Making a mobile oven, or mini-kiln; for melting plastics originally but whatever you need to bake. Pick or make the right caster wheels for the sort of mobility mini-kiln usage requires.
Plastics constitute a significant portion of the Agbogbloshie waste stream, moving through stages of collection, sorting (by type and colour), cleaning, shredding and even in some cases molding into pellets. (See Plastics blog post). With at least 7 micro-factories by our count, Agbogbloshie is a key part of the plastic recycling industry in Ghana, and integrally interconnected with both local and global production cycles. To date, the failure of Agbogbloshie’s industrial ecosystem to add value to plastic material recycled on-site is a lost opportunity for local manufacturing.
Building on our experiments with plastic during AMPQAMP and drawing on the knowledge and expertise of oven fabricators based on the ground in Agbogbloshie, we are now co-designing and prototyping a mini-kiln. This week, William Mensah completed fabrication of the first prototype in Accra Timber Market,adjacent to Agbogbloshie. The mini-kiln fits the standard module of the AMP spacecraft and is one of the first tools from the AMP tool-set developed to plug into the community workshop.
The prototype, is composed essentially of a frame of angle bars, inner and outer layers of sheet metal with a layer of what is locally called “fibre” (PUR foam insulation sourced from air-conditioner dismantling). We didn’t finish until evening, but couldn’t wait to test. Hence using shredded plastics from Agbogbloshie, we made new recycled plastic tiles, heating the the plastics to their melting point, and allowing them to cool. We intend to carry out carry more of such low-high tech plastic experiments soon in our spacecraft. Stay tuned for more and be sure to share with us, your innovative ideas regarding plastic recycling.
+Need to add chimney, temperature gauge, and calibrated gas control.
+Cost compare with 2-module wide unit, cylindrical drum cast concrete or clay insulated.
+Link with rotational plastics moulding machine:feedback-enabled temperature controls.
Dis-assembly of mobile phones constitute an increasingly significant facet of the e-waste industry here in Agbogbloshie. Metals from these phones form part of the urban mined resource of the city, albeit not as ubiquitous as other equipment such as refrigerators, and microwaves.
As part of the process of making the AMP’s E-manuals, the team with its Agbogbloshie field agents and members of the AMP makers collective (Sam and Iddrisu), disassembled a mobile phone at Agbogbloshie. We made use of the most available tools, (mainly screw drivers owned by the e-waste workers themselves), and carefully took apart the phone, in a manner that preserved each component. We then identified and documented via photographs, each of these. Such hands-on dis-assembly activities enables the team (with diverse backgrounds), to understand better, the nature of the electronics that are in Agbogbloshie.
As it is with other equipment in Agbogbloshie, mobile phones that arrive here are usually in a wide range of conditions. Those in fairly good condition are resold altogether or have their working parts sold to phone repairers(who troop in, in search of such working parts). Those that are in totally bad shape are scraped for constituent metals. It is common to find that, phones arriving here for dis-assembly already have missing parts and/or components such as batteries. According to the e-waste workers, these are sometimes removed by collectors before they reach Agbogbloshie. Some of the most valuable parts of the mobile phones inside Agbogbloshie are the screen and circuit boards. Once these and other parts are removed, they follow the same process as other e-waste and are either sold locally to phone repairers for re-use or to middle-men.
“Africa needs meaningful investment to alleviate poverty and provide inclusive prosperity. To achieve this, we need to be able to provide environments that promote quality investment for the people and reduce risks. Forums like the IPA are necessary to make the most of the continent’s investment,” AgriProtein spokesperson David Drew (Winner of IPA 2013)
Typically when the world talks innovation, Africa is not part of that conversation. However, people living on the continent know that is both oversight and misconception: the vicissitudes of daily life in African environments engender strategies and tactics for survival that are radically innovative. Unfortunately, in contradistinction to this reality, a majority of African educational and research institutions underperform at driving innovation to address the challenges of daily life in these same spaces. Too often the emphasis is on “pure” academic research divorced from real-world applications. Or when research does link to applications, that coupling does not include viable implementation plans to bring the ideas to market or to scale. Africa has an abundance of brilliant minds. What is missing is a results-oriented ecosystem to translate indigenous invention into products and services that can transform society. On the evening of October 1st, a dozen young Ghanaian innovators and changemakers joined with the AMP team to welcome Pauline Mujawamariya, Director of Innovation Price for Africa (IPA), at the Hub Accra.
Now in its fourth year, the prize continues to increase its profile globally, the size of it’s pan-African community of innovators and concomitant capacity to shift the conversation about innovation in Africa. An emerging force in the global innovation discourse, the IPA prize — an initiative of the African Innovation Foundation — provides support for significant inventions by Africans in Africa, not just to honour the winners for their ingenuity, but to help their inventions become true innovation through market-based delivery. This year’s winners were Dr Nicolaas Duneas and Nuno Pires from South Africa, who developed an Osteogenic Bone Matrix (OBM), the first of its kind in the world. This invention is straight out of science fiction: “The OBM injection leads to the rapid, safe and effective healing of problematic bone injuries, leading to the complete and natural restoration of the bone, including the bone marrow.” (1) Yes, that means an injection that makes bones regenerate.
IPA 2013 winner AgriProtein went on to raise “$11 million from strategic partners to commercialize and globalize its IP.” (2)
After setting up the bamboo furniture “living-room style”, we dove deep into a two-hour long discussion about the nature and future of African innovation. Pauline gave a brief overview of what the Innovation Prize for Africa was about and then engaged attendees — all either founders of or actively involved in technology start-ups — as they asked questions about the IPA prize, shared their personal experiences and the challenges of youth-led entrepreneurship in Ghana and West Africa. Topics ranged from “problems”, i.e. social and cultural factors that inhibit innovation, to countermeasures that can lead to solutions (over time).
Far from being a talk shop of hopeless complaints, one could sense a joint resolve to take these insights and turn them into action. The atmosphere was charged with electric potential energy.
One part of the conversation worth sharing… We debated whether the IPA Prize reinforces the “false myth” of innovators as lone geniuses, when in reality, innovation occurs through the interconnected efforts of groups of people (networks), not just individuals. Could not the IPA be more effective if it supported technology clusters or collaborative projects? Pauline’s response was that while innovation is a joint venture, leaders still play an instrumental role in making innovation happen. The IPA Prize seeks to ensure that pioneers receive the attention and support that can enable them to facilitate the massively-scaled change that the continent needs so urgently.
Which leads us to… Applications for the IPA Prize — which awards $150,000 in total to winners — are due at the end of this month. Already around the social web, we are seeing retweets and Facebook shares encouraging people to “Apply to the prize!” This is great, and we support it. You SHOULD apply. It’s more than about simply winning. Going through the process of applying, or even talking about applying, can serve to remind you that you can be and likely ARE an innovator already. Everything starts in the mind, and once you see the power you have to affect change, it becomes infinitely easier to make it happen.
But we want to add something else: Encourage other people around you to apply! African culture is predicated on the concept of community. When you raise up one person, you raise up everyone. YOU know the people around you doing amazing things. Even if there is no direct benefit for you, encourage those people in your circles and networks who you admire — who inspire you — to apply to the IPA prize. Sometimes people may not even see how amazing what they are doing is. They need someone else to help them see it. This applies especially to youth under the age of 25. Talk to the “whiz kids” that you know that have created things — just because they wanted to — but which they may not see as inventions.
The deadline for entry is 31st October, 2014 and we hope to see as many youth (under the age of 25) and women as possible enter and win the prize. Together we can redirect the conversation around innovation in Africa.
Pauline Mujawamariya has worked with international organisations such as UNICEF and GTZ prior to IPA. In her current capacity as IPA Director, she travels the length and breadth of the continent, recruiting a large-scale network of innovators who will — one creative step at a time — help transform the entire African continent. More pictures of the event on Flickr.
AMP National Volunteers Day 2014
The stories we tell of ourselves affect our lives. At AMP, it has been our intention right from the onset to tell the untold stories of Agbogbloshie and its environs. Through mapping, interviews, photography and videos, we have sought to understand this vast and intense landscape, often denigrated by popular media reportage. By these tools, we intend to encourage and improve best practises, gradually eliminate the not so good and to transform the entire Agbogbloshie into a vibrant industrial hub. This year, as we commemorate founders day ( also National Volunteers Day) be part of this, process of transformation. If you are a storyteller, photographer or videographer, a computer programmer, own a smart phone or don’t belong to any of these categories and yet are a change-maker, this is your chance. Join the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform for National Volunteers Day. We are making interactive digital maps, videos and photo-journals, listening to untold stories and telling it to the world. We are educating e-waste workers on health, accounting, materials and design.
Register and help us bring change where it matters most.
9:00 am – Orientation and meeting with Scrap dealers executives.
9:45 am – Division into teams — spacecraft, photography and videography, mapping, interviews (storytellers).
10:00 am – Activities Begin
11:30 am – Convergence and exchange of ideas – ( in the spacecraft)
12 noon – Refreshment & Departure
About Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP)
Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) is an experiment in youth-led R&D: a collaborative project to upgrade the quality of life and environment at Agbogbloshie, the largest e-waste processing site in Ghana. In actuality, Agbogbloshie may be the center, but the Accra-Tema scrap industry generally is much more distributed and has spatially many urban processing routes and clusters.
The AMP project seeks to create an alternate convention that links Agbogbloshie’s e-waste, scrap & recycling industry with the technical know-how and social entrepreneurial framework to itself remake the landscape, over time. The approach is to design and build locally a knowledge database and set of tools for e-waste processing and digital fabrication. The intention is to empower informal sector e-waste workers and their peer groups to rehabilitate the environment of Agbogbloshie and to help green the community’s current recycling practices. The short-term goal is to design and build a makerspace for the hyper-local context of Agbogbloshie, together with an open-source technology platform to support its operation. The long-term goal is to transform Agbogbloshie’s e-waste and scrap industry into a network for more advanced materials processing and small-scale distributed manufacturing.
For many designers across the globe, language (words) form the bedrock of design thinking: “Words are tools for architectural design; for the development of design intent or strategy, as well as construct the ideas that drive its creation” (Eckler, 2012) .
The Agbogbloshie makerspace, is essentially, a community “toolbox” for Agbogbloshie. It was conceived as a spacecraft. This choice of a word served both as a starting point and driver for the design. With AMP co-pi DK Osseo-Asare as the lead on the design team, the AMP spacecraft was designed with mobility in mind, as are other crafts like an air craft, or even space faring vehicles (spacecrafts). As a community kiosk with hand tools, the idea of crafting (making with ones hands) was pivotal in addition to the fact that, these tools enable the spacecraft to replicate itself. Hence it can be read as a place where space is crafted.
Beyond these, the influence of space travel is relevant to the Agbogbloshie makerspace. Here, the toxic electronic landscape which is unfavourable for human habitation is likened to an extra-terrestrial planetary body. Hence, the arrival of a spacecraft could imply the commencement of a process of terraforming–the hypothetical notion that, in order to be habitable and/or conducive for human habitation, atmospheres and ecology of other planets can be modified. From this point of view, the arrival of the AMP spacecraft in Agbogbloshie is the commencement of a process of spatial change or transformation, a notion which is itself deeply related to crafts (vehicles).
In summary, the spacecraft is:
Mobile and is like other crafts
A place for making (crafting)
A workshop for crafting space due to its self replicating ability
And a first step towards the spatial transformation of the Agbogbloshie landscape
In terms of the structure, the AMP spacecraft is modular and has a frame consisting of 12 octet trusses per module. (See video here). Each octet truss is made up of steel angle bars, flat plates and rods, which form a series of half octahedra all welded together into a singular structural unit. The intention is to fill in the structural frame with materials sourced from within the Agbogbloshie landscape such as old refrigerator doors, which will constitute composite “precast” insulated panels.
For the past three weeks week as part of AMPQAMP, the process of crafting the first module of the spacecraft continued starting in Hub Accra with theorizing and brainstorming about the spacecrafts systems and components, and ending in Kokrobite with the fabriacation of the first full scale octet truss, after several prototypes and mockups. It was a long tedious and yet highly exciting process where our desire for high level of precision and accuracy meant cutting and re-cutting, measuring and re-measuring, until we arrived at fairly satisfactory results.
Thanks to master welder Badu and his assistant, we had a fruitful learning experience. Their process was particularly interesting to us because, they used a grinder that was itself “e-waste” sourced from Agbogbloshie. As a space of convergence, the spacecraft which is a place for interaction and sharing (and will exist both as a tangible place, and a fully functional virtual platform) will soon land in Agbogbloshie. Stay tuned!!!
1. Eckler, F.J 2012, “Language of Space and Form: Generative Terms for Architecture”, John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey, page 1.
One of AMP’s core objectives is the compilation and design of a “waste” electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) manual. The main purpose of this is the provision of vital information for the AMP maker collective comprising of STEAM students/graduates (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) and Agbogbloshie e-waste workers.
For several months, we worked on the print version of the manual–a series of individual manuals for each electrical and electrical equipment studied–which has undergone several design iterations (see image below). We collected data from a number of articles and our own fieldwork (to learn the value in Ghana Cedis of each item brought to and dismantled in Agbogbloshie). We designed a manual for each piece of equipment studied so it fits a single folded sheet of paper. This makes it simpler and more user friendly. In the coming days, these manuals as they are so far, will be hosted online so makers and people knowledgeable about electrical and electronic equipment could contribute to them.
The manual is organized so as to give information on material composition, parts and components, hazardous materials, urban mining opportunities, tools for dis-assembly, steps for dis-assembly, safety gear, and opportunities and ideas for remaking.
This task is a staggering one because it should cater to the needs of people pertaining to different social categories, each with different understanding and knowledge. On the one hand are the STEAM professionals, educated and used to reading guides and who may even love manuals and on the other hand, the e-waste workers, predominantly uneducated and having a general disinclination towards anything remotely related to guidebooks or for that matter, books. This means they would both relate differently to a typical guidebook. Although this may sound stereotypical, it is a truth with which the AMP team is confronted.
To navigate these murky waters, the team decided to go beyond the traditional printed manual in a foreign language and to in addition to this make to video manuals which can be housed on servers and broadcast inside the spacecraft. These will be targeted specifically at the e-waste workers, and put together by some of them, in collaboration with their STEAM counterparts and will be done in Dagbani ( the Lingua franca as it were in Agbogbloshie). In addition to this, makers and/or hackers around the country and the world will have access in open source fashion to all the manuals online, as part of the AMP digital platform.
In the coming years, AMP hopes to see this manual evolve into a highly informative periodical, providing vital knowledge for a local and international network of young passionate makers and hackers. A thrilling thought indeed!!!
Agbogbloshie e-waste dump as it is known, and portrayed by the media is more than just that. It is an e-resource repository; a source of valuable raw e-material and a makers’ paradise. On this e-turf, there are several players, whose operations make it what it is.
Zack is a young e-waste worker. He usually operates in the Agbogbloshie refrigerator trade: buying, selling, dismantling and selling again. The AMP team encountered him over 7 months ago and signed him on as a part of the AMP maker collective.
“Emeka” is a Nigerian migrant to Ghana. He owns and operates a shop out of Agbogbloshie. The shop is well stocked and has a CCTV camera which helps him secure his “goods”. Though the team had been to this side of Agbogbloshie, this was the first time we were meeting him in person.
What do all these people have in common? Computers!!
As part of the AMPQAMP at the Kokrobite Institute, AMP hackers and/or STEAM students and graduates, collaborated with hackers from the Woelab (Togo’s very active makerspace!) to build a Jerry. A Jerry is a computer that is made with parts from old computers assembled in a jerrycan. This workshop was significant, mainly due to the transfer of knowledge which occurred during the assembly process. As part of this highly didactic process, a team comprising makers from both AMP and Woelab visited Agbogbloshie.
Inside Agbogbloshie, the team first encountered a computer shop. It was well stocked and able to provide a wide range of old computer parts owned and run by Emeka. During the interviews and interaction with the e-waste workers in Agbogbloshie, the AMP team discovered that, Nigerians formed a critical part of the ecosystem in Agbogbloshie. A network that virtually spans the entire globe.
Subsequently, the team met with Zack, an e-waste worker, who is part of the AMP maker collective. Several weeks earlier, the AMP team had discovered much to our surprise that Zack whom we knew only as an expert in the commerce and dismantling of old fridges in Agbogbloshie and who had helped us with our workshop in fridge disassembly, was also a self taught computer repairer. He was comfortable enough to ask us which parts we needed, and proceeded to test them for us by connecting each in turn to his personal computer. The level of fruitful interaction had with him, points to the phenomenal possibilities that a fully operational maker collective (comprising STEAM professionals and e-waste workers) in Agbogbloshie would unleash.
Back at the Kokrobite institute, the Woelab team, led by Rhode Audrey and Martine Pandam together with the AMP team led by Daniel started to assemble the Jerry computer. We first produced schematic sketches and then marked out and cut the JerryCan. We then placed the components: first the mother board, then the hard drives, then the cables, the power pack and finally the CD-ROM. In all, it was a very exciting experience. The excitement has spurred the AMP team on to explore further design possibilities. The team is advancing ideas such as the solar JerryTop: recovered laptop parts in a Jerrycan powered by recovered solar cells.
These we believe can serve as a means of providing cheap computers in rural areas and in deprived urban contexts and can go a long way to improve computer literacy in Ghana and Africa as a whole. This is one of those projects where hackers like Zack in Agbogbloshie and STEAM professionals like Daniel from the creativity group in KNUST (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology) could collaborate. In the few moments where language was a barrier, both teams communicated via the language of computers and making, which are both universal. Thanks to Yasmine (AMP co-pi) and Rejoice ( psychology intern and maker), such moments were minimized, as they took turns to translate.
In the end, there was a handing over ceremony where the team from Togo handed over the Jerry’s to the AMP team, signifying a transfer of technology.
On Monday, the 12th of May 2014, the AMP team was at the college of engineering KNUST, meeting up with the Creativity Group of the college and students from around the university, for an AMP information session. The session provided attendants with information about the QAMP summer program and invited them to be a part of the AMP maker collective. In addition to this, the team will also provided information about AMP workshops, such as the impending Archibots: Remaking Agbogblodshie workshop, future workshops and encouraged them to apply to attend these. The team learned a lot from the interaction. Some of the projects that the students of the creativity group, expressed interest in were the bicycle with a pedal-powered grinding wheel (for pulverizing electronic waste), the EEE manual and research into material flows. The team had a wonderful time at KNUST and looks forward to an exciting summer full of fresh ideas.
AMP approach contends that (domains of) architecture and electronics have converged. At such a moment — if we can make open, democratic and collective the capability of manipulating materials from the level of chemistry up, by means of digital technology, we can move beyond the notion of “e-waste”. Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE or 3E), old or new, constitute a vital stream of raw material for the global production chain. In particular, while there is fundamental overlap with the elemental “stuff” of digital space, it is equally important to note that the majority of EEE materials* are generally recyclable such as plastics, steel, aluminium, copper, or other specialized or high-value materials.
Re-making Agbogbloshie is a collaboration between Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP) and The Architects’ Project (tap:). The workshop seeks to design and prototype practicable architectural interventions — at the level of equipment — that can inform the discourse of industrial landscapes like Agbogbloshie scaled through kiosk-size 3E materials processing machines, i.e. micro-industrial digital fabrication bots.
Re-making Agbogbloshie design workshop is an exploration of small-scale architectural interventions that operate more than as kinetic micro- shelters — they additionally include “robotic” or electronic systems and tool/equipment functions. The workshop seeks to design “architecture robots” that could assist humans in processing 3E materials, phytoremediation of the contaminated landscape and actively supporting the Agbogbloshie lifecycle.
Agbobloshie: Every year, tons of electronic waste arrives on the shores of Ghana. A huge proportion of this deluge of e-waste flows through Agbogbloshie, where a vibrant community of e-waste workers and makers reuse, recycle and upcycle end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment. However, some of the crude methods used for dismantling e-waste and processing scrap (such as burning wires and cords to recover the copper) are highly polluting: they negatively impact the health of e-waste workers and have led to Agbogbloshie’s notorious position as “the most polluted place on Earth” for 2013, according to Green Cross Switzerland and the nonprofit Blacksmith Institute (USA).
E-waste: E-waste or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is typically portrayed as highly toxic old computers, televisions, etc. that are “dumped” in poor countries by rich countries, in violation of the Basel Convention (an international treaty which expressly prohibits such forms of international transhipment of WEEE). While it is true that e-waste contains hazardous materials, and that improper handling and disposal of these materials can greatly pollute the environment and compromise public health, it does not negate the fact that the materials embedded within e-waste are incredibly valuable. In fact, e-waste — considered pound-for-pound as a “raw material” of the global production chain — is among the most valuable on the planet: one ton of old mobile phones has 100X the concentration of precious metals like gold and silver than does an equivalent amount of ore mined from the earth.
Architecture: Usually when most people think about (the practice of) “architecture”, they think about high-end residences or large-scale projects. In Africa, these are typically the only kind of construction projects (along with smaller interventions by the government and NGOs) that have large enough budgets to pay the professional service fees of architects. This leaves the majority of workers and construction works on the continent, which occur in what social scientists call the “informal sector”, outside the design domain of architects, or the scope of formal architecture. The point of departure for this workshop is to propose that this default strategy for Africa’s built environment misses the point. If to date architecture has had limited success in re-configuring the African terrain, perhaps it is time to invert the approach: try to introduce innovation at the bottom, and let it spread.
* EEE- or 3E-materials: Consider electrical and electronic equipment, at all condition levels, as a raw material for global production chain. 3-E materials are a broader and more inclusive range of materials compared to e-materials, e.g. electronics materials based on silicon or other semiconducting materials, and such materials in aggregate, i.e. a circuit board.
The AMP team proudly hosted Afrimakers-Ghana at their Agbogbloshie site on the 13th of March 2014. The guided tour of the e-waste dump and maker community turned out to be highly informative for both groups, as it occurred amidst casual conversation and exchange of ideas. Among the Afrimakers group were, Stefania Druga (founder of HacKIDmedia, a global network, that gives kids hands-on problem solving skill through play centered workshops and tools), Victor Ofoegbu (organiser of Afrimakers-Ghana workshop – pics on qampnet), Ahmed Bastawy (entrepreneur, facilitator, and engineer).
The AMP team is excited about the visit and the prospects of future collaboration that it promises.