Biohacking in Africa: A Tool for Justice, Empowerment, and Development
THOMAS MBOA, UNIVERSITÉ LAVAL/APSOHA
Biohacking in Africa: A Tool for Justice,
Empowerment, and Development
SOHA project evidences on: obstacles to the adoption of Open Science in Haiti and Africa
Global Community Bio Summit
Session II: Diversity & Inclusion
22 – 24 september 2017
1. DOES BIOHACKING STILL MEET
NATIVE AND CORE VALUES OF THE
HACKER MOVEMENT ?
CRITICS ON BIOHACKING IN AFRICA
Figure 1 Cardiopad (CNN 2016)
As you can see, biohackers also exist in Africa and they are trying to follow the world stream.
It's good but does it really reflect the needs of African people or it is just the vision of an
individual? Which approach is better for our society?
Biohacking has many social, economical and
political advantages. But in Africa particularly, it is
the subject of critics on :
- Sustainability of biohackerspace
Lack of funding ; the import and acquisition of the
required equipment makes the activity costly;
- Capitalism instead of alternative economies
based on commons
- Inequalities & Exclusion
Biohacking is elitist, only academics are involved
and most of them are men.
( Nkoudou 2017)
2. RETHINKING THE AFRICAN
APPROACH OF BIOHACKING.
Biohacking is a great chance for Africa, but done like that it is not relevant for
Assuming that technology is driven by humans, not the contrary. The most
important thing is the community and biohacking is losing much of its
potential by not actually including citizens.
CONTRIBUTE TO COGNITIVE JUSTICE BY MERGING
BIOHACKERSPACE WITH SCIENCE SHOPS
Science shops are mediating structures that bring
science close to society, by listening to the needs
of local populations, which will then be handled in
collaboration with academics. This requires
academics to be trained in citizen sciences so that
they can come out their ivory tower. For a great
impact, these spaces should be located outside
This approach promotes inclusivity by:
- recognising the relevance of local knowledge and its
- opening up to non-scientific knowledge (traditional,
local, political, daily, etc.) instead of despising or
- opening up to the contribution of non-scientists to
- It is in this way that biohacking can contribute
to the advent of cognitive justice(Piron Florence
et Mboa Nkoudou Thomas Hervé 2016).
DO BETTER WITH LESS! BY PROMOTING
The objective is to encourage biohackers to use
local resources, thus limiting dependence on
imports, which make access to technological
resources very expensive. This Jugaad or low-cost
attitude will promote DIY, self-confidence and
thus lead to the empowerment of populations and
WORK FOR LOCAL SUSTAINABLE
Biohacking should be practised to meet social
needs. That is why biohackers must start with the
needs of local populations and propose
sustainable and recyclable solutions from our
Bowen, Lauren Marshall. 2017. « The Limits of Hacking Composition
Pedagogy ». Computers and Composition 43 (mars): 1-14.
CNN, Ngala Killian Chimtom, for. 2016. « Handheld tablet brings
medicine to rural areas ». CNN.
Nkoudou, Thomas Hervé Mboa. 2017. « Benefits and the hidden face of
the maker movement: Thoughts on its appropriation in African
context| Os benefícios e a face oculta do movimento maker:
Reflexões sobre sua apropriação no contexto africano ». Liinc em
Revista 13 (1).
Piron Florence, et Mboa Nkoudou Thomas Hervé. 2016. « Fair Open
Science As A Powerful Resource In The Fight Against Cognitive
Injustice In Francophone African Universities And Haiti ».