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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Africa: The motherland of invention?
Traffic light tree, Docklands, London, Press Association
Has your invention had a green light?
They say necessity is the mother of invention. So how inventive are you?

The traffic light, elevator, and the pressure cooker all have one thing in common - they were invented by Africans.

Have you invented something or thought up a practical solution to an every day problem? If so, have you been given the credit you deserve?

Does African creativity offer anything for development? Are African inventions a waste of time or can they be the way forward?

The BBC World Service programme, Africa Live! debated these and others issues on Wednesday 2nd July at 1630 and 1830 GMT.

Below is a selection of your comments.


Having attended University both in Africa and the USA I can honestly say that my African professors and University faculty as a whole were the most brilliant scholars I have have encountered. Some of them worked for Nasa and other agencies abroad but ended up coming back home to teach.
Sylino, USA/Malawi

Inventions by Africans will not be written in any Western History books. Take a look at the following African-Americans and their inventions. The elevator by the way was invented by an African American, Alexander Miles Oct. 11, 1867. Here are a few more that I know: Air-Conditioning Unit - Frederick M. Jones July 12, 1949; Blood Plasma Bag - Charles Drew Approx. 1945; Refrigerator - J. Standard July 14,1891
Gibril, Gambia/UK

Paul Kaine, a Nigerian engineer, invented a pocket electronic map yet to be developed, patented in France and now all over the world.
Charles, France

Africa needs to emphasize Science & Technology in its educational institutions. Science transcends racial lines. The continent needs to tap into this scientific know-how to develop itself.
GM, Zambia/USA

1848 Toggle harpoon by Lewis Temple
1850 Sailing apparatus by James Forten
1914 Gas Mask by Garrett A. Morgan
1923 Automatic Traffic Signal by Garrett A. Morgan
1883 Automatic Shoe-making machine by Jan Matzeliger
1897 Automatic Car Coupling device by Andrew Beard
1834 Mechanical seed planter by Henry Blair
1885 Telephone by Granville Woods. (His telephone was superior to Alexander Bell's)
1897 Pencil sharpener by J.L. Love

I have compiled a list (right) for all mankind. It could also include hot comb, lemon squeezer, cigarette roller, mechanical street sweeper, caps for bottles and jars, egg beater, sugar-refining system, subway, typewriter and many more invented by Africans or Black people.
Godfrey Kisela, UK

The Ma'di people found in Moyo & Adjumani districts of Uganda, and in the Torit district of South Sudan have invented 'mutere' a way of drying and preserving sweet potatoes to be used on rainy days. The invention is so popular and closely associated with the Ma'di people that some people refer to the Ma'di as "Ma'di Mutere!".
Mairi, South Sudan

African creativity is magic. One major set back is lack of funds. I think assets should be made available for African innovative ideas.
Hugh, Ghana

The African environment is hostile to innovation. Either people discourage you, criticise you, or make you feel strange for having come up with something unique. Many people do not like to question established ways of doing things.
Andy, Koforidua-Ghana

Africans invented walking! But as usual we never wanted to profit from it, brand it or commercialise it! We sat back, relaxed and let the Americans run away with the idea! Hurray to Africa, what would the world be like if Lucy had not taken that first step? (Ed: "Lucy" or Dinquenesh is one of the oldest known hominids (who preceded humans) and was found in Ethiopia.)
Charles, Uganda

There is a fantastic manufacturing company in Richard's Bay called Bell Equipment whose inventions are exported all over the world. The latest is a form of dump truck. Others have been tri-wheelers for use in hilly terrain or sugar fields. And there's the Bell self-loading trailer! The latter two were the work of a humble artisan, KwaZulu-Natal-born Irvine Bell, founding father of the company.
Duncan, South Africa

Let me tell you about my parents who lived in the Arsi region of Oromia, Ethiopia, and collected lung tissue from animals affected with Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBBP). They cut the lung into small pieces and buried them deep in the dewlap of unaffected animals. In effect, they were vaccinating the animals. They also collected urine from beasts infected with Rinderpest, a devastating viral disease. They boiled it and gave it to the other animals orally. A few treated animals died, but most were better for it. This is still the case with modern vaccines - some do die. I think we need to create a centre of African Invention funded by Africans at home and abroad.
Hussein , USA

I suggest you call the your African inventors "people of African descent" or "African Americans", not "Africans". I can see we Africans are getting rather excited about the whole thing - wrongly.
Martin, Uganda/Belgium

Africans are so inventive, but their governments frustrate them. In Uganda, in the days of Idi Amin, one Munyegera managed to turn a vehicle into a flying helicopter. He crashed in the sugar plantations. Instead of promoting him, the then government threatened to arrest him. African scientists need a supportive environment.
Peter, Uganda/Jerusalem

I recently proposed a system to be able to shoot down deadly missiles. I was requested to send detailed information to an organisation in the United States. After a few months, I received a letter stating that current Defense programs already met present requirements, but when I watched the recent war in the Gulf, I thought I recognised one of my designs. I say that Africans are able to invent anything. But the legal process to patent an invention is too costly and tricky.
Mohammed, Uganda/Australia

Civilisation started in Africa, but it is as if it has departed this part of the sphere. Africa will prosper both in inventions and other things, but not while it is at war. .
Benjamin, Nigeria

Hey, Charles Taylor invented "Small Boy Units" in war, and General Maskita the Hatcheting of limbs. Then the Hutus and Tutses gave us genocide. Mugabe is giving us Hunger. When we think of Mandela, we think of prison.. and when we think of Africa, we think of military coups. Where are the good inventions?
Sheik

Wake up Africa, for your brains are being stolen. Currently the finest creative artworks are lodged in Western museums with no reward for their makers. Why must it be so?
Freeman, Ghana

The only way we can progress is by not having useless expatriates from the WEST coming and showing us what to do in our own backyard. They don't understand the issues holistically. Some of us would count for nothing in their communities - driving an old scrap vehicle as opposed to the big 4x4s that they operate at the expense of poor countries.
Nathaniel, Malawi

It is not true that "Necessity is the Mother of Invention". Africans have been going through the same ordeals for hundreds of years. We have done nothing to change things. Are we born incapable?!
Mamo, Addis Ababa- Ethiopia

Since Eve, the mother of us all, was purportedly from Africa, one could claim that all inventions are from Africans. The question becomes, what is the point? The greatest library in all the world, was once in the city of Alexandria, in Africa, but it is no longer the greatest. Glorying the past does nothing for the future. What have you done lately?
C.E. Rogers, USA

Africans didn't invent poverty, disease or famine, they just perfected them.
Ted, USA

I've created a number of things that can help solve some common problems, not just in Africa. Automatic electric switching systems, a powered motor jack which could help women in particular with flat tyres, and other devices that are still in research stage. My problem is lack of sufficient funding to go into commercial production. I don't think this is peculiar to me.
Tony, Nigeria

African creativity is shy. It lacks confidence and conviction. A shy creature is not pro-active. It needs prodding. But the rest of the world are too busy competing to notice.
Richard, UK

Where oh where are those inventors in Africa when we need them? Take traffic lights, for example, or the elevator. Many of our buildings don't have elevators that work. And the traffic lights so needed on the congested streets of Sierra Leone are nowhere to be seen.
Isa, Sierra Leone

For one to invent something, the setting must be right. Not when you come back home from a long day's work and find that you have no light to read by, no power for the television or other equipment. There is nothing to relax the mind. What will encourage us to improve our society through invention?
Ole, Nigeria

Inventions have nothing to do with race or nationality. They come from having an educated society inhabiting a well-governed country. Instead of scraping the barrel looking for inventions, we should be addressing the issues that hold Africa back - lack of market access and bad governance.
Amoroso, Kenya




SEE ALSO:
New Kenyan washing machine
27 Jun 03  |  Africa
Inventors fighting for their rights
08 May 03  |  Business
A patently absurd invention?
25 Oct 02  |  UK News
Gaddafi invents 'rocket car'
06 Sep 99  |  Middle East


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