TEDGlobal 2007: Session 11: James Shikwati

James Shikwati economistThis is the 2nd talk on the second last session of TEDGlobal 2007. We need to commercialising enterprises or entrepreneurship in Africa. Chris Anderson, TED curator, described him as one-man think tank, a libertarian economist.

Address famine as a business opportunity. Lost $200 million due to famine in Kenya. Estimated cost 300 to 500 million people to malaria and cost billions to the GDP of Africa. Young people in a project he is running are cleaning huts and using it as a business to fight mosquitoes. Exploit urban set-up with endless opportunities and offer more variety.

What is missing in Africa is confidence – not money! Africans sometimes think it’s someone else’s problem to fix things in Africa. We need to start using passion of young people to start businesses. Create Olympic style business plan competition to get young people interested and excited about business.

Now back to the Jeffrey Sacks debate. We need to understand how the world works, how the world thinks. The Aid debate operates under the constrained position i.e. the African person is in a box, somebody else must free him. We need to focus on releasing the African mind. Everybody talks about corruption. When a foreigner meets an African the first thing they see is corruption.  One example he quotes, which I’ve heard before is that in Africa not even the most corrupt or the poorest people will deny you water. Yet million of dollars are being spent on buying water like the very popular bottled water products.

With aid it’s like foreign countries subsidising their own companies in Africa. So African companies can never compete, being paralysed and never develop to a point where they can be world class. Keep focussing on entrepreneurship with young people. They are the future and can stop Africa crying.

Chris did a short Q&A with James in which he confronted him on aid debate.

For more information on James Shikwati visit the Inter Region Economic Network.  And read this excellent interview with SPIEGEL, For God’s Sake Please STOP Aid!


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 1: Andrew Mwenda

Andrew MwendaAndrew Mwenda is a hard hitting in-your-face kind of journalist. He is currently on a year-long John S. Knight fellowship at Stanford University in the United States. So one of the things he immediately brought to our attention is that Sub-Saharan Africa received aid to the tune of 13% of GDP while the Marshall plan after World War 2 only gave about 2.5% to countries like Germany. One suggestion I can certainly agree with wholeheartedly is that there should be more support of research into Africa. The funding of research will allow for a much better understanding of African issues from the ground up and not speculation from a distance. According to Andrew some African countries are allowed duty free exports into the European Union for goods like sugar and beef but to date none has taken advantage of this.

What is sorely lacking is a institutional and policy framework. The problems are reinforced in that governments find it easier to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund rather then their own citizens! And all of this continues to lead to tension. It’s difficult to capture the full range of what was discussed by Andrew because of his breath of knowledge and the deep conviction with which he elucidates his points.

Read this excellent article by Andrew Mwenda on Africa and Debt.

The first session ended with a short video message from the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, just before her G8 meeting, thanks to U2’s Bono. She is current the president of the G8.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 1: Carol Pineau

Carol PineauCarol Pineau was the 3rd speaker for the first session of TEDGlobal. She is best known for her documentary Africa Open For Business. She told some of the stories from her inspiring documentary. The first was the story of Ruff ‘n Tumble a very successful clothing designer from Nigeria. Another one was the great success of Vodacom Congo founded by Alieu Conteh, also a speaker at TEDGlobal. And maybe someone who could be considered in the future as Africa’s answer to Richard Branson: Mohammed Yassin Olad, who started a private airline when the Somali government collapsed and with it the national airline shut down. This is what true entrepreneurship is about – realising opportunities in the most dire circumstances.

She further explained that there is a unusually high perception of risk in Africa. However, China is one country that is striking up alliances, partnerships and investing at a rate like no Western country is doing. And in a way this is almost like a Marshall Plan for Africa.

You can purchase the documentary Africa: Open for Business directly from her website here. And here is a great article summarising the message on the official South Africa website.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 1: Andrew Dosunmu

Andrew DosunmuContinuing on the theme of the Africa you don’t know was Andrew Dosunmu, most famous in South Africa as being the director of the hit television show Yizo Yizo. While growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, he experienced very different images of Africa compared to when he moved to London. Andrew has directed several music videos including one for the song Birima by Youssou N’Dour and Wyclef Jean. Andrew is filled with a passion for telling real stories especially about young people and how they experience living in Africa. So he travels widely collecting stories about youth culture and portraying positive images in his work.

Make sure you checkout Andrew Dosunmu’s website for more information this extraordinary African film maker.


Visiting Tanzania for the first time to attend TEDGlobal

Arusha Tanzania TEDGlobalThis week I’m in Arusha, Tanzania attending the TEDGlobal conference. Travelling is one of those experiences which truly enriches your life. When you travel outside of your country you are stretching your own comfort zone.

Back in 2000 I spent 6 months working and living in United Arab Emirates. That was a big culture shock for me coming from South Africa, a very westernised country in many respects. The Arab world is conservative to say the least. The great thing about the UAE is the large population of expats from other countries who live there. And each and every time I met someone it expanded my view of the world.

In most cases we live such isolated lives. And travel is one of those activities which brings about a sense of personal growth like few other activities. And just by observation you can learn more that you can from any book.

Travelling into Africa is a real experience for me because again I think in South Africa we have been spoiled to some extent. If you live in Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban, you are living in a first world experience. When you go into rural South Africa it’s a completely experience. But even that is a challenge which is worth undertaking.

If you are below 35 you may wanna consider the Contiki tours, which are dirt cheap travel worldwide. This is something which is on my t0-do list in the next two years. And if you are interested in following my experiences at the TEDGlobal confernece I will be blogging the presentations/speakers and conducting some video podcasts.