lights that mimic someone moving around with a torch. The lights were powered by an old car battery and a solar panel.
From the day that the youngster installed his lights, his family never lost any cattle. His neighbors also borrowed the idea and it transformed the whole village. The invention saw less and less lions killed by the Masai making the invention such a great feat.
2. DJ Focus: Kelvin Doe, Sierra Leon
Kelvin Doe aka DJ Focus is the ultimate definition of African geek swag. He’s smart, he’s cool and extremely enterprising. At only 16, this genius kid invented a radio broadcasting machine from dustbin scrap. He started broadcasting under the the moniker DJ Focus. Why the name? Kelvin believes if you focus you can achieve anything. Unpredictable electricity supply almost thwarted his venture so Kelvin went on to build an electricity generator, again from dustbin scrape.
Kelvin Doe’s feat has earned him massive international recognition. He has appeared on international stages with reputable figures like Chelsea Clinton and spoken on TedEx, Google conference Tel Aviv, USAID Powering Agiculture in Washington DC, Young Maker Fair at New York Hall of Science
1. Magetsi a mphepo: William Kamkwamba, Malawi
At age 14, William Kamkwamba dropped out of school because his parents could not afford his US$80/year school fees. With his future seemingly bleak, William returned to the village in Masitala in Malawi. Determined to keep learning, Kamkwamba used the local library to educate himself. It is in the library that he one day picked up an old book and saw a picture of a windmill.
“I was very interested when I saw the windmill could make electricity and pump water. “I thought: ‘That could be a defense against hunger. Maybe I should build one for myself” William said. All the material used was makeshift. Turbine from spare bicycle, a tractor fan blade and an old shock absorber. With flattened plastic pipes for blades, William started building a windmill. The structure was made from gum tree poles and was 5 metres tall. After a couple of months of grueling months and ridicule from family and friends, the device started pumping water and generating power to his family compound. Village marveled at William’s work calling it ‘Magetsi a mphepho’ meaning electric wind.
Kamkwamba has spoken at many international stages. TEDGlobal, World Economic Forum Africa, CES, African Leadership Academy, Africa Economic Forum, Aspen Ideas Festival, Maker Faire Africa, Science Chicago and many others. He had a film about him made called Moving Windmills, produced by Tom Rielly. He also co-wrote a a book called ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope’ with Bryan Mealer. Kamkwamba has been profiled on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, Malawi Daily Times, Sydney Morning Herald, La Repubblica, Banker Magazine and L’Uomo Vogue.