The AMP makers collective has run over 35 workshops to date around the theme of transforming the Agbogbloshie scrap and recycling ecosystem into a network for distributed manufacturing and digital fabrication.
Here is a list of the main events held as part of the AMP series of informal maker workshops to build the future of Agbogbloshie:
“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.
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.
#ampqamp14 ran June through August, 2014 at the Kokrobitey Institute, Hub Accra (now Impact Hub Accra) and the Agbogbloshie scrapyard, in collaboration with Togo’s Wɔɛlab. #ampqamp14 focused on M&D (Makers & Development, a practical hands-on approach to R&D) for the spacecraft, while #ampqamp15 focused on codesign of the AMP app.
First weeek =) of#ampqamp14 started at Hub Accra by a discussion of AMP’s objectives for the three coming weeeks: to co-design and build with AMP makers (comprising of STEAM students and graduates and eventually e-waste workers) a module of the spacecraft–AMP’s makerspace–and share its progress with the community in Agbogbloshie.
Participants started discussing the design of the spacecraft, its frame and interior frame comprising of an octet truss system, prefab panels, soft and roof systems. We then developed a critical path for each system so to know what to do at each step of the way until we build the spacecraft. The brainstorming sessions were very intensive, with some of the participants sketching/drawing the various concepts related to the spacecraft.
By the second day we enthusiastically produced fully developed critical paths, identified and quantified in terms of duration and dependency of the various tasks
We also prepared for the first workshop ahead, the plastic workshop to be carried out at the Rex Cinema in collaboration with Brad Marley and Efya from the POLY Bank GH organization. In preparation for the workshop, we conducted background research on the physical properties, melting methods and stewing methods. We sourced the plastic–shredded-PET (polyethylene therephatlate) old plastic bottles and stewed shredded-PP (polypropylene)–and a number of molds from Agbogbloshie. This was also a good occasion to share our process with the Agbogbloshie community. This is a picture of the tools we brought to the Rex Cinema to conduct our experiments.
The Rex is an open-air cinema, a wonderful space to experiment within. There, young Ghana makers were busy melting, stewing and molding different types of plastics and exploring the production of architectural parts, panels, brick or tiles, made of recycled plastic. Sam and Idrissou, Agbogbloshie community agents, helped with burning the charcoal.. They were far more skilled than us!
Below are some of the observations from the experiment:
We observed that the PET melting process was very slow and began really late, also at temperatures slightly higher than 260◦c, which is the theoretical melting point value. PET began to char and thus underwent incomplete carbonation and changing color from a transparent blue color a marble brown colored plastic. PP however, started melting at a lower temperature and rather melted over a larger temperature range and also produced a smooth finish.
We may have over heated the PET plastics, which led to the formation of a brittle-porous tile.
Contributing factors to such brittleness of the plastic panel are associated to the cooling rate and media and this caused cracks.
Also, the temperature of the charcoal flame could not be controlled and hence over heating ensued.
It was also observed that stewing of PET did not work. This is probably due to the fact that it has a high melting temperature and the oil doing not facilitate that phenomenon.
PP plastics however work well with stewing in oil. From the experiment, we formed a very strong mold which can be used for wall panels, table tops and many others.
The AMP team guided Archibots: Remaking Agbogbloshie design participants through Agbogbloshie by first introducing them to the the executives of the scrap dealers’ association. We proceeded through Rauf’s shop, where large volumes of refrigerators are processed, to the National Youth Authority Building, through dismantling and processing sites, past the areas where copper cables are burnt and all the way to the plastics recycling sector near the International Central Gospel Church.
Back to Hub Accra (thanks for hosting us!), the fun could begin! After hearing a brief introduction about AMP (DK Osseo-Asare, AMP co-PI) and the objectives of the design workshop (Juliet Sakyi, TAP: Build founder), participants brainstormed about possible architecture robots for Agbogbloshie and its population. Sam Yusuf, who hails from Agbogbloshie and currently works with AMP on interviews and GPS mapping, also attended in order to share some of the ideas with informal sector community. MESH has prepared a video showing highlights of the event.
Amongst the multitude of ideas that emerged, participants chose to pursue investigating the following: SMOKEYBOT – a robot that reduces the smoke in Agbogbloshie by grinding and processing copper wires ; SOLARBOT – a mobile tent, with a capacity to harvest solar energy, detect light and intelligently self adjust to provide conducive working environments ; SPIDERBOT – a zoomorphic robot with the ability to collect, transport and process large volume of e -waste at a time and a POWERSUIT – an apparel for humans, with the capacity to read, interpret and transmit biological data to the wearer, boost physical performance and contain computing capacity.
Teams self-organized once more to each tackle one of the 4 ideas selected. In the future a swarm of similar architecture robots could be used to terraform the electronic landscape…
So the adventure isn’t finished yet… Participants have expressed their interest in following-up with M&D – Making and Development. AMP is actually formalizing a 3 week summer workshop, so stay tuned!
The turnout was awesome and we thank all participants for coming and our partner organisations MESH and Tap for their support and contributions.
The first session of the Archibots workshop came off as scheduled on the May 30th 2014. The event was well attended by people from various disciplinary backgrounds. There were engineers, architects, CAD technicians, business men & women and lecturers as well as from various nationalities, such as Spain and the Netherlands. This was the introductory session for Archibots, a design workshop to prototype architecture robots for Agbogbloshie. As part of the event, all three collaborating organizations (tap, AMP and MESH) made presentations on what they do. AMP co-lead DK Osseo-Asare, introduced participants to Agbogbloshie E-waste circuitry, which is the context for the architecture robots to be designed and the key design concepts as far as AMP is concerned. Some of the videos that were selected to provide inspiration for participants can be found here . The team is eagerly awaiting the next phase which is the design session scheduled for June 7th 2014 at Hub Accra. This promises to be just as exciting as the May 30th event. Thanks to our friend and ally, media partners MESH Ghana for compiling footage of the event, which can be found at Archibots: Remaking Agbogbloshie.
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.