3D Printing in Africa: A Brief Insight

POSTED BY   Sarah Etling
18th May 2017
3D Printing in Africa: A Brief Insight

Our very own social media guy David Dhannoo continues his theme on the continent, looking at 3D printing in Africa. He has so far looked at the continent’s Fintech scene and also at how one startup from Zimbabwe is using AI for news stories. In his final week in Africa, he looks at one of his favourite forms of technology, 3D printing, and how this form of disruptive tech is being used in this truly fascinating part of the world.

3D Printing in Africa: A Brief Insight

3D Printing in Africa: A Brief Insight

Stereotypically, you would associate 3D printing with Western startup areas such as Silicon Valley, London, Berlin, etc. However, Africa is also embracing 3D printing.

The continent has a lot to benefit from using 3D printing, by creating 3D printing facilities. The ramifications could mean that the end result will be a product that costs less and, more importantly, could have a significant impact in the most impoverished of Africa’s countries.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the way Africa looks at innovative methods using very low-cost approaches and I feel, at times, the continent doesn’t get enough credit. For this very reason, I would like to introduce you to Togolese inventor Kodjo Afate Gnikou. He won a NASA prize for creating a 3D printer from recycled waste and is currently working on a larger printer that will print houses on Mars!

The Lifechanging Potential of 3D Printing in Africa

3D printing in Africa could really change people’s lives. Quite a few nations in the past have experienced civil wars, which have left a large number of people to have parts of their body amputated. A prosthetic limb, for example, can cost $30,000 and require long distance travel to get it fitted. Using 3D printed prosthetics can dramatically lower the cost and can be delivered directly to the patient.

In addition, 3D printing drones is another way of changing African’s lives. Drones can be used to deliver medicine to areas that lack transport infrastructure and can also be used for agricultural purposes.

In layman’s terms, Africa needs to be heavily involved with 3D printing. Period. The more Africans that take an interest, such as Kodjo Afate Gnikou, the better. I really feel it could help the continent massively, and in such a range of ways.

IP Restrictions in Africa: A Barrier to Progress

A main barrier at the moment seems to be IP restrictions. For those of you who might not know, the continent suffered from IP restrictions on antiviral drugs to combat HIV. If African countries work in unison and somehow create open source hardware, this would speed up the development process as well attract investment from all over the continent and even overseas.

It would be interesting to see if the IP law was ever lifted and I am intrigued about the results 3D printing in Africa, as well as the other technologies I have covered, could create. I guess only time will tell.

In the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Kenyatta University and The African Centre for Technology Studies have teamed up to create a centre of 3D printing excellence. Kenya is known for its startup and technology scene, so this could be the African nation that will excel and push boundaries.

The key is to inspire and educate. If this continues, Africa will not only continue to innovate, it will become a tech world leader. This is something that will not obviously happen overnight, however, if more financial backing and infrastructure is put in place, there is no reason why Africa can take centre stage in the next industrial revolution wave.

3D Printing in Africa: A Brief Insight

Sarah Etling

Sarah Elting is Head of Marketing at TDMB. Following a degree in Marketing, she headed to Italy to start up a property consultancy. On her return to colder climates, she embarked on a marketing and creative journey that over the course of 12 years evolved from launching paint collections to heading up the marketing of a successful PropTech start-up and becoming CIM qualified. Sarah now writes about all aspects of strategic marketing and technology and continues to be interested in Property.

Get in Touch With Sarah Etling


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