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Maker Faire and the R & D Rise in the South

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The majority of the world’s research and development (R & D) in science and technology is now shifting to the global South. Powerhouses like China boast vast numbers of published papers in peer-reviewed journals and hefty cash inputs into research and development.

China increased its R & D spending in 2009 to US $25.7 billion, a 25.6 percent increase over 2008, according to Du Zhanyuan, vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology. China is rapidly closing the science funding gap with Japan: in 2009 it allotted US $37.1 billion for R & D.

The times have never been better for those with new ideas in the global South.

And it’s not just big companies that are involved. There is R & D going on at ground level as well. African inventors, innovators and creatives met in Nairobi, Kenya in August as part of the Maker Faire Africa 2010 (http://makerfaireafrica.com). This is research and development on a shoestring, and done in a very practical, problem-solving way. While Africa’s inventors and innovators lack the big budgets of other economies, they are not short on ideas and drive.

The Maker Faire Africa is a family-friendly gathering where the inventors can showcase their work and connect with others. It is a mix of workshops, tips on business skills, awards and a party.

The global economy thrives on innovation and so-called ‘creative destruction’ – as economist Joseph Schumpeter called it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_destruction) – that takes place as out-of-date technologies and ways of doing are surpassed by better ideas and more efficient methods. The power to innovate is the deciding factor for sustained economic growth.

The philosophy behind Maker Faire Africa 2010 – the brainchild of ‘venture catalyst’ and entrepreneur Emeka Okafor (http://timbuktuchronicles.blogspot.com) – is to prove that innovation doesn’t just happen with computers.

As its website says, “The aim of a Maker Faire-like event is to create a space on the continent where Afrigadget-type innovations (http://www.afrigadget.com), inventions and initiatives can be sought, identified, brought to life, supported, amplified, propagated, etc.”

Maker Faire Africa is working with research organizations like Ghana’s Ashesi University (http://www.ashesi.edu.gh/index.html) and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (http://www.knust.edu.gh/pages) “to sharpen focus on locally-generated, bottom-up prototypes of technologies that solve immediate challenges to development.”

In the end, the goal of engaging all this creative and inventive energy is to spur Africans towards building “a manufacturing base that supplies innovative products in response to market needs.”

This initiative stands out in several ways: it is truly inspiring, it gets to the core of how wealth is created, and helps build communities of innovators and inventors to tackle the problems facing Africa – and humanity.

“We have a broader variety of makers this time around,” says Emeka Okafor of the 2010 Maker Faire. He notes makers are bringing more complex systems to the Faire, rather than just single devices. And that they “have more makers who are actually from the region.”

“Maker Faire Africa is essentially a platform whereby innovators, inventers, creative types, across all disciplines, share ideas, showcase their products, interact with attendees and other makers,” he continues. They “begin the process of building what we think is an essential community of what I like to term the productive class. That is essentially where we see ourselves playing a key role. A productive class whose foundation is laid upon building problem-solving systems.”

Okafor believes Africa just doesn’t “have enough wealth creation as we should.”

“We have things backwards. … One of the essential steps is that you had productive systems that allowed those countries (Asia and Europe) to create wealth. And they had to draw those resources from within.

“We see Maker Fair Africa celebrating resources that we already have, with knowledge from within and outside.

“In many ways the Makers as we see them, epitomise the very sense of problem-solving that as a society acquires more of it, it begins to deal with its challenges very differently. And not look elsewhere in terms of dealing with its challenges. We want to make our Makers sexy, we want to make inventors sexy, innovators celebrities.”

Some of the inspiring inventors from this year’s Faire include Norbert Okec from Uganda. His prototype for a solar powered street lighting system comes straight from his frustration with the traffic lights of Kampala, Uganda. Many don’t work and so he has developed a prototype solar-powered traffic light using a mix of recycled local parts and some LEDs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light-emitting_diode) brought by a friend from China.

He hopes to produce an e-book on his invention to share with other inventors. He was joined by fellow inventors working on a dashboard for managing wireless networks, how to recycle plastic parts, solar-power torches, water and sanitation products, junk art, community cookers, sculptures, eye glasses, bicycles, and an automatic lighting system for homes.

Okafor is a passionate advocate of the Maker philosophy and how it changes the game: “…building is equivalent to making and making is a joyful thing, it is an interesting thing. It is a very satisfactory thing. It is not work. Most of the individuals around here have the biggest smiles on their faces. They don’t see what they are doing as work.

“The fact they are sitting next to other people like them if anything is one of the biggest take-aways for them. Because for some of them they were toiling away on their own. Now they see others like them. And they realise they aren’t crazy.

“When you build a community and the community begins to get stronger and sustain itself, all the other things come naturally: businesses get formed, partnerships happen: and then everything else people look for first…actually begins to happen.”

And Africa’s future prosperity is what is at stake at the Faire: “There is a market for the products. And we believe as more individuals – Africans and otherwise – come into contact with what is on display, they will come to see their own societies differently. ”

Published: September 2010

Resources

  • Flickr photo gallery: A clickable archive of the Maker Faire inventors and their inventions. Website: http://www.flickr.com/groups/makerfaireafrica/pool/
  • Afrigadget: ‘Solving everyday problems with African ingenuity’: This blog never ceases to amaze and fascinate. Website: http://www.afrigadget.com/
  • Afrobotics: A competition for African engineering students to develop robots. Website: http://www.afrobotics.com/
  • International Development Design Summit: The Summit is an intense, hands-on design experience that brings together people from all over the world and all walks of life to create technologies and enterprises that improve the lives of people living in poverty. Website: http://iddsummit.org/
  • Butterflyworks: A social design studio using design to make social change. They use media, social branding and experiential learning to share knowledge, trigger creativity and build sustainable businesses. Website: http://www.butterflyworks.org
  • AshokaTECH: AshokaTECH is a blog about technology and invention within the realm of social entrepreneurship. It aims to find, support, and celebrate social innovators whose technologies offer fresh, effective approaches to advancing social change. Website: http://tech.ashoka.org/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Berber Hip Hop Helps Re-ignite Culture and Economy

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Music is being used to revive the ancient language of the original North African desert dwellers, the Berbers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_people). And in the process, it is spawning a whole new generation of entrepreneurs and generating income. 

The Berbers are North Africa’s indigenous people, primarily living in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia, but their language and culture – called Amazigh – were replaced as the lingua franca of the region after the Arab conquest in the 7th century. But all these years later, the language is enjoying resurgence under Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, who is helping to promote the language through television programming and a new law making teaching of the language compulsory in schools by 2010.

Amazigh people – the name means “free humans” or “free men” – total more than 50 million. Their group languages, called Tamazight, are spoken by several million people across North Africa, with the largest number in Morocco.

For young Moroccans, promoting the language is more interesting when hip hop (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop_music) is thrown into the mix. 

Where once Berber culture was shunned in Morocco and the language banned in schools, the revival of the Tamazight language has led to a flourishing of summer arts festivals, thriving Tamazight newspapers _ and Tamazight hip hop.

One hip-hop outfit, Rap2Bled from the Moroccan city of Agadir, stick to social issues, singing about unemployment, drug addiction and the emancipation of women.

“My mother and grandfather don’t know any Arabic…Before they couldn’t watch television, read a newspaper. They hadn’t got a clue what was going on in the world. They didn’t know anything,” Rap2Bled singer Aziz, who goes by the street name Fatman, told to Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

“But now there is a TV channel in our local dialect and a newspaper. But our aim is to put the language on the map by fusing it with hip hop. More than 60 per cent of young Moroccans only listen to rap and western music. So we thought why not fuse Berber with that and make it really accessible?”

Just 10 years ago, rap and hip hop were virtually unknown in Morocco, with only a small group of hip hop aficionados listening to big American stars like Dr Dre, Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG.

But today hip hop culture and way of life (of which rap and hip hop music are a part) have become a powerful force in Moroccan culture. Moroccan rap focuses on local issues like unemployment and injustice and is ubiquitous on radio and TV.

The Casa Crew, from Casablanca, has become so successful since their beginnings in 2003 that their fan base stretches to Spain and Algeria.

“First of all, to designate rap simply as mere ‘music’ deprives it of its real impact,” Caprice from the Casa Crew (http://casa-crew-00.skyrock.com/), told the Arab Media News, Menassat. 

“Rap is a life style, and mainly a culture of convictions. The fact that rap is spreading in countries like Morocco is an excellent sign. On the one hand, it’s proof that the youth are starting to react, to think they have the right to express themselves in any way they see fit, without anyone judging them or denying them of that right. On the other hand, the development of rap means that the space for artistic freedom is growing particularly when considering that a majority of Arab rappers are dealing with subjects that we were forbidden to speak about a few years ago.”

The Amazigh revival industry centres around large music festivals. Timitar Festival in Agadir (http://www.moroccofestivals.co.uk/timitar.html) gets crowds surpassing 500,000, with more than 40 artists. Morocco’s biggest festival helps Amazigh artists meet world musicians and learn how to reach music fans outside of Morocco.

Another pioneer of Morocco’s music industry is Mohamed ‘Momo’ Merhari, a young music entrepreneur and winner of the British Council’s International Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2008 (http://www.creativeconomy.org.uk/).

Momo is a music consultant and co-founder of the “Boulevard des Jeunes Musiciens” (http://www.boulevard.ma/), the largest contemporary music festival in North Africa, featuring 50 bands over four days, and reaching a live audience of 130,000 people. The annual event showcases new talent from the worlds of hip hop, rock and jazz fusion from all over the region.

In January, Morocco’s culture minister Touriya Jabrane promised to introduce a range of measures to financially support Moroccan musicians, composers and the industry as whole.

Published: March 2009

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Ghana Wants to Tap Global Trendy Party Scene

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Tourism is big business – and one of the most resilient parts of the global economy. Despite the international economic crisis that has wreaked havoc and increased unemployment and poverty in many countries since 2007, tourism is still going strong.

The UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (http://www2.unwto.org/) found international tourist arrivals grew by 5 per cent during the first half of 2013 from the same period in 2012, reaching 500 million arrivals.

“The fact that international tourism grew above expectations confirms that traveling is now part of consumer patterns for an increasing number of people in both emerging and advanced economies,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “This underlines the need to rightly place tourism as one of the key pillars of socio-economic development, being a leading contributor to economic growth, exports and jobs.”

One successful way to lure tourists, especially young tourists, is to nurture hubs of culture, outdoor activities, music and fashion around a holiday destination – generally one involving sun and sand. Such “party scenes” can be found in hotspots as far afield as Florida, the Spanish island of Ibiza and Koh Samui (http://www.kohsamui.com/) in Thailand. While at times annoying to local people, these groups of young tourists do bring significant wealth to smaller towns and seaside communities.

And now there are some in Africa who want to replicate this successful business formula in beach communities.

The Ghanaian fishing village of Kokrobrite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokrobite), located west of the capital, Accra, has become a nascent hub for a dance music scene and beach parties.

“We are organizing an all-day-long beach party with DJs, food and partying, inspired by the kind of summer jams that are held in Miami,” Basil Anthony, Chief Executive of Silky Entertainment (http://www.silkyentertainment.com/), told The Guardian newspaper. Silky Entertainment is organizer of Ghana Summer Beach Rave 2013.

“We are expecting partygoers in the thousands, and double the number we had last year. It’s going to be big.”

Other popular events include Tidal Rave (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8f5Wy3g9Y7w), aimed at university students, and an upmarket champagne party at Bella Roma beach which attracts expats and wealthy Ghanaians.

While these events have been very popular locally, ambitious entertainment entrepreneurs want to take the parties to the next level and make them truly global events, attracting tourists from around the world.

“The next Ibiza will be in Africa. It has already started,” said Andrew Tumi, also known as Won, a singer from the group Supafly.

“We are trying to recreate the good things about going to Ibiza, the music and the vibes. But more and more we are creating our own sound here, an Afro-house, reggae, African mashup… It’s really blending the African rhythm into a house scene.”

Dance music is hot right now, and is being refreshed with new trends in Afro-house and Afro-pop from across the continent. This in turn is creating a demand for parties to celebrate and enjoy the music.

The economic impact is considerable as the parties inspire other businesses to feed off the good vibrations. DJ MoBlack, who works in a nightclub in Accra, told The Guardian, “It’s not just the music, it’s a whole scene that’s on the rise – goods, fashion, jewelry – there is a style revolution happening around it. It’s a unique African vibe, but something that people everywhere can relate to.”

The impact on the tourism sector is already quantifiable. Tourist visits to Ghana grew from 400,000 a year in 2005 to 1 million in 2011.

Ben Ohene-Aryeh at the Ghana Tourism Authority (http://www.ghana.travel/) is optimistic bigger things are to come: “[The scene] is catching on well with the youth and now we hope that it will be done on a massive scale,” he said.

There is, however, a downside to this strategy: drug use is on the increase. According to the West Africa Commission on Drugs (wacommissionondrugs.org), marijuana use is on the rise as well as harder drugs such as cocaine.

It’s clear there are pitfalls to the youth-tourism strategy, but these can be managed with the right strategy – and the economic opportunities for small communities are substantial.

Published: November 2013

Resources

1) Information on drug tourism from DARA Thailand: DARA is Asia’s first and leading international destination for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Website: http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/drug-tourism/

2) 3rd UNWTO International Conference on Tourism and the Media: How new media is shaping the news: With the rise of the new media, both the media landscape and the way stories are being told are changing. Millions of consumers now have the possibility to directly engage in the editorial process due to faster than ever evolving technology. More recently, mobile technology and a myriad of applications for smart phone devices are increasingly influencing communication flows. Website: http://www2.unwto.org/en/event/3rd-unwto-international-conference-tourism-and-media-how-new-media-shaping-news

3) The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer: A regular publication of the Tourism Trends and Marketing Strategies Programme of UNWTO aimed at monitoring the short-term evolution of tourism and providing the sector with relevant and timely information. Website: http://mkt.unwto.org/en/barometer

Tourism Investment and Business Forum for Africa: INVESTOUR is an annual tourism business and knowledge exchange platform in which representatives of African tourism and potential Spanish and Portuguese investors/partners meet to discuss about business and cooperation opportunities. Website: http://africa.unwto.org/en/event/v-tourism-investment-and-business-forum-africa-investour-edition-2014-madrid-spain

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Freaky – The 70s Meant Something

By David South

Watch Magazine (Toronto, Canada), June 8, 1994

It was the decade of the happy face, bell-bottoms, avocado fridges, disco and the Bay City Rollers; in short, the 70s was a pimple on the ass of history, better evaporated in a pot haze on a waterbed. Not so says 70s-obsessed author Pagan Kennedy, who believes the much-maligned decade is the victim of a bum rap perpetuated by the idolization of the 60s.

Kennedy says the 70s saw all the radical ideas and culture of the 60s go mainstream and mutate in a way the hippies couldn’t imagine.

Social relations and culture were profoundly reshaped during this decade as the non-traditional family took form, women flooded the workplace and unions became rich monoliths.

The social turmoil spawned blue collar red-necks with Confederate flags customizing fuck trucks – vans complete with waterbed, eight-track stereo, bong and sleazy airbrushed exteriors of naked women –  to cruise the nation’s highways enjoying the liberal sexual values while keeping conservative political views. Sexual liberation for these clowns consisted of bumper stickers saying “Ass, gas or grass – nobody rides for free!”. Kennedy remembers it all too well.

“This was the midst of the energy crisis, so big cars that wasted a lot of gas were really cool,” she says. “I guess it came out of the whole drug culture, sex culture thing. It was like a basement kids have, only it was on wheels – a party on wheels. It’s not just the mattress for the fuck truck, you’re supposed to be doing your bong hits in there – so the police can’t see you.”

Sex holidays

“Our lives are much more constrained than they were in the 70s,” continues Kennedy. “I think the 70s must seem like an exotic time to grow up in. One of my favourite parts in Douglas Coupland’s Generation X is when the characters want to take a sex holiday to 1974.

“There was a lot of obsession in the early 70s with swingers and wife-swapping. It was the one time when suddenly the sexual revolution was kicking in, not just for white, privileged college kids, but for everybody – for the working class. There were discos and orgy clubs. There was Plato’s Retreat in New York City where you would go in and there was an orgy in full progress.”

In music, the 70s rocketed between extremes. There was nauseating soft rock, concept albums and “progressive” rock. There was the outrageous glam, with artists like Slade and Gary Glitter jacked up on elevator shoes in sequin one-piece flare suits. There was disco and punk. But the sickest phenomena says Kennedy was corporate rock.

David Cassidy

“In the 60s, people were just learning how to package rock and make it a big corporate thing. By the 70s they had learned a lot. The Partridge Family was a group that was entirely fabricated. David Cassidy had a bigger fan club than Elvis. This was a guy who didn’t become a rock star until he went on TV. In the 60s, FM was alternative radio – you could play anything. Corporate guys got their hooks into FM by the 70s. They were formatting. It was no longer what the DJ wanted to hear. You were getting playlists. The money came from big rock concerts, so there was a desire to push these mega-groups and superstars.”

Another truly 70s phenomena was TV as social conscience. Before the 70s, TV variety shows focused on pure entertainment. But now writers, directors and producers schooled in the 60s political milieu were in control.

Blaxploitation

“All in the Family, Maude and Good Times were all part of the same world. All in the Family acknowledged the deep rifts in American society – America was at war with itself. Yet it did it in a soft enough way to not offend people.”

US blacks had been ignored until the civil rights struggle of the 1960s woke up a dopey white America. In the 1970s, blacks were being portrayed like never before in the media and popular culture. But all of this awareness took a twisted turn.

“I think what happened among blacks was they saw their leaders either killed or put in jail. And that was devastating. Blacks really turned to electoralism in the 70s. A lot of black people started running for office. While trying to change things from outside the system, they realized the price was too high. A lot of black people were involved in making those blaxploitation movies, but so were a lot of white people. Shaft and Superfly are like the bookends of the genre. They were really made by black filmmakers. But then there were all these ripoff versions starring football players – whitebread ideas of what black culture was like.”

Pagan Kennedy’s latest book, Platforms: A Microwaved Cultural Chronicle of the 1970s, is published by St. Martin’s Press and available in most book shops. She’s got a really cool collection of eight-track tapes and drives a yetch! 1974 Plymouth Valiant.

Her website is here: https://www.pagankennedy.space/

“Tripping on 70s Culture”: Watch Magazine was published in Toronto, Canada in the 1990s. “The Bi-Weekly Student Perspective on Culture, Issues and Trends.”
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022