This African Entrepreneur Creates 3-D Printers Out of E-Waste

african entrepreneur

West African entrepreneur and inventor Kodjo Afate Gnikou didn’t have access to a lot of tools and resources for building new technology. But he wouldn’t let that stop him from creating cutting edge devices. Instead, he frequented local scrap yards and put together what is believed to be the first 3-D printer made from e-waste.

In doing so the entrepreneur has not only found a way to create a much more expensive piece of technology at a lower price. He’s also found a way to  reclaim technology waste in a way that may keep more of the material out of garbage dumps and landfills. This could be the start of a green tech business.

The 33-year-old said in a recent interview with Euronews:

“My dream is to give young people hope, and to show that Africa too has its place on the global market when it comes to technology. We’re able to create things. Why is Africa always lagging behind when it comes to technology?”

To create his printer, Gnikou scoured a nearby scrap yard to pick up rails and belts from old scanners, as well as bits from old hard drives and desktop computers. He had to buy a few supplies new. But overall, the 3-D printer only cost him $100 to make.

Gnikou has spent several months creating his 3-D printer prototype. The device is already able to create containers and other helpful household items. But Gnikou says he isn’t done yet. The entrepreneur also believes a larger version of the printer could eventually be sent to Mars as an inexpensive way of creating homes for humans there.

Others see the potential, too. Gnikou was recognized by the NASA International  Space Apps challenge last year.

It might sound far-fetched, but building a 3-D printer from materials found in a West African scrap yard probably didn’t seem that plausible before Gnikou made it happen.

His ambition, creativity, and attention to detail allowed him to create an incredibly useful device while finding new uses for old and discarded materials.

Too often, people let limitations like lack of funding or supplies get in the way. If more people, particularly entrepreneurs, used such roadblocks as a chance to get creative, we’d likely have much more innovation in the world.

3-D printers can cost thousands of dollars to buy. Even the cheapest models retail for around $300. So if a company needed such a device and didn’t have the funds, it would be easy to simply give up. But Gnikou created a device for a considerably lower cost by thinking outside the box. And that’s a quality all entrepreneurs should value.


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

5 Reactions
  1. Awwwwwesome! Kodjo’s innovation goes to show problems aren’t necessarily problems at all, but solutions in disguise.

    • Yes, it all depends on how you look at it!

      • There’s a quote that’s been going through my mind couple of times today: “the obstacle is the way”. Don’t know whose quote it is. I think there might also be a book by that name. But, yeah, this post and what Kodjo’s achieved reminds me of that.

  2. While the real cost is the large amount of time he invested to create the printer, in a situation where you’ve got time but not cash this is the perfect solution. I love the re-purposing of old components as well. Too often we throw things away at the first signs of trouble instead of just fixing it.

    • Sometimes you just have to make do with what you have. He did a great job of utilizing the resources available to him.