Imagine for a second you are in Lagos, Nigeria. You’re crossing the Third Mainland Bridge into the city. It’s long. The second-largest in all of Africa.
You look off to your right and you see a slum. You can see the floating wood from torn-down houses. People returning from a long day of fishing. Trash catching on the stilts that hold each rickety house up.
You may be able to see little hints of the eco-system inside this town built on fish. The women smoke fish to send to market creating a haze around the town. The kids sell petrol and water to the fishermen as they head out for a long day. Craftsmen build boats, women weave and untangle nets, and traveling shopkeepers sell vegetables, sweets, and snacks. All of this in preparation to start the next day.
What you can’t see is the rising tension between this fishing village and Lagos. Lagos sees Makoko as disposable. The town looks dirty, it’s school children are more often selling petrol than they are studying, and it doesn’t contribute much to Lagos’ economy. The city has proven just how much it doesn’t want Makoko to exist by knocking down village houses and refusing to reply to the community when they ask for the city to stop dumping plastic waste into their canals.
But where Lagos sees an eyesore, others see their home. And still others see humanity.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR MAKOKO
Daniel Kalu grew up in this city. He watched his mother work herself to the bone so he could go to school. In turn, he woke with the light… bulb. Sometimes he needed to work from midnight to 5 am because that was when the electricity happened to surge into his house.
Unlike many others, Kalu got out of Makoko. He has started school at Minerva Schools at KGI and is studying Computer Science. He’s the president of the African Movement for Working Children and Youth and the Co-founder of the Revealer Project.
But Kalu isn’t done with the community yet. He sees the danger the community is in and has brought together a team to start the process of giving the Makoko community the resources they need to make education, business growth, and social mobility available. Together they started One Energy Hub.
THE (START OF) THE SOLUTION
The core of the solution is, “To bring electricity to people who otherwise wouldn’t have… it.” (Kalu)
But why electricity? Electricity is the easiest pathway to widespread information gain. And in a community where the school systems are overcrowded and underfunded, easy access to information is a gift that keeps on giving.
To provide this electricity, the One Energy Hub team has designed an entirely off-grid floating hackerspace that can host around 100 people and will have the power to charge laptops, tablets, and phones as well as create a space for collaboration.
This space will be created using leftover shipping containers from the nearby port of Lagos, reused pontoons to keep it afloat, solar panels to keep the electricity flowing, and furniture made by local craftsmen to keep the economy growing.
The team has acknowledged that this unit may not be so easy to build.
The community may be resistant to change, or rightly suspicious that One Energy Hub is just another group of people asking for space and money who won’t do much to help the community at all.
Furthermore, the Lagos government is already less than excited the community exists in the first place. Our proposal to find a way to empower the community instead of removing it may not come across as a solution to the problem they believe they have.
Despite the potential difficulties, the team has decided to push forward. Because for One Energy Hub, giving everyone equal access to a space with electricity, internet, and opportunity for collaboration isn’t just about humanitarian aid or increasing the standard of living.
It’s about everything individuals in that community can do with that information.
A girl who drops out of high school can learn about engineering over the internet, she can study for exams and get into college. She can build a new life.
The Craftsman can learn about different techniques of boat building from other countries and can evolve a new style. He can publish a site online and grow his audience.
The natural leader can work with others in the community to grow and fight for the safety of the community.
Makoko is home to 200,000 people. All of whom are rightfully worried about Lagos wiping out the community. Mothers have children who can’t go to school. Fathers children whose food intake depends on how well they do that day. But the community is made of entrepreneurs. Those entrepreneurs simply don’t have power. One Energy Hub hopes to give them some access to the resources that can bridge that gap.