Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (Tshwane University of Technology) and LINK Centre (University of the Witwatersrand)
This South African Maker Movement Workshop was hosted at the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (IERI) at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria, South Africa, with support from Open AIR and the University of the Witwatersrand’s LINK Centre.
The African maker movement is focused on largely informal, openness-oriented innovation by collectives of interdisciplinary makers working together in makerspaces. Sometimes referred to as an “open source hardware” movement, making typically involves the collaborative use of digital 3D printers, Arduino circuits, laser cutters, and milling machines to create innovative products.
The event brought researchers from all over the African continent and Canada, while the Makers’ workshop involved those Makers from Gauteng Province, Durban, and Cape Town. These Makers began the workshop by giving first-hand accounts of their experiences, objectives and plans in building makerspaces. Attendees heard how these spaces are approaching issues of sustainability, innovation/enterprise-scaling, outreach, skills development, and national networking. In addition, Open AIR researchers from Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, and Canada presented preliminary findings on those countries’ existing maker movements.
The maker collectives featured were Geekulcha in Pretoria, I Make Makers Lab at the Makers Village in Irene (next to Pretoria), Maker Station in Cape Town, eKasi Lab Ga-Rankuwa in Pretoria North, The MakerSpace in Durban, the Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) MakerSpace at the Wits University Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Johannesburg, KATO in Cape Town, the University of Pretoria (UP) MakerSpace, and BinarySpace in Vanderbijlpark (in the Vaal Triangle, south of Johannesburg).
The day before the workshop, Open AIR researchers toured some of Pretoria’s exciting and diverse makerspaces. Our collaborators from South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, and Canada went from space to space, sharing insights and ideas from across the continent on the way. Highlights from the tour included the UP MakerSpace, Geekculcha (headquartered at mLab Southern Africa, in the The Innovation Hub), and the I Maker Makers Lab.
On the day after the workshop, Open AIR researchers received an “Intro to Making” session facilitated by one of South Africa’s pioneering makerspaces, House4Hack. (Guided by House4Hack members, the Open AIR participants built Arduino-controlled, cricket-playing robots!)