The DIRECCT programme supports 11 fablabs on the African continent through the Makers North-South project. The Réseau Bretagne Solidaire (RBS) and the Réseau Francophone des Fablabs d’Afrique de l’Ouest (ReFFAO) are joining forces to enable them to acquire the equipment and machines needed to manufacture health equipment (visors, hydroalcoholic gel dispensers, etc.).
Ultimately, the Makers North-South project will enable fablabs to become more self-sufficient, more resilient and reduce their environmental impact: thanks to a machine, plastic waste can be recycled and reused by the 3D printers.
Diarra Sylla is the founder of the first Mauritanian FabLab, Sahel Fablab. She talks about what led her to create this FabLab, and how it responds, thanks to technology, to concrete problems.
Can you introduce yourself?
I am a telecom engineer and digital entrepreneur. I studied in Morocco and Senegal. During one of my internships, I had the opportunity to visit the first Senegalese fablab: I dreamt of a workspace that would also be a laboratory, as I am passionate about new technologies. It was inspired by this example that I wanted to create a space where young people could learn about different technologies by practicing them. I kept this project in mind for my return to Mauritania.
What convinced you to create your fablab?
In 2014, after participating in the 5th edition of the Innov’Africa forum, in Lomé, Togo, with other young innovators, I decided to create a Fablab. The idea was that, in a second phase, it would be able to support several projects, as an incubator. I then created the InnovRIM association to support Sahel Fablab.
In 2015, I returned to Mauritania and was able to bring together a few young people, initially by offering them IT training.
Then funding from the European Union as part of the “Youth and Power to Act” (YPA) project enabled us to give the fablab a boost: we acquired equipment, expanded our network and established new partnerships.
Today we support young people in their projects, particularly through mentoring and professional training.
In your opinion, what are the specific missions and objectives of fablabs?
InnovRIM’s objective was to set up the fablab and provide training to out-of-school students and entrepreneurs who wanted to learn IT.
Over the past five years, thanks to partnerships with associations specialising in professional integration, many young people have been able to receive training and the demand continues to grow.
A fablab is a place for prototyping: it seeks to respond to very specific needs. For instance, during the covid crisis, the fablab developed automatic hydroalcoholic gel dispensers that were distributed to several hospitals. This was really appreciated.
What do you envisage for the years to come?
Today, InnovRIM is 7 years old, and we are moving on to another stage: incubation. We are accompanying a women’s cooperative by supporting it in the development of a web and mobile commercial platform.