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By Chrissi Albus, WEAll Youth

Clean drinking water makes a difference between life and death. 

According to the United Nations, up to 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe, clean, and controlled drinking water. (2) Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General said, Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardises both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.” 

Article 25 of the Human Rights Convention, the right to wellbeing, states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families. Clean drinking water is an absolute necessity for that. Therefore, one essential goal of our society must be to ensure the availability of safe drinking water for everybody. However, “in some countries, there is a 61% financing gap to achieve the UN’s water and sanitation goals”. (2) It is an injustice how access to water is distributed in this world, especially related to the huge consumption of virtual water in many high income countries. Everyone needs access to drinking water for their health and wellbeing. It should not be a game of luck who has water to drink or who can afford it. It is an undisputed part and aim of a Wellbeing Economy to ensure this. This is why it is important to advocate for fair availability of water. 

Inspired and empowered to make a difference

“We believe that the human network is the strongest power in the world in our generation. Networking means telling others about others and others telling others about you”(1). 

To tell a story is probably the most powerful and touching way to communicate. So, I want to tell you the story of Prof. Askwar Hilonga and the Gongali Model Inspire and Empowering Center.

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Glory Mushi at work in the Kilala waterstation.

“I remember my father told me that when I drink stagnant water in the valleys (in Swahili, Maji yaliyotwama korongoni au Maji ya Lambo) – which was very dirty – I should assume, he told me, that it is “a tea with milk” (chai ya maziwa)”(1), says Prof. Hilonga.

The region around Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro, where the Gongali Model Inspire and Empower Center is located, has an exceptionally high fluoride concentration in drinking water. This can cause fluorosis, a disease in which the joints stiffen and tooth enamel degrades due to excessive intake of fluoride. But even better-known diseases such as typhoid fever are still diseases today that arise because of dirty drinking water.

Prof. Hilonga grew up in a small village, Gongali, near Lake Manyara in North Tanzania. He himself struggled with several diseases, mainly related to dirty water. With the support of his local church community, he was able to attend university and later, went to South Korea to do his PhD in Chemical Engineering… He is always asking: “What does my PhD mean to my community in Tanzania?”. He wanted to give something back. Prof. Hilonga designed a new solution to ensure getting safe drinking water as a common good for everyone. He is the creator and founder of Nanofilter TM, a water filter using nanotechnology that provides safe and clean drinking water, in Swahili “Maji Safi na Salama”! It removes 99.999 % of impurities (bacteria, heavy metals, various pollutants) from the water. The filter is customised to the local environment issues.

Nevertheless, the water filter alone was not the goal. He established the Gongali Model Co. Ltd company for innovative activities to empower and IMPACT people’s lives. He wants to inspire youth to develop innovative and sustainable business ventures and initiatives that empower their community and to answer the question of what is really needed.  The Gongali Model was actually designed to be a model as a movement for Sustainable Transformational Development, as a concept for a new – wellbeing – economic system accessible for everyone. By October 2020, the Nanofilter project has created 127 jobs for young women in water stations, which are placed all over Arusha as well as in Kenya and Zambia. For many young women it is a way to earn an independent income and become more confident. This is contributing to one of the great wellbeing goals of equalising the gender gap by making sure women take part in economic life.  In these water stations, filtered water is sold in refillable bottles at a low price. Thus should also allow the poorest members of the community to access safe and clean drinking water.

A nanofilter for households

The Gongali Model company (https://gongalimodel.com), is launching the #Thirst for life project starting on 22nd July. #Thirst for Life wants to build 1000 Nanofilter water stations throughout Africa, from Alexandria in Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa. The aim is to provide access to clean water to as many people as possible. The project is delivered in partnership with Veronique Bourbeau, who will do a Solo-Run 13,000 km, from the north of Africa to the south to raise awareness to provide safe drinking water for all people. Veronique says: 

“If your why is strong enough, then you can run for a long way.” 

To be inspired and empowered are two of the most important goals of Prof. Hilonga and his wife and business partner Ruth Elineema Lukwaro, from Arusha, Tanzania.He wants to engage the youth to stand up and participate in their local communities, to create new solutions for societal issues . He and his wife Madame Ruth want to touch people’s lives to make a change. Their knowledge and story exemplify a societal vision or further economic changes for wellbeing for all. 

His book “The story of a journey of an African Innovator – From Gongali Village to London & BEYOND” describes his journey. Further information about the projects can be found on the Gongali Model website.

  1. Prof. Askwar Hilonga. 2020. “The story of a journey of an African Innovator – From Gongali Village to London & BEYOND”
  2. United Nations. 2020. Goals – 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

About the author: “My name is Chrissi Albus. I am WEAll Youth member based in Lund, a small town in the south of Sweden. In my opinion, it is very important to be motivated  to create something great or to participate in a movement you believe in.  And that is why I would like to tell you the story of Prof. Askwar Hilonga. He and his wife were my bosses when I worked in their company Gongali Model in Arusha. They inspired me to get engaged with their project, and showed me that motivation and inspiration is the foundation for every project I will get involved in.”

By Mkyeku Onesmo Kisanga, WEAll Youth

“Wellbeing Economy” directly translates to ‘uchumi wa ustawi’ in Swahili which is an official language in Tanzania. Tanzania is found in the Eastern part of Africa with approximately 61.5 million people with over 120 unofficial languages (tribes inclusive). Being one of the largest countries in Africa, seeking to achieve a wellbeing economy can be difficult.

Most of the citizens fall on the poverty line of the GDP of Tanzania which means approximately two thirds of the whole population this has only worsened with the current Covid19 situation. The current life expectancy in Tanzania is around 60 years which means there is a deterioration.

Why is it important?

Wellbeing economy approaches could solve the recurring precarious problems in our communities. With this, we could improve our life expectancy rate, improve our healthcare especially in remote areas, improve digital literacy and remove the huge gender gap (statistics show men have a higher literacy rate than women in Tanzania), and provide reliable employability for the youth and people of Tanzania.

Enabling people to benefit from their hard work and engagement and even during retirement, they are well taken care of. No huge gaps in their salaries reduce and bridging of the difference in salary from the rich to middle class to destitute ones. This provides collective cooperation and cohabitation.

Repairing and make reparations for the current economic situation which is crumbling down. This will shift us to a circular economy.

We envision a future where everyone is well taken care of and don’t have to endure the challenges we are facing lately.

A wellbeing economy for Tanzania would provide a coherent and yet efficient transformation of the economy in Tanzania keeping in mind that the current situation didn’t favour some classes and professions and affected everyone entirely. 

Central to the transformation required would be improving the education systems that are deteriorating and exclusive of gender, tribe and people of a certain class. Our education systems should cater for the needs of everyone collectively without being biased.

Focusing on wellbeing would help prevent all the barbarous acts of crime happening because youth are idle and lack the motivation they need and resort to committing crime to sustain their needs. Regulating the cognitive dissonance in the area prevents people from embracing opportunities and new ways of life.

Residents inclusive of aboriginals, citizens, migrants and the whole diaspora need to apply the holistic approach and multifaceted approach to a wellbeing economy. Including everyone equally will provide longevity of results that are pleasant and positive leading to freedom and less conflict.

How to achieve a wellbeing economy:

Achieving a wellbeing economy simply means treating human beings as the first top priority rather than financial and monetary needs, resulting in a sustainable realm. How does one provide inclusivity while integrating all the tribes and cities in Tanzania and promoting a sustainable economy?

  • Use of Swahili, which is not only prominent in Tanzania but the whole of East Africa . After all, Swahili is already termed as one of the leading and most frequently spoken languages in the world. This will definitely boost the country’s economy by promoting union with neighbouring and other states in Africa and globally.
  • Addressing gender equality and gender gap- making sure women and men contribute equally to the economy and their salaries and reimbursement are the same throughout. Forming policies that accommodate both genders in all professions will reduce harmful social norms and stereotypes and prejudices.
  • Health care- same health care for everyone regardless of their status.
  • Education in learning institutes- use of Swahili language and introduction of this module in every level.
  • Employability, providing enough and accessible jobs that don’t have too many requirements, quota age, experience but provides inclusion of all regardless of their qualifications and experiences. In Tanzania, farmers are the one’s who highly contribute to the country’s economy and yet are disregarded and berated because of the stereotypes in the country. Most value partisans and professions that require one working in a huge company, presented in a formal appearance. While in reality, all are contributors to the economy, thus we need to ensure equal involvement and accessibility regardless of their title and identification.
  • Having youth yarn their creativity side and use their skills to come up with innovative and new ideas in rectifying the economy and also providing them funds and support in every trajectory. This will eventually cater for all tribes and cities establishing a wellbeing economy that doesn’t favour a certain gender, class, tribe or ethnicity.

About the author

Mkyeku Onesmo Kisanga is a 26 year old Tanzanian based in Cyprus pursuing her psychology degree. She is currently looking at how to employ the wellbeing economy in her organisation, Sakonsa in Tanzania which recently started in January 2020. Sakonsa is working with SDG’s 4, 10 & 17 on a voluntary basis through youth willing to make an impact and transforming a better tomorrow. Mkyeku joined in because of her inquisitive and pragmatic nature, she wanted to explore all possibilities and what is out there that is significant and impactful. Connect with her on Linkedin here.

Learn more about WEAll Youth here.

By Xola Keswa

Today, Africa has the youngest population in the world. Why is this important to note? Because the Earth is inherited by the young people of the world. Today, young Africans are not faced with the same threats that threatened their ancestors such as lions or other wild animals. Instead, we face our biggest existential threat ever: climate change.

Africa’s main environmental challenge is to mitigate the effects of climate change, as due to Africa’s size and position, it will be the most impacted.

This problem should and will initiate creative and dynamic solutions that young Africans will create. 

Africans have an innate knack for creating tools, techniques, and methods that help mankind survive. The technologies they discovered thousands of years ago to help survive amongst dangerous creatures in the Savanna of Africa, are still in use now within African traditions and customs. These technologies are how Africa is able to support a large population of about 1.6 billion people.

The innovation that helps sustain Africa today, is the same thing which will ensure her continued survival – and that of the world – through climate change.

Green Technology Innovation in Africa

Groundbreaking science research has been happening in Africa in the field of medicine, much of which is based on indigenous knowledge systems on natural flora and fauna. Much of that research by universities from western countries has been transferred to startup companies in Europe and the US, which have gone on to become successful in competitive pharmaceutical markets. 

Due to emerging policies such as the European Green Deal, companies in the Global North will ultimately need to seek alternative sources for investments in innovations in green technology. I propose that foreign investors start to actively invest in research and development for sustainable green technologies in African countries in the same way that they are investing in pharmaceuticals.

Especially within the area of innovation relating to waste and a circular economy, we have become very good at turning waste into upcycled and redesigned products.

These countries can learn a lot from Africa, “the world’s dumping grounds”. 

A good example of green technology innovation in Africa is the tippy tap. Many rural areas in Africa don’t have running water from a tap. So, naturally, innovative young Africans found a way around that. They ensured that there is a tap close to homes by making a tap using upcycled materials i.e. old plastic bottles.

 The hands-free design means bacteria is not transferred between users. 
The tippy tap is low cost – it can be made with local, salvaged materials.

A Fair Process of Technology Transfer

I’d now like to introduce myself. My name is Xola Keswa and I am from South Africa. I am a 27 year old environmental and social entrepreneur. I founded my own startup, Organic Matters in 2014, during an internship at Schools Environmental Education Development (SEED).

In 2019, I was selected to participate in international policy and practice research research programme at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Global Risk Governance Programme, in cooperation with the South African urban food and farming trust. Through their outreach programme, The Environmental Entrepreneurs Support Initiative, I received philanthropy funding and access to resources and support centres. 

Following this research, my startup Organic Matters created a horticultural technology within the UCT Global Risk Governance Programme in partnership with a German University, called the ‘self-watering raised bed’. 

The self-watering raised bed relies on wicking so that the plants draw up only the water that they need and none is wasted. You only need to fill up the water reservoir once a week. This technology can be adapted for use within both urban areas and peri-urban areas to mitigate climate change.

I want to help the less fortunate to at least grow their own vegetables, made out of recycled material – to help people become resilient and self-sustainable during these difficult times.

In September, EnsAfrica Africa’s largest law firm facilitated the ‘transfer of technology’, which is an academic term meaning that research and development created in universities is released from the institution for commercialisation.

Now, I own the intellectual property for the self-watering raised bed, meaning that I can retain the value of African innovation in Africa. But my experience is not the norm for young innovators in Africa.

Protecting African Intellectual Property

In the case of the tippy tap, and many others, young Africans are barely aware that they are inventing a method and a product. This is a big problem because these young people are unaware of the legal system and the opportunity to learn from experts to improve and market their products.

I see this as a contributing factor for Africans always finding themselves behind.

Instead, international organisations and universities usually come and extract information from Africa innovators through research, and take it back to Western countries to undergo R&D, create startups, and make licensing agreements. These organisations make a huge profit from such innovations. The Khoisan Hoodia, is an example of what I’m talking about. Research based on the use of the hoodia cactus in African traditional medicine was developed as a potential cure for obesity and taken to the USA and the UK, where patent applications were filed and accredited to western Pharmaceutical companies.

In a just transition, intellectual property would be protected from the very beginning of the creation of knowledge in Africa. 

Let’s say a few students conduct research in Africa and create a product. In a just transition, the research should be left in Africa and developed in partnership with its original creators. When the product is developed to the point that it can reach the market, intellectual property rights should be allocated to the relevant person or people who contributed to it from Africa. When royalties are negotiated or letters of intent are drawn up by third parties, young Africans should be listed and acknowledged. This in turn will ensure sharing of useful technology in the world that can improve the wellbeing of people and planet.

Young Africans should be given access to mentorship and support from European and North American countries, to make sure that they understand the protocol of intellectual property law. They should be supported to push their innovations into the mainstream market. This can happen in various different ways in the agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and telecommunications sectors. 

Looking Ahead

For two years, while I conducted my research at UTC in and around Cape Town, South Africa, using community based approaches, I would often encounter broken communities, plagued by gang violence and high crime rates. 

I came to realise that, much the same way as schools and business centres have helped me learn and become creative, with the right support in terms of mentorship and information, Africans from any background are capable of creating much-needed innovations. 

If given a fair opportunity, young Africans can play a major role in creating greener, circular, and more wellbeing-focused economies worldwide. 

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

By Isabel Nuesse and Robert Wanalo

What are we going to do when weather patterns change and communities that depended on their consistency, suddenly have to re-imagine how they’ll receive their incomes? Planning for resilience in the face of climate change will soon become mandatory for communities. Makerspaces offer a solution that enables the community to develop resources and knowledge distinct to their communities changing climate. Thinking of these long-term strategies to are key to ensuring the sustainability of makerspace development. Two of the five principles for developing makerspaces actualize this thinking:“Include Environmental Ecosystem Services” and “Build for Continuity”.

  1. Include Ecosystem Services: Aim to give back more than you take from the environment and include accounting practices that value the natural resources used.

Our natural environment is the broader ecosystem within which our social and economic system is nested. An economy that has proved through the outcomes it creates, to be working against rather than with nature, and climate change is one of the many forces that threaten our very existence today.  The Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion movements are continuing to gain traction globally, as citizens realize that systems change is fundamental for climate action. As citizens become more aware of the complex ecological challenges we face today, how can we be empowered to take practical actions towards climate justice? Our group discussed this extensively. There was a general consensus that the makerspace movement should increasingly leverage their innovative capacity to support climate action in communities across the world. 

A great movement that has formed around this objective is the FabCity Global Initiative that was co-founded by Tomas Diez of Fablab Barcelona. The audacious goal behind the FabCity Challenge is to enable this shift away from the industrial paradigm of Product-in Trash-out, by enabling the return of manufacturing to cities such that by 2054, the cities that sign up for the Pledge, with be able to produce everything they consume, thus drastically reducing their carbon footprint. The potential of GIG as a global movement of techies and innovators to be able to contribute to addressing climate change was the impetus behind the Sustainable Making Track. 

One case study from within the GIG network that demonstrates Principle 3 is the work of Sri Lanka based DreamSpace Academy through their Underwater Glider project which aims to enable local communities to better understand their surrounding Indian Ocean ecosystem. 

After the Tsunami hit back in 2004, the oceans ecosystem was significantly disrupted, and the local community started seeing changes that were not normal. One such observation was a large number of eels that had emerged from the backwaters, which locals presumed to be snakes, as such species were not commonly visible above water. Aravinth Panch, and his team at DreamSpace took this as an opportunity to carry out research that aims to increase local awareness on their surrounding habitat. 

For this, they needed to have an underwater glider which, if purchased from Europe would cost over 200,000 Euros which was of course too expensive. As a Community Innovation Center and local makerspace the team decided to use open source technology to build their own Underwater Glider, which will enable  them to carry out their own scientific research and assessment on their local ecosystem through which they would be able to increase their awareness and strengthen their capacity to develop solutions for some of the issues that have risen since the Tsunami. 

It’s impossible to place a value on nature, in many ways it provides for our essential everyday needs. But recognizing that the services we receive are not free, and that we have a responsibility to ethically deal with our planet, because a thriving ecosystem means that our social and economic systems would equally be able to flourish.

2. Build for Continuity: Design for the present and future; build social capacity, & aim for financial self sufficiency. 

In the age of the internet, where social networking and access to knowledge has been significantly augmented, the makerspace movement is developing a compelling case for ‘glocality’, that is a globally connected community that is locally proactive towards achieving common objectives. Inevitably it must have been this worldview that necessitated the existence of SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals,” whereby, even in development, we must depart from centralized systems towards those that are more decentralized and geographically distributed to ensure that agency is created at a local level.

Critical to the ability of any initiative, project or enterprise to be in operation for the long term, is its ability to to build social capacity to be able to carry out the necessary tasks for the project, and the economic models that ensure its costs can always be met. Particularly with regards to the latter aspect of financial sustainability, there was a shared aspiration in our track for makerspaces, like social enterprises, to be able to generate enough revenue to cover their operations.

With this Global-to-local approach,  Sustainable Making has the potential to transform the social, economic and ecological fabric of communities across the world. Developing local capacity and encouraging local innovation creates opportunities for new business models that create jobs and build more resilient local economies. Thinking in this way does not fight against the inevitably globalized world, but rather redesigns it to be more inclusive and equitable.

The Access to Skills and Knowledge Technology Emergency Case (ASKotec) is an open source tool co-created by the R0g Agency and Open Source Ecology Germany e.V. The tool provides over 1000 pieces needed to facilitate training in rural areas on the fundamentals of open tech and open source hardware innovation, education and repairing. The transformational technology establishes a base by which the community can expand upon the training to innovate locally.

At the Rhino Refugee camp in Uganda for example, where Platform Africa, one of the 6 hubs in the ASKLab East African network, is using the ASKotec kit to hold Open Tech workshops and training for displaced refugees living within the camp. Richard, an ASKotec trainer, says that these sessions enable the participants to be engaged in something interesting and productive, considering their current reality. An outcome of these sessions is that refugees in the camp learned how to repair chargers, phones and radios and in the case of the ATAKA hub in Juba, participants have been able to establish microenterprises with these skills. To learn more, watch this YouTube video here

Alongside the r0g Agency, Field Ready is another organization doing great work in the humanitarian space. They are an NGO that operates a network of makerspaces that empower and support local innovators in complex humanitarian situations triggered either by conflict or natural disasters to make the things that are needed where they are. They are a team of experts that leverage their expertise digital manufacturing with CNC, laser-cutting, & 3D printing to support local production of  products like lifting airbags for rescue workers, hydroponic systems for food production, as well as components for the repair of solar systems and healthcare equipment. Field Ready has established makerspaces in Iraq, Northern Syria, Jordan, Fiji, and Nepal, to name a few. By up-skilling locals, designing and implementing solutions with them, Field Ready ensures that local production continues in these communities long after the crises they face have subsided.

 

At the DOTS conference in December 2019, we joined a working group whose aim was to find out how makerspaces are could amplify the level of impact they are already creating in the communities in which they exist across the world. We articulated these findings in 5 Principles of Sustainability, which are as follows:

 

  • Make things that make sense:  Create products and solutions that solve fundamental, real-world problems.  
  • Integrate Local Knowledge:  Design with the community, leveraging on local knowledge and experience, as well as the local resources & assets available.
  • Include Ecosystem Services: Aim to give back more than you take from the environment and include accounting practices that value the natural resources used.
  • Build for Continuity: Design for the present and future; build social capacity, & aim for financial self sufficiency.
  • Share How You Make: Develop a set of guidelines that provide a framework for openly documenting everything about the making of the project. 

 

 

These principles provide a framework for makerspaces around the globe to consider in their development, operations, and  strategy. Not only do these spaces provide opportunity for communities to revitalize their local economies, but it inherently builds an economy that enables communities to be self-reliant. 

Over the next few weeks, WEAll will be publishing a blog series that showcase different case studies from groups that are a part of the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG), and The r0g Agency for Open Culture and Critical Transformation.

By Isabel Nuesse and Robert Wanalo

Makerspaces have the potential to transform local communities by solving local challenges using global resources. But how are these makerspaces created in a way that ensures lasting sustainability? How do they integrate local knowledge, preserve the environment and build the capacity of the community? These are integral pieces in thinking about “Sustainable Making” and how to influence a global movement of thinkers, doers and creatives to consider these questions before they develop their local maker spaces. 

In December 2019, a group of global makers convened at the DOTS conference to discuss what Sustainability as a principle means for the makerspace movement, and what ‘Sustainable Making’ as a field of practice would be. Being true to the saying that “Systemic problems require systemic solutions,” we sought to present Sustainable making as a set of connected concepts rather a single ‘big idea’. Below, you will find the outline of the first of five principles.

  1. Make things that make sense:  Create products and solutions that solve fundamental, real-world problems.  

The ideology behind the open source knowledge and distributed manufacturing movement is fundamentally disruptive and revolutionary. It seeks to establish a globally distributed knowledge and design commons that supports localized production of value in communities across the world. This means that the makerspace movement is on a mission to democratize the global manufacturing industry by increasing access to knowledge, skills, and tools that enable those who had largely been left out to engage in production and commerce. Democratization in this case goes hand in hand with Localization, in that  production of goods is being supported to occur in proximity to the communities and places where they are most needed. This would result in shorter supply chains, and production that is more context specific, and highly responsive to local challenges.  This is the precise intention behind Principle 1; that making should be informed by the local context in question and thus seek to address the challenges at hand.  

Case study: Inclusivity Innovation in the Health Sector. 

Broadly speaking, access to quality and affordable healthcare is a global phenomenon, and the challenge varies from place to place. When we factor in the physical limitations of persons with special needs and the products available, it may either be too expensive or may not entirely meet their needs. Careables, is a global platform run by an interdisciplinary team which creates, shares and supports the production of  open solutions that aim to improve the quality of life for people with unmet needs or facing physical limitations. They do this by facilitating collaboration between local communities of citizens with disabilities, healthcare professionals and makers/designers to co-design and develop open-source interventions and solutions that meet the needs of persons with disabilities. Whether it is the use of 3D printing to produce specialized orthopedic braces for children with neurological challenges in Milan, Italy, or convening and hosting healthcare hackathons with diverse stakeholders in various cities like Kumasi, Ghana, or creating open access to their designs, handbooks, reports and “how-to” guides on their website, Careables is an  example of makers using digital technologies to create real social impact.

2. Integrate Local Knowledge: Build from within the community by working with local practices, materials and traditional resources.

During a conversation with Jon Stever, co-founder of Innovation for Policy Foundation, discussing his and his teams work on policy reform in various countries across Africa, we talked particularly about what it means to design ‘with’ and not ‘for’, how to engage communities with humility and respect, and the various processes available out there to facilitate this. At some point, a quote came up which succinctly captures what inclusivity represents; “If you do something FOR me, but WITHOUT me;  you do it AGAINST me.” Participation is empowerment, and empowered participation is democracy. Integrating the culture, local knowledge, lived experience and perspective of the communities we work in and with is essential for social innovation. 

The Innovation for Policy Foundation is a pan-African organization whose work involves developing and deploying methodologies and technologies that support more effective policy reform through discourse and public participation. Their platform pursues the crowd sourcing of input from local communities of “policy users” (those most affected by a particular public policy). Being able to contribute to the formulation of policies that you are passionate about through your smartphone or the comfort of your home is a great departure from when national and local governments would host events in different cities and towns; an expensive and tedious affair. The i4Policy team have supported participatory policy reform processes in 11 countries and trained government and ecosystem leaders in more than 20 countries in Africa to great effect. Most recently, their work led the co-creation of the Senegal Startup Act in December 2019.  

i4Policy is redefining what civic engagement means in the continent. They are currently hosting a public consultation of the Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto using their open source policy consultation software. Shape your policies now: https://i4policy.org/manifesto.

 

At the DOTS conference in December 2019, we joined a working group whose aim was to find out how makerspaces are could amplify the level of impact they are already creating in the communities in which they exist across the world. We articulated these findings in 5 Principles of Sustainability, which are as follows:

 

  • Make things that make sense:  Create products and solutions that solve fundamental, real-world problems.  
  • Integrate Local Knowledge:  Design with the community, leveraging on local knowledge and experience, as well as the local resources & assets available.
  • Include Ecosystem Services: Aim to give back more than you take from the environment and include accounting practices that value the natural resources used.
  • Build for Continuity: Design for the present and future; build social capacity, & aim for financial self sufficiency.
  • Share How You Make: Develop a set of guidelines that provide a framework for openly documenting everything about the making of the project. 

 

These principles provide a framework for makerspaces around the globe to consider in their development, operations, and  strategy. Not only do these spaces provide opportunity for communities to revitalize their local economies, but it inherently builds an economy that enables communities to be self-reliant. 

Over the next few weeks, WEAll will be publishing a blog series that showcase different case studies from groups that are a part of the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG), and The r0g Agency for Open Culture and Critical Transformation.

The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle has been learning about the wellbeing economy during her visit to South Africa, according to coverage by CNN.

The official Sussex Royal instagram shows the Duchess being given a tour of the Victoria Yards in Johannesburg by Simon Siswe – who is a WEAll Research Fellow.

Read more on the CNN website. 

Image: Sussex Royal

By Desta Mebratu (Prof.), member of WE-Africa

African nations have been importing economic theories to fit realities on the ground, with little to show for it. But it is never too late to adopt a “Well-being Economy,” one that takes stock of opportunities and limits of local resources and external opportunities, writes Desta Mebratu (Prof.) (desta@africaleapfrog.org), CEO of African Transformative Leapfrogging Advisory Service. 

This article first appeared in Addis Fortune

Neo-classical economics, with its different forms and scope and with market and trade liberalisation at its core, has been the dominant economic theory since the first industrial revolution. Despite all its inherent theoretical and practical limitations, it has been successful in driving economic growth in some parts of the world.

It has also been key in the globalisation of national economies in the second half of the 20th century. In recent decades, however, its dominance was significantly challenged by prominent economists, including some Nobel Laureates in Economics.

The challenge took a new dimension and scope with the growing inequality observed within and between countries as its trickle-down effect failed miserably. This has been mainly caused by the exclusive focus on economic growth as measured by the growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP).

The emergence of global environmental challenges, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, has also been another source of challenges faced by the dominant economic thinking. This was again mainly caused by its principle of externalising all costs related to environmental pollution and degradation.

Since independence from European colonial powers, international development organisations led by the World Bank and the International Monitory Fund have been at the forefront of promoting and stipulating neo-classical economic principles of market and trade liberalisation on African countries.

The infamous structural adjustment programs that were imposed by these institutions in the 1970s and 80s led to extensive socio-economic havoc in many African countries. Despite the enormous effort made by these organisations and the stated commitment of successive African governments to laissez-faire market economies, not a single African country that took a Bretton Woods’ prescription succeeded in becoming a developed or a transitional economy.

As it was eloquently stated by the prominent Pan-Africanist and Kenyan Lawyer P.L.O. Lumumba, what we have in the region is more of a “voodoo economics,” which is an African version of neo-classical economics. Hence, we saw for decades economies that are either in shambles or seemed to be developing but are under state capture, benefiting a small group of people.

Experiences of the last half a century have clearly shown that neither neo-classical economics nor its African version, “voodoo economics,” helped Africans to achieve an economic development that meets the needs of their people.

Today, Africa is faced with multitudes of economic, social and environmental issues which have made the development challenges more complex. These challenges are expected to be further aggravated in the coming decades as a result of the extremely high rates of population growth coupled with an increasing percentage of youth.

In this context, African countries and their development partners need to recognise that existing and emerging socio-economic challenges could not be resolved with the same approaches and prescriptions of the twentieth century. That is why it is important for African countries to channel their effort toward the development of a “well-being economy” that responds to the reality of the region.

A well-being economy is an economy that strives for the continuous fulfilment of basic human needs and aspirations of its people within the limits and possibilities of its resources and available external opportunities. This would require deploying a national development strategy that is home-grown and organic but at the same time adaptive to global dynamics.

It also requires governance mechanisms that are equipped with transformative leadership that is based on adaptive learning and inclusivity. A well-being economy addresses both the distributive and participatory justice of its people through their active involvement in the planning and management of the development process.

Progress toward a well-being economy is measured by actual and perceived improvement in the well-being of its people rather than solely relying on the growth rate of GDP and foreign direct investment. Achieving this would require the development of distributed local economy networks in combination with national backbone industries that are low-carbon and resource efficient.

Its primary operational objectives would be job creation and value addition at the local level, which are extremely crucial for African countries. Such an economy also recognises the critical importance of maintaining the well-being of the natural ecosystem as the foundation for the fulfillment of its developmental objectives on a sustainable basis.

In essence, the Well-being economy provides a fundamentally new vehicle for the effective implementation of Agenda 2030 on sustainable development goals with a qualitatively higher outcome. Hence, it is time for African leaders and policymakers to provide the creative space for the development of a Well-being economy in Africa rather than continuing with the same versions of ‘voodoo economics’ and expect a different outcome.