Equipping young people with technological and entrepreneurial skills to solve local community problems is the mandate of one particular makerspace in the Northern region of Ghana.
Noni Hub, located in Wa, is a budding innovation that aims to foster innovation, creativity, and making scalable technological solutions. Mustapha Dauda, an African Maker and Engineer in electronics and robotics, leads the maker space’s activities. Welcoming individuals enthusiastic about bringing their ideas to life, the activities of the makerspace include a three-week training program encompassing sessions on design, ideation, prototyping, and constructing. Participants are taught the design thinking process to develop functional solutions and trained on relevant maker techniques such as 3D modelling and woodwork to prototype their solutions. Check the Interview with Mustapha Dauda below:
For Mustapha, seeing people embrace the maker movement and bring new ideas is exciting. Recounting an experience where one participant in the program wanted to set up a bee farm but could not afford to buy a beehive, he shares how “we started by thinking how the participant wanted the beehive to look like, and came up with an idea together in the class before modelling it by first sketching and then creating a 3D design. We got our tools and wood and carved out everything. Finally, we got our beehive made!”
In a bid to introduce technology and hardware-making to young people, Noni Hub also hosts workshops in different spaces, including technical universities and middle schools, and provides creative maker kits for children and youth on robotics, electronics, and basic hardware.
Noni Hub strongly emphasises diversity and inclusivity in its youth education activities. Mustapha explains that the makerspace aims to be a platform for people of different backgrounds to come together and learn through making. The hub designs programs specifically for women to equip them with technological skills and also introduces youth to indigenous technologies and knowledge, such as soap making using traditional African methods. This approach helps young people to understand the evolution of technologies over the years and how critical technologies can transform lives within communities.
In its makerspace activities, Noni Hub encourages youths to approach local social challenges in a troubleshooting manner by creating prototypes, such as a solar mini bridge energy station and a lithium battery recycled from old laptops that provide energy for around 9 hours during the night. Mustapha says the makerspace identifies problems through workshops, field exercises, and discussions with stakeholders such as chiefs and administrators. “They also contribute greatly to finding solutions,” he shares.
For Mustapha, fostering the maker movement in Wa is also about promoting sustainable living. He finds it easier to talk to people about creating energy through solar power than persuading them to avoid deforestation. “This new discourse (green energy) can encourage people to be more mindful of the environment,” he adds.
As Noni Hub works towards materialising its vision and goals, it faces several issues and challenges. Mustapha shares that funding is a significant challenge since opening a makerspace is capital-intensive. Another challenge is transportation, as there are no public or mass transportation systems, only motorcycles. Due to the town’s remoteness and lack of public transit, hardware acquisition can be difficult and expensive due to high shipping costs. To combat these issues, Mustapha hopes to develop business models to raise money for its activities and form partnerships with other industries to create solutions for local needs. He is also hopeful about the potential of tools such as digital manufacturing and laser cutting for making.
Despite these challenges, Noni Hub has successfully brought together a community of over 300 hardware makers, demonstrating the growing maker community in Northern Ghana. It continues to engage makers worldwide to become partners in their makerspace activities.
For Mustapha, the most rewarding aspect of the makerspace is introducing the idea to students that open-source hardware can generate solutions to everyday problems. He is pleased to see the movement being embraced by youths in the community.