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Fatou Juka Darboe, the engineer who introduced 3D printing to the Gambia

Fatou Juka Darboe is a Gambian mechanical and electronic engineer. She is the founder of Make3D, the leading 3D printing company for developing and manufacturing orthopaedic, medical and assistive equipments for medical institutions and their patients. In 2021, she won the Africa prize for Engineering Innovation.

Fatou Juka Darboe is a young mechanical engineer with an atypical background. She is one of the few Gambian women with a technical background, but also one of the first entrepreneurs to set up a 3D printing company in the country.

From a young age, she was passionate about technical fields. Although she was often the only girl in her class, her ambition was to make it her career. So she studied mechanical engineering at the Gambia Technical Training Institute and graduated in 2017. She started her professional career as a maintenance technician at the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation in 2018 and in 2019, she decided to embark on entrepreneurship and founded Make3D, the first 3D printing company in the Gambia.

The company specializes, in particular, in the development and manufacture of orthopaedic, medical and assistive equipments for medical institutions and their patients. “My dream has always been to be able to manufacture the equipment I will need as a maintenance technician here in the Gambia. 3D printing is one of the ways to achieve that and gives you almost endless possibilities to materialize your ideas and personalize your products,” she explains on her company’s website.

Make3D: a dream comes true

Created in collaboration with her husband, the company struggled from the start to find its feet in the country and to make its business known. “It was new because we were the first company and we had to do a lot of marketing, awareness-raising… so that people would understand what we were doing,” she confides to the NewDay media. In 2020, in the context of Covid 19, Make3D company became one of the first to provide personal protective equipments. The company gained visibility and made its work known to Gambians.

In 2021, the company was shortlisted for the Africa prize for Engineering Innovation. She won the award and $10,000 to develop her business.

Fatou Juka Darboe is not just a businesswoman. She is also a youth and gender activist who is interested, in particular, in promoting girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields.