Asif Khan, Ufahari - Stories of Innovation from the Developing World

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Ufahari is the go-to portal for interesting stories of innovation from the developing world. Asif Khan is the founder and curator at Ufahari. YourStory caught up with him to understand more about this Nairobi, Kenya based platform.

What was the idea behind Ufahari ? How did it come about?

I studied for quite a while in Osaka, and I met a lot of creative people, who were doing things which were simply brilliant. I loved the community that they had built which inspired and promoted creativity at all junctures. When I came back to Nairobi, I wanted to find out what was happening around the country that I lived in. It was near impossible trying to look for ingenuity in the streets of Nairobi, but it wasn't that nothing was happening - once I did find out, there were people doing things with such creativity it really fascinated me more than what I saw in Japan. So I started a small site where I would post anything that I found interesting from the developing world, and over time it just found its audience.

What are the creative activities that you saw in Nairobi that inspired you to start Ufahari?

When we started, we wanted to bring together the craftsmen making beautiful sculpted art, mainly for the tourist market. we wanted to bring them all in one place, since i felt that they really weren't getting the right price for their products. people would come in, and buy their products cheaply and then go sell them in foreign markets for sometimes ten times the price. but as we went along, i discovered that there were people doing such amazing stuff, but were not being written about anywhere. that was heartbreaking, so i changed focus to spotlight those ideas/innovations.

What kind of innovations are you trying to showcase?

A curator shows a singular point of view, and that's what I try to do. Fortunately, my point of view has resonated quite well with our audience. What this has done is, created a community with a similar vision and mission - to showcase ingenuity from the developing world. And that is what you see on the site.

The about us page says you also organize events. Tell us more about the events

One way we can showcase innovations, and brilliant people is by organizing events where they get the opportunity to reach out to another audience. One such event is PechaKucha_Nairobi which we organize in partnership with KenyaBuzz, the biggest events information portal in Kenya. Using PechaKucha's concise format we're able to give a chance to people who have ideas, which may be in their early stages and connect them with people who can possibly make it happen for them. It really is an exciting mix of arts, culture, design and technology, which we hold every year.

Any specific plans for India? Can people write to you with story ideas? How can people get in touch with you?

India is a hotbed of innovation, and it would naturally be our next place to have a bigger presence in. We already have people writing to us from there with ideas, and we have featured them, and moving forward we'd like to have more regular writers, and we're also looking into the possibility of hold an event there - along the lines of MakerFaire Africa. You can get in touch with me on twitter @asayf - and on http://asayf.me

How did you come up with the name "Ufahari" ?

ufahari means 'prestige' in swahili - the idea behind giving the portal this name was one - to identify it as a place where these little written about innovation get their well deserved prestige. Secondly, swahili is widely spoken in east africa, so giving it a swahili name would help identify it as coming from that area. Going ahead how do you see Ufahari shaping up - beyond the website and events ?

Well, one thing I’ve always wanted is an online store where we'd sell some of the crafts, that i talked about earlier + other innovations at the price that the seller wants to sell. this will hopefully make the site sustainable. Plans are in place, and I’ll let you know as soon as they materialize. One other prospect I’m very excited about is organizing maker faire like events in places like south east asia + south america, places I believe are hotbeds of innovation.

Some of the stories that you have found very interesting/inspirational

Since I curate (handpick) the articles, I’ll say i find each and every article on ufahari interesting, but if i had to pick one/two I’d say arvind gupta's toys [ http://ufahari.com/ideas-innovations/the-phat-phat-boats-of-india-ingenious-steam-powered-toy-boats/ ] are some of the most fascinating inventions i have ever come across! + of course, mobile innovations such as the mobile water tracking system developed in India to alert local residents of water availability is one of the best i've come across recently [ http://ufahari.com/ideas-innovations/new-mobile-water-tracking-system-in-india-updates-local-residents-on-water-availability/ ]