A 3D printer on a basketball court, women smoking fish over the fire, children running around shrieking: welcome to the Yop.Crealab, or at least to the 2.000-m² site that is preparing to host the very first multidisciplinary third place in Yopougon, Côte d’Ivoire.
Located in the working-class neighborhood of Andokoi, this new type of center will be dedicated to cultural and creative professions and practices, digital technology and ecology, in support of youth and employment. AFD has partnered with Yopougon city hall to sponsor the project, providing €350.000 (229 million CFA francs) in financing to make the digital dreams of children and young people in greater Abidjan come to life.
An Innovation Factory for All
“The idea is to give underprivileged populations access to digital tools to develop,” explains Valeria Marcolin, joint director of the NGO "Culture et Développement". “Most importantly, this project is intended to be a foundation from which to renew and clean up the neighborhood, providing access to new basic services.”
Marcolin worked with the city hall and local non-profits to help design the project:“We really wanted to create a tool that would be flexible and lightweight, that would allow for the expression of different forms of local creativity: by children, professionals, young people, and women, and through intergenerational dialog.”
The Whole Package
“On this land that the city provided,” adds Marcolin, “we will build a structure that will house a Fab Lab [manufacturing laboratory, with machines available for use], a Repair Café, a community cafeteria space, and a coworking space. There will also be an aspect of greening, setting up shared green spaces around it.”
In addition, there will be an urban farming component. Initially, the project was planned for a much smaller piece of land. With the extra available space, this new idea took root. The NGO’s “dream” is to “round out the offerings with urban farming plots with help from our partner, the Association Ivoirienne des Sciences Agronomiques (AISA).”
The plots will be connected to a Bio Lab. The goal is to begin locally growing crops and raising animals (snails, agoutis, rabbits) organically to provide healthy food for nearby residents.
Yop.Crealab is also designed to serve as a talent incubator: the new skills developed in various fields within the Fab Lab will be used to support local companies.
Another goal of Andokoi’s Yop.Crealab is to promote new lifestyles based on sustainable development (waste recycling, respect for nature, the environment, and the quality of the living environment) by working with craftspeople like Kazio Nature, who recycles tires into furniture, and Véronique Moh, who transforms used plastic bottles into handbags, jewelry, and other fashion accessories.
Learning to Work Together
At the Yop.Crealab, people will also be able to learn craft skills, digital arts, and blogging from various partners. There will be a media library, a play area (for painting, drawing, etc.) and a mobile Fab Lab to stimulate digital innovation and creativity everywhere, including in rural areas.
This truck, which is already operational, is equipped with a solar panel and all sorts of latest-generation machines. While the permanent building is being erected, the mobile unit can travel between local neighborhoods and schools. University research centers will also be involved in the project.
Here again, we hope to work with local craftspeople to get people involved at every level, offering training in entrepreneurship, digital technology, project management, and also digital manufacturing in schools. Working together is central to the project.
This partnership-based approach is reflected in the collaboration with Agence Emploi Jeunes (the Ivoirien employment center, which has received C2D funding). It will be responsible for managing access to employment and identifying the potential of talented youth.
There are also plans to collaborate with other Fab Labs and incubators already present in the city working in complementary fields, and with Fab Labs abroad. The aim:“To create an ecosystem that truly realizes the creative potential of Abidjan.”
This option has already been tested with Kër Thiossane. For two days in early 2019, the team from this Senegalese Fab Lab ran 3D printing workshops with young people from the Yopougon community center. Working together had already become a reality.