Gearbox: Kenya’s high-tech hardware hub

In Nairobi, engineer Kamau Gachigi is attempting to alter that. He arrange an innovation lab known as Gearbox, offering entrepreneurs with the tools to appreciate their ideas.

Gearbox provides entry to supplies and tools together with 3D printing, laser reducing and digital circuitry at a high-tech, 20,000-square-foot shared maker-space. It helps lower prices for inventors by offering entry to meeting machines via a membership mannequin.

“The mannequin that we apply is a bit of bit like a fitness center; $100 a month can enable you entry each single day, $40 a month can enable you entry two days every week,” Gachigi tells CNN.

Gearbox additionally operates an tools coaching academy, a mentoring program, and a contracting enterprise for innovators who must make a prototype, however do not need to construct it themselves.

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“You possibly can stroll in right here, have little interest in truly utilizing the tools your self, however come and say to us, ‘I might such as you to design one thing for me that does A, B, C, D’ and we work out with you what it would value,” he says.

It means a extra numerous vary of individuals can create {hardware} startups, he provides.

‘Silicon Savannah’

Nairobi is nicknamed “Silicon Savannah” for its many software program startups. Gachigi is hoping Gearbox will spark a wave of hardware-focused corporations, so extra Kenyan entrepreneurs can design merchandise solely within the nation.

Then, as soon as they’ve a working prototype, many will ship their blueprints to China or India for cheaper mass manufacturing. Gearbox hopes to offer the flexibility to mass produce sooner or later for a very Kenyan manufactured product from begin to end.

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Gachigi was instructing engineering on the College of Nairobi in Kenya when he seen that proficient college students and school had been seeing their concepts go unrealized due to a scarcity of entry to tools to construct prototypes. He created a fabrication laboratory on the College of Nairobi in 2009, which was outfitted with computer-controlled machines that anybody on the college may use.

“It was a fantastic success,” Gachigi says. “Loads of them ended up growing merchandise that might earn them cash.”

In 2011, he opened Gearbox, the place Kenyans have created intelligent options together with solar-powered irrigation techniques, water-saving devices and an engine system known as a “pace governor” used on Nairobi buses to maintain them from going too quick. Programs engineer Nicholus Kimali developed the prototype at Gearbox.

Nicholus Kimali tinkering with a speed governor.

With no engineering background, Kenyan social entrepreneur Esther Mwangi was ready to make use of Gearbox to develop an enterprise known as EsVendo. She created a sanitary pad merchandising machine for faculties and public areas, since one in 10 women in sub-Saharan Africa miss faculty as a result of they lack entry to sanitary merchandise.

Kenyan innovator Roy Allela, whose niece was born deaf, wished to discover a higher approach for her and different deaf kids to speak. He used Gearbox to develop Signal-IO, a set of high-tech gloves that convert signal language into audio. Sensors connected to the gloves interpret hand actions into speech through an app.

Roy Allela models the Sign-IO gloves.

Increasing its affect

Gearbox is planning to develop its attain so extra Kenyans could make an affect. Gachigi is constructing 10 satellite tv for pc maker-spaces in rural areas the place carpenters, amongst others, can entry higher tools and produce extra items.

In 2017, he launched the Gearbox Worldwide Basis, which gives technical, administration and monetary help to assist different nations construct shared areas for innovators to make, create, and problem-solve.

“Our imaginative and prescient is for a mushrooming of industries in localities throughout the nation and the continent,” Gachigi stated. “That actually is our aim; to make industrialization a grassroots-type of phenomenon.”

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