Altruistic Innovation in AfricaBy
In Conquering Innovation Fatigue, we begin with an examination of some of the reasons that people pursue innovation. Not all innovation is driven by a desire for wealth. In fact, a large number of innovators are more interested in seeing their work make a difference in the world than in becoming rich (many want both, but the desire to see real results from one’s work is often essential). Social entrepreneurship and humanitarian innovation provide evidence of this. In the book, we highlight Empower Playgrounds (EmpowerPlaygrounds.org), the non-profit innovation engine that is bringing educational success to thousands of African children by creating playground equipment that generates power for LED lamps that children can take home so they can study and do homework after the finish their chores at home. Something as simple as a portable electric lamp, charged by innovative playground power generators, makes the difference between educational failure and graduating with opportunities for college. Many thanks to Ben Markham, the CEO of Empower Playgrounds, for recognizing the need and driving so much collaborative innovation to bring hope to western Africa.
Another great story out of Africa is the Forbes article, “Can This Bicycle Save Lives In Africa?” by Stephanie Finch. After achieving international success with his bicycle innovations, Frederick K.W. Day noticed that many streets in Africa were lined with abandoned, broken down bikes that quickly fell apart on the rough streets of Africa. He also saw that the huge diversity of bikes being sent to Africa made it very difficult for mechanics to repair due to lack of proper parts and tools for the diverse designs. He is now working to bring rugged, low-cost, easy-to-repair bikes to Africa:
Through his World Bicycle Relief charity the ponytailed entrepreneur hopes to put millions of sub-Saharan Africans aboard special heavy-duty bikes designed to withstand the continent’s rugged roads while carrying 200 pounds of cargo–enough for a weaver to bring his rugs, or a farmer to tote his produce, to market. Moreover, he aims to promote a self-sustaining bicycle economy with regional operations assembling the bikes and area mechanics trained to repair them.
Frederick is making many changes in the bike as well as crafting a business model for distribution and maintenance that will meet the needs of many parts of Africa. It’s not about getting rich, but about truly making a difference in the world for thousands of people. That’s inspiring innovation!
What are your favorite examples of altruistic innovation or social entrepreneurship helping Africa?