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Tech workshop in Togo gives platform to African innovators

posted 3 Jan 2013, 03:55 by Mpelembe   [ updated 3 Jan 2013, 03:55 ]

A three day workshop dubbed the "technology boot camp" in Togo brought together more than 50 young techies and inventors from across west Africa to exchange ideas on the latest in technology and showcase their innovations.

 LOMETOGO (DECEMBER 30, 2012) (REUTERS) - More than 50 young inventors from across west Africa gathered in Togo's capitalLome on Sunday (December 30), for the first ever "technology bootcamp", where young inventors exchanged ideas and showcased their latest innovations.

The initiative was modeled after the American "maker faire" organisation, which aims at providing space for African inventors, where initiatives and inventions are identified, brought to life and promoted.

The technology bootcamp featured three day-workshops where participants created prototypes of robots and other innovations using locally sourced material.

The bits and pieces used by the young inventors included everything from old radios, tv sets, car speakers, plastics and plywood.

Sam Kodo, a young Togolese inventor showcased a robotic arm that pours drink, operated by a computer.

"You can put anything in the bottle, water or fruit juice, anything you want, and as you can see there is a glass here, so you can pour the contents into the glass," Kodo told a group of visitors.

Nigerian innovator, Mogbolahan Ajala said these types of events will help increase awareness about technology and give young people a platform to learn from each other.

"I think it has started, the future is clear, because this is more... i see this as a new religion and these are the new prophets, or the early missionaries, whereby we are telling people technology is living, learn technology. so africa is going to live technology. i m saying five, ten years--five, ten years, i see it like this (clicking fingers), five, ten years," he said

In many African countries, schools and universities are underfunded, with science education suffering greatly due to a lack of infrastructure and materials.

Many of those who participated said the event gave them an opportunity not only to see what other young innovators on the continent are doing, but also allowed them to see how far they can go with the right kind of support.

"This took me three days to make, I was really impressed. I did not know that there were a large number of young people who are interested in this. In fact, what I have come to understand is that there are young people who have good ideas, and a good imagination, but who do not have the tools to go along with their ideas. So here we give them the tools and immediately, they become like ants and all of them come to take the tools and learn to use them," said Benoir Vonsa, a Togolelse inventor, who made a 3D printer.

Visitors at the event said they were surprised to see such high levels of talent coming from the region and the use of locally sourced materials.

"Essentially, it's using material that are very simple and affordable, in order to make great things and develop, and which can help us change the way we work in Africa , like a fashion designer using the 3D printer to print his logo. we are moving away from the mindset where it's just technology, we are now using technology foe development for everyone," said visitor Horatio Lassey.

Organizer Sename Koffi said making science practical and fun was a big part of the event. He said the aim was to attract more people involved in innovation to solve local problems as well as create employment.

"I hear many who say that there is no work, so i would like to send a message that this space is an open space where there is equipment to make anything, where there is a team, a team that can assist young people in developing any technology related project. so it's really a place where one can create his own work, there are tools to achieve what one may want to do, and any support they may need, all for free," said Koffi.

Organisers say they plan to host the event in other parts of Africa in the coming years and reach more young innovators.