Unexpected Social Innovation Discoveries in Nigeria

One of the more unexpected social innovation discoveries at the annual Maker Faire Africa this November in Lagos, Nigeria was a urine-powered generator, created by four school girls aged between 14 and 15. Maker Faire Africa is a yearly social innovation fair to showcase African ingenuity and creativity.

The urine-powered generator can produce six hours of electricity from a litre of liquid. It works this way: the urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen. The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification and then into a gas cylinder, which pushes the filtered hydrogen into another cylinder that contains liquid borax, to remove moisture from the gas. Borax is a natural mineral, commonly used in laundry detergent. The hydrogen is pushed into a power generator in the final step of the process. The girls used one-way valves throughout the device as a safety measure to avoid the risk of any hydrogen explosions.

Another creative and social innovation find at this event were modified bicycles, called Wecyclers that encourages people in Lagos to recycle their trash. These bicycles are welded to a trailer, making a tricycle that can carry large bags of sorted waste. The Wecycler gives low-income communities in developing countries a chance to capture value from waste and clean up their neighbourhoods through incentive-based recycling. In the developing world, urban waste management systems are overburdened and heaps of trash line streets; clog waterways leading to unsanitary living conditions for millions. In addition to disease, the blight of unmanaged urban trash undermines the pride that people have in their communities. The Wecycler model solves the urban waste challenge for households and recyclers.

From the Faire, Salami Olupeni Samuel’s, ‘Sam Powersystems’ is also worth a mention as he has used locally sourced components to create power inverters which connect to car batteries for automatic backup power. There are numerous power cuts in Lagos that can happen many times during the day all over the city, so everyone who can afford it has a generator as backup. However, there are many who cannot afford a generator and more importantly cannot afford to be without power. So, Sam Powersystems is a lifeline.

Now in its fourth year, the Maker Faire Africa has showcased everything from robotic porridge-cooking machines to solar-powered computer kiosks made out of oil drums over the years. This year has been no exception, with the amazing ideas and products. The event clearly shows that by expanding and investing at grassroots in communities, it stimulates social innovation, which creates many capabilities for improving living conditions.

Photo Credit: Maker Faire Africa Blog Page