That's not a hack; THIS is a hack
July 20, 2006 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Afrigadget Life hacks from the Dark Continent. Similar idea to better-known hacks here and here.
posted by klangklangston (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh this is just great. I have been involved in a lot of research on this topic, and user innovation more broadly. Though not Africa, specifically, for those interested in this sort of improvisation, I recommend Eric Von Hippel's Democratizing Innovation (free on the web). He is an MIT professor who started the study of this sort of innovation back in the 1970s.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:58 AM on July 20, 2006 [2 favorites]

Interesting, but I wish Erik knew something about tools before writing about them.
posted by TedW at 9:00 AM on July 20, 2006

This is cool.
posted by OmieWise at 9:20 AM on July 20, 2006

Not to derail the wonderful post, but does it bother anyone else that Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank, see's "Africa: As A Continent of Opportunities?
posted by Unregistered User at 9:31 AM on July 20, 2006

Interesting, but I wish Erik knew something about tools before writing about them.

Yeah, I love this stuff, I grew up amazed at the kind of stuff Africans could make out of any old junk (this was to become quite an influence on how I do things) but this is not a piece of rebar hollowed out to make a wrench, it's a piece of rebar shaped to fit inside the square holes of existing socket bits.
posted by Flashman at 9:49 AM on July 20, 2006

Konono N 1 is #1. And to think techno was a white middle class invention. Another shameless myth wrecked.
posted by BillJenkins at 10:08 AM on July 20, 2006

The hippo rollers are wonderful. Think how much time, effort, and neck strain they could save someone who otherwise would need to balance water on her head a jug at a time.

A cool life hack that you do see in Africa and elsewhere but not, as far as I've seen, in Europe or America is the shoulder yoke (banghy, tantsi, etc.). I would like a cheap, lightweight yoke for carrying shopping bags home, just a shoulderpiece, a short length of rope dangling at either side, and a hook on either end to hold the grocery bags. (I could also use it in the garden.)
posted by pracowity at 10:32 AM on July 20, 2006

pracowity: we have hippies out where I live who sell things like that at the farmer's market. I don't see people using them in real life anyplace, but I agree it's a good idea.

I like the idea of this blog, but I never understand people who do these nifty websites detailing ingenuity and other smart ideas from the offline world and then make the online version of them so totally intractable.
posted by jessamyn at 11:13 AM on July 20, 2006

I love how they have pictures of makeshift wooden bicycles and water wells alongside tools to help villagers receive podcasts. Talk about skipping a generation of technology.
posted by gsteff at 11:13 AM on July 20, 2006

This is great. Those hippo rollers are fantastic.

Where I live, bicycle taxis (boda-boda) are all the rage, about 10% of the male population seem to be employed as "mtu wa boda-boda", yet most of the bikes are imported from China. The biggaboda is a project by XAccess that is trying to kick start local production of an improved load bearing bicycle.
posted by davehat at 11:14 AM on July 20, 2006

ah crap, that should read "watu wa boda-boda". Six months of Swahili lessons and I still can't get things right!
posted by davehat at 11:18 AM on July 20, 2006

Nice post. I'm reminded of my own trip to Africa, back in 1980. Traveling overland across the Sahara with a buddy, we blew into a tiny oasis town, deep in southern Algeria. There we were greeted by a town elder with customary hospitality, served copious amounts of mint tea, and taken to a tiny hut that we had to basically crawl into, the ceiling was so low. There was a small furnace inside: a young boy was operating a bellows and an older man was hammering on a piece of red hot metal. We inquired as to what they were forging, and they told us it was a replacement part for a jeep engine.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:00 PM on July 20, 2006

Another innovation called the Q-Drum is like the hippo roller, but depends on pulling instead of pushing. So instead of having (what looks like) a rigid connection between the water container and the person, any old rope can be used. Plus, they can really take a beating...
posted by whatzit at 5:25 AM on July 21, 2006

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