And suddenly everything seems normal again. This was something like the 15th time I’ve been through the Accra airport, and other than the hour and a half wait going through Immigration, it was textbook. Louis-Mark was waiting for me – I hadn’t had time to dig my Ghanaian SIM card out of the lost-and-found bag in Monrovia, so I couldn’t call to let him know he had plenty of time to go out and have coffee, or for that matter dinner, before I’d be popping out through the customs line.
L-M was one of the University of Ghana students we worked with last year on the Google.org project that kept bringing me to Accra. His parents are professors, on sabbatical, I think in Italy, and he’s minding the house while they’re away. When I let him know I was inbound last month, he offered up their gorgeous guest quarters.
Was great fun to chat and catch up on the drive home. Like a lot of other smart and motivated Ghanaian grads, L-M’s got a small startup now, building (I think it’s okay to let out this much information) educational software. I did my usual pontificating about pretotyping and planning for failure, and it was clear he’d already come to a lot of the logical conclusions himself. Smart guy, but I knew that already.
Anyhow. That was yesterday. This evening I’m up at Kpong Airfield again, visiting Jonathan “Capt. Yaw” Porter, Patricia Mawuli and the young ladies of Avtech Academy. Jonathan and Patricia scooped me up on their way past the Accra Mall this morning on their way into town, and I got to follow around and see how they’re finding innovative ways to make ends meet. Avtech and Medicine on the Move are non-profit in the truest and direst sense of the word, so their (nominally) for-profit side of the enterprise has started incorporating ad hoc manufacturing into the revenue model. As the girls learn to program and operate the airfield’s newly-acquired CNC plasma cutter, they’re making gorgeous cut-steel art pieces and practical mechanical components for local businesses. It’s a brilliant bit of win-win-win all around. It’s a long day, and by the time we trundle up the road from Tema, the sun’s down, and I have the opportunity to reflect how after Liberia, the Ghanaian roads that used to terrify me at night are positively monotonous.
But it’s bed time at Kpong now, and the generator’s about to go off. I know the routine here, too: fall asleep to the sound of a forest full of crickets, wake to a chorus of tropical birds that would drive a birder to distraction. It’s good to be back.
Love the view of the plastic jerry-cans overflowing the lorry, looking like mushrooms. You see stuff like this all the time in Ghana!
Are your friends at avtech at the airport affiliated with one of the MIT FabLab affiliates?. I know the FabLab are active in Ghana, and they love to see people turning all sorts of CNC equipment into eolectronics, usefull stuff and crafts. That’s done by Neil Gershenfeld and Sherri Lassiter.
Oooh – I’d heard of the FabLab folks, but didn’t know they had affiliates in Ghana. I’ll check with Jonathan and see if there’s an opportunity to hook them up! (Jonathan – are you listening?)
Google points me to Takoradi Technical Institute. Started in 2004. Latest web post was 2010. I remember seeing videos of work done there when I participated in 2007-8.