Analogue Digital

Posts Tagged: kawangware

Spaghetti wire

Saphy Electricals

Sam runs an electronics supply shop in Kawangware called Saphy Electricals that happens to have a “thorough” selection of electrical wire (look after the jump to see what I mean). He stocks both new wire and used wire, which he buys from local workshops as scrap. If a new wire costs KSH50 (USD0.67) per meter, the same quality wire used would cost about KSH40 (USD0.53) per meter.

The reason the economics are so crazy here is that traditional woven rope can cost up to KSH350 (USD4.67) per meter, so many customers actually buy this wire to use as clotheslines!

Continue reading →


Modern Electronics

I told my guide Barry that I hadn’t seen any electronics workshops yet, and he knew just where to go. The first stop was Modern Electronics in Kawangware, where entrepreneur John repairs TVs, radios, and amplifiers. He was trained informally by a friend and has been running this business for four years. He also offers battery charging services.

The culture of reuse and repair is alive and well in the electronics sector.

Continue reading →



Why are these banks labeled 2010? I asked the same question myself. Kenyans at the BOP tend to save money on an annual basis. Banks do well at the start of the year.

Flexible quality

Leonard Furnitures

Kawangware is one of the largest slums in Nairobi with a population of about 200,000, but has a thriving commercial market center with a manufacturing area situated just behind the market sheds. My trusty guide and translator Barry, a talented scrap sculptor, was born in Kawangware and knew it well.

Leonard (shown) runs a furniture shop in Kawangware. He says one of his greatest strengths is his ability to work with customers. He knows many of them have tight budgets, so he judges the quality based on what people can afford. Want something cheap? You’ll get a cabinet like the one on the left, which might take two days to complete. Want something nice? You can get something more carefully crafted and finished like the cabinet on the right, which could take up to four days.

While the Kenya Bureau of Standards might frown upon such a practice, it is this type of quality and price matching that make the jua kali sector so appropriate.

Making Do

Making Do Book Cover

Making Do is an investigation into systems of innovation in Kenya's informal economy. Learn more and read the book online or in print here.

About Me

I'm Steve Daniels. I study the transformative impact of technology on individuals and societies. I am the founder of the Better World by Design conference at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design and Analogue Digital, a publisher of content related to global cultures of technology. Currently, I work at IBM Research, where I study mobile social computing in emerging markets.

I am particularly interested in how people create, adapt, and use technology in resource-constrained environments, which I have written about in Making Do: Innovation in Kenya's Informal Economy.

You can follow me on Tumblr and Twitter.