Ex-UK PM Tony Blair tours, endorses Gearbox as key facility in stimulating innovation

Ex-UK PM, Tony Blair, while on visit to Kenya recently, took the opportunity to spend time at Nairobi-based engineering innovation hub, Gearbox.

In a speech focusing on the opportunities for development in Africa, created by technology access, Blair emphasized the complementary need to also motivate access to skills learning, apply relevant information and to increase the capacity in vocational teaching for the young. He further complimented the Kenya government for playing an important role by pushing the Big 4 Agenda as part of meeting this need. He further stated that it is the application of innovation, which is key to positive change.

Commenting, Blair said; “Gearbox creates a platform to which people can come and get help, and, over time, hopefully Gearbox can expand so what it is provided here (in Nairobi, Kenya), for a limited number of people can be provided on a much larger scale. In the end, it is about scaling up these opportunities (like you see here today).

Blair emphasized that whilst access to information is important, it is the application of technology in a way which solves real problems, that is important and that, especially the young, need a strong degree of guidance on how they apply their ideas on the continent.

Blair further stated; “It’s about teaching our young people to be creative thinkers, the Internet and technology can give you the information, but the teachers are going to have to becoming guides in order to enable people to think creatively, because when you think creatively, you come up with these types of inventions. That’s when you have the ability to adapt as the world around you changes. The one thing for sure is, these changes are going to accelerate.”

He also added, that it is important that Kenya plays her role on the broader continental scene; noting thus: “Kenya, within the context of Africa, is known as the center for technological and innovation.”

Commenting on his visit to the Gearbox facility in Nairobi, Blair also said; “What you are doing here at Gearbox is an amazing example [of innovation] and I really do congratulate you.” He added; “Gearbox is a really practical way in which things can be done.” 

Commenting, Gearbox founder and Executive Director, Dr. Kamau Gachigi said; “Technology can and should be made by the people who live with the problems it solves. This is a key driver for the existence of Gearbox and is one of the reasons I opened this hub. For people to manufacture goods that will solve their everyday issues, they need access to powerful tools and support. Gearbox’s model for building maker spaces in this emerging market, is to provide that support, sustainably, while casting the widest possible net for local innovation. Africans have great ideas and incubating those ideas as well as allowing the great minds to grow is important for the continent’s development in this age defined by the 4th industrial revolution.”

Gearbox is an engineering innovation hub in Africa. Located in Nairobi, Kenya, it is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide shared working and support for talented inventors and technology entrepreneurs. This includes; provision of design spaces, capacity to develop and prototype ideas, provide Human Centered Development education, and develop value chain linkages which help innovators to build network and scale in bringing their products to market.

To date, Gearbox has supported the enablement of hundreds of people develop both themselves and their ideas, working across a whole series of innovation applications. In addition, it is supporting the return of skills to local communities to foster the growth of wealth within informal settlement economies.


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