The continent of Africa is blessed with a vast amount of natural resources. However, looking at technological development, one could wonder at what stage Africa is in as far as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and as the world advances towards Industry 4.0.
Africa has the world’s oldest record of human technological achievement: the oldest stone tools in the world have been found in Eastern Africa, and later evidence for tool production by our hominin ancestors has been found across Sub-Saharan Africa. The history of science and the advancement of technology in Africa since then has, however, received relatively little attention compared to other regions of the world.
The world has experienced a series of Industrial Revolutions issued by different key technological advancements. The First Industrial Revolution which was the development from manual to mechanical operation and production facilitated through the use of Water and Steam Engine in the 1800’s. The Second Industrial Revolution took place in the 20th Century introducing Mass Production and Assembly line, facilitated by the discovery of Electricity. The Third Industrial Revolution represents the advancement made possible by automation as mechanical and analog technologies give way to digital electronics in the 1950’s and 1970’s. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the next phase in the evolution of manufacturing resulting from advances in computing, cyber and production systems. The goal of this next revolution is to create a highly intelligent, interactive, and automated manufacturing ecosystem that integrates product design, manufacturing, and logistics. With that being said, we are still unsure at what stage Africa is in.
Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) technology is one of the technologies advanced during this Fourth Industrial Revolution as it issues the ability for Rapid Prototyping. There has begun a tremendous improvement in the manufacturing capability of Africa through the use of 3D Printing technology. In early 2015, Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) saw the great impact of this technology in the manufacturing ecosystem and introduced the first 3D Printers in Lagos, Nigeria. Since then, most of the innovative projects and ideas developed through their programs with students, youth and women have been brought to reality through the use of these 3D Printers.
“3D Printing is one of the emerging technologies as far as 4th industrial revolution is concerned but most local manufacturing companies, industries, and automobiles companies are yet to embrace it,” shared Clinton Obioha, Program Associate, 3D Africa, “In the area of education, 3D Africa has been leading through programs like: HackforGood, 3DAfrica Clubs, and our Designathons.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we pivoted into virtual makerspaces to teach and inspire students to use 3D printing.
The Future of Additive Manufacturing in Africa (FAMA) was launched in the year 2019. FAMA is a Pan-African community of Additive Manufacturing (AM) professionals saddled with the responsibility of creating awareness, sensitizing, producing and promoting standards, insights, reports, research and regulation for effective adoption and implementation of Additive Manufacturing (AM) in the Manufacturing Industry across Africa.
The FAMA conference is an annual event that gathers all the AM stakeholders from across the African continent. The event provides a platform for an open and inclusive dialogue among all stakeholders (end-users, manufacturers, policymakers, researchers and research institutions). Through this platform, the challenges, prospects and potentials of AM in Africa will be addressed. The conference also creates an avenue for AM professionals across the continent to network.
CADWorks Limited, in partnership with YTF and other organizations/companies hosted the first edition of FAMA Conference in 2019. The event was held at The Civic Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, with the theme “Exploring the Future of Additive Manufacturing in Africa“. Attendees were professionals, students and enthusiasts of engineering.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, FAMA partnered with YTF and organized a virtual meeting tagged “3D Printing for COVID-19 Intervention in Africa.” The meeting was a huge success as all the stakeholders in the AM ecosystem in Africa shared their experience and ideas. My colleagues and I contributed to the discussions.
The FAMA Conference in 2020 was virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though far away in different places, all the AM stakeholders across Africa came together in an open and inclusive dialogue to discuss “Breakthroughs and Possibilities in Medical & Metal 3D Printing” as well as share the role that individual organizations played during the COVID-19 outbreak.
New innovations were also discussed, “Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) is a creation that reduces materials waste during welding. WAAM is a direct energy deposition technology that uses an arc welding process to 3D print metal parts by melting metal wire using an electric arc as the heat source,” shared Obioha. Other related topics were discussed as well.
Speakers included Dr. James M. Mutua (JKUAT), Aden Diaz Nocera (University of Cordoba), Israel Havenga (12P), Malika Khodja (Women in 3D Printing, Tiziri), and Najeeb Yunusa Hassan (GearHub).
Clinton Obioha is a Program Associate, 3D Africa at Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) 3D Africa where he is on our team of makerspace engineers. He is an avid Maker and STEAM champion and is based in Nigeria.