The cliché of Africa, one digital revolution behind, is not for her. At 27, the “serial maker” has co-founded Baby Lab, a third place in Abidjan, and created her own brand of recycled jewelry.
Abidjan, special envoy
The first time I met Edwige Gbogou, in 2014 in Abidjan during a training on IT security proposed by ‘Internet sans frontières’ (Internet without borders), she who introduced herself going around the table as “Edwige Gbogou, blogger and passionate about technology” was wearing an “I </> and you?” T-shirt. Since then, the “geek from Abidjan” (as she calls herself) established herself as a tireless activist of Ivorian web and tech communities.
Initiated to fablabs by the Mooc
After her high school diploma, the young Ivorian pursued her studies at the Centre d’études supérieures des affaires (Cesa) in Abidjan. “My father had brought a computer back home, she says. Before that, I didn’t really touch computing. I wanted to see how it worked, by curiosity, so I got down to it.”
As soon as her second year in the IT and electronic systems course, she started to take part in the Abidjan NTIC events and thereby met the different communities of the Ivorian technological scene. All these young passionate people motivated her. Her developer friends gave her additional classes that she studied conscientiously.
In 2014, Edwige discovers fablabs by following the Mooc (online classes) and joins Ovillage, third place co-founded by Florent Youzan, defender of free software in Africa, and Cyriac Gbogou, blogger and key actor of new technologies in the Ivory Coast. By their side, Edwige Gbogou is inspired by the values of free software and learns blogging, code, open source mapping, drones… She keeps a blog, My geek adventure, where she shares the places she visited, her meetings, tricks, information.
Baby Lab, the third place of Abobo
At home in Abobo, a working-class suburb of Abidjan, she brings together friends from the neighborhood who, like her, have understood the crucial role of third places to offer a space of expression for young Ivorians. In September 2014, the Baby Lab fablab is born, in the family home of one of the seven co-founders, Obin Guiako. Baby is the affectionate nickname the Ivorians give Abidjan.
Their challenge is to occupy the neglected young by empowering them and putting at their disposal a collective and creative workspace. Edwige co-leads there a “circular economy” group. With Ghislain Dessieh, they offer the young theory lessons but particularly practical workshops recycling CDs and other IT equipment.
“We want to show the young of the neighborhood that with willpower, everything is possible. Here, we guide the young, and I even more the girls, in their projects, we go with them to events to enable sometimes decisive encounters. Baby Lab is my work of every weekend!”
Needless to say that weekends are very busy. In fact, a few days ago in Abidjan, took place the African week of sciences, organized by Baby Lab as part of the Next Einstein Forum.
EG, her brand of recycled jewelry
At 27, here she is in charge of community management for a communication agency in Abidjan. And since she has more than one idea in her hard disk, just over a year ago, she started making at Baby Lab bracelets with salvaged keyboard keys with which she has fun forming texts (like… “geek”).
Since, she has sold more than 500 bracelets. The recycler-maker even receives keyboards from everywhere! She is renowned in all the maker communities in Western Africa that do not fail to order these geek jewels from her. Building on this success, she creates her brand EG, Be chic, Be geek in 2016. In May 2017, she partners with Women Techmakers Abidjan and supplies for the occasion her recycled bracelets to all the participants.
“I also encourage girls to learn code; IT is the the foundation for tomorrow!”
The celebration of Ivorian third places
New challenge ahead for Edwige Gbogou: the organization of the second edition of the Abidjan third places festival on November 28, 2017. With various partners, and supported among others by the French Tech Abidjan, Edwige Gbogou truly intends to make Ivorians discover her universe and encourage them to join her “geek adventure”.