…two university students, Jeremiah Murimi, 24, and Pascal Katana, 22, wanted to make a difference in the lives of rural villagers. The result, a pocket-sized, bicycle-powered charger that was developed using homegrown innovation along with parts salvaged from the junkyard. Though similar inventions already exist in other African nations, none have been sold in Kenya until now.
While most of us rarely think of or use wheelbarrows in our daily lives, for a large group of post-war Liberian youth, pushing a wheelbarrow through the streets of Monrovia is decent work and steady income. The otherwise simple tool allows many of them a means to make money without much initial investment or extensive training. The wheelbarrow workers are generally divided into two main groups – those selling products like food, clothing, etc, and those hired by individuals and companies to transport goods throughout the busting city.
"The wheelbarrow is very important to the Liberian economy because most people cannot afford cars and trucks to transport goods," says T.R. Sieh, who makes wheelbarrow deliveries in Duala Market, north of town. "And many of our roads are narrow, so we use the wheelbarrow to reach customers where trucks cannot go." Wheelbarrows are so ubiquitous that some corporations have taken to purchasing ad space on the sides of the bins, much as they do on buses and taxis in more developed cities.
The wheelbarrow and the mostly young men who wield them have become such a booming business that they have been organized into several competing unions.
At least three competing unions are struggling to organize the wheelbarrow operators in the post-war economy, where unemployment is estimated at over 80% and droves of new young people migrate into the city every day in search of work. "You register with the Association and we paint the serial number on the side of your 'wheel' like a license plate," says George Wilson, Financial Secretary of NAWOAL's Duala Market branch. "Our branch has 394 members. We've been here since 1991. It's in our constitution that it's every member's duty to make a contribution. Then when you get sick, or if you die, NAWOAL can help with the arrangements."
Fun sign for a fish restaurant in Tanzania.The sign maker has gone through the pains to correct their own spelling in an effort to communicate with and attract english-speaking customers. The red arrow above is a nice touch as it reinforces the intent of the sign. While the spellng and grammar is a little off – note the comma after “To” -, the sign sets a welcoming tone and speaks directly to the needs of the intended audience, english-speaking visitors looking to experience local cuisine.
(this post is part of a series I’m exploring tentatively titled “The Design of Everyday Africa”. I’ll be highlighting information graphics and user experience as it pertains to Africa. As always, feel free to leave comments and send in anything you’d like to contribute)
Chosan, a hip-hop artist from Sierra Leone, for years has spent his time away from the microphone working with kids at a local school in Brooklyn, NY. The upcoming documentary "A Place of Refuge" documents the interactions and cross-cultural experiences between Chosan and the children. Watch below.
UK-based Banksy, one of my favorite street artists turned art world hero, has recently taken his brand of political commentary to the streets of Africa, Mali to be exact. It seems Banksy’s work has been spotted on the walls in Mali. As with his usual style, Banksy makes good use of the natural state of the wall and the surrounding environment to add to the emotion piece of his piece. View pictures below.
As President Obama embarks on his much anticipated trip to Africa this weekend, U2 frontman and social activist writes an op-ed column in this weekend’s NYtimes highlighting the significance of the President’s visit to Ghana.
But as the example of Ghana makes clear, that’s only one chord. Amid poverty and disease are opportunities for investment and growth — investment and growth that won’t eliminate overnight the need for assistance, much as we and Africans yearn for it to end, but that in time can build roads, schools and power grids and propel commerce to the point where aid is replaced by trade pacts, business deals and home-grown income.
President Obama can hasten that day. He knows change won’t come easily. Corruption stalks Africa’s reformers. “If you fight corruption, it fights you back,” a former Nigerian anti-corruption official has said.
Is Africa's version of capitalism failing? That is the question many African's in and outside of the business world continue to ask as many countries on the continent continue to move rather slowly to compete with other economies. While individual countries can be championed for their business successes, many argue that the continent as a whole must be aligned in order to see real change. A new book called Architects of Poverty by Moeletsi Mbeki attempts to explain much of the reasons for Africa's struggle to embrace modern capitalism. Moeletsi Mbeki is joined by a panel of experts including author Aly Khan Satchu in a discussion of the topic in this CNBC video. Do you think African capitalism is failing? Comments?
This week President Obama will make his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president of the United States. The visit is greatly anticipated by Africa as a whole and Ghana specifically. In the videos below he talks to allafrica.com about Africa now and to the future. Part 1