TEDGlobal Talks premier online with George Ayittey

Earlier this month I received an email from Chris Anderson, the curator of the TED following up on the conference in Tanzania. Several videos from the TEDGlobal conference I attended in Arusha a few months ago premièred online. My favourite is George Ayittey who roused the audience, alternating from lacerating criticism of Africa’s “hippo generation” to an inspiring appeal for the “cheetah generation” i.e. the youth who are taking things into their own hands to effect change. You can read my own review of his talk here.

So if you like what you’ve just seen buy George Ayittey’s book Africa Unchained. And if you’re a fellow blogger join the African Bloggers group and become part of the community to take Africa back from the Hippo generation.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 12: Patrick Awuah

Patrick AwuahPatrick Awuah left Microsoft to found Asheshi University. The questions of transformation in Africa is a question of leadership. He gives a shocking example of two incidents at a hospital when they lost power. Learned about courage when stopped at age 16 and stopped by soldiers who wanted him to join some protesters. He found it’s helpful to think about girls, basically taken the anxiety of the moment away for him at the time. He won a scholarship to attend Swarthmore College. The ability to create is the most empowering thing that can help an individual. While he worked at Microsoft the revenue of the company group grew larger than the GDP of Ghana.

Three major problems were identified when he came back to Ghana and interviewed many people to find out the root causes. What was identified is corruption, weak institutions and leadership. A sense of entitlement was found in graduates. He wishes there was a liberal arts university in every African country, they would make a huge difference. A month after launching he received and email from a student, “I am thinking now.” Another student asked “Can we create a perfect society?” after they were issued a challenge to come up with their own honour codes. This has lead to a vigorous debate among the students on campus. For the first in the history of Ghana, a woman was elected to be president of student body. This is real hope.

A 100% of the student have been placed after two graduations. Excellent feedback is pouring in from corporate Ghana and corporate West Africa.

This project reminds me of the impact of the CIDA City Campus university in South Africa. I really think Teddy Blacher, founder of CIDA should have been invited to speak or at least attend TEDGlobal.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 12: Fred Swaniker

Fred was invited onto the TED stage for another 3 minute slot…renaissance, steam revolution, information age: pc, mobile and Internet. President Thabo Mbeki proclaimed the African Renaissance. The African Leadership Academy was launched. Goal is to become more systematic and being proactive about bringing about peace and prosperity. Young people from all 54 countries in Africa who have the potential to change Africa. Bring them together and four 2 years. In 50 years about 6,000 leaders will have been developed. Ended up with a short video clip to show the reality of young people and their perceived negative future.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 11: President Jakaya Kikwete

President Jakaya KikweteSession 11 was closed off by a speech by the President of Tanzania, the honourable Mjue Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. He started out extending a warm welcome to all guests and visitors to Tanzania and Arush. It’s the beginning of the winter but it’s not snowing yet.

He referred to a conversation he had with U2’s Bono, who was at TEDGlobal earlier this week, who complained once about loneliness when you are flying around the world in planes to and from countries. And it seems presidents and rocks stars share similar experiences. The tide is turning around with unemployment at 12.7% and HIV infections now down to 7%.

There is a strong confidence by Google, Kickstart, Technoserve and others who are investing into small projects in Tanzania. This is the basis for much larger future successes. An open invitation to the global community to do business with Tanzania.

The president sat down for a one-on-one with Chris at the end his speech. There is a question about political leadership failing. What is the key change between Africa’s people and it’s people. In the past military people just announce they are new president. They would walk into radio station and make the announcement. This was the worst period of Africa. More democratic elections are taking place to elect the leaders. All in all this is a very courages move from a head of state to speak to such a diverse audience as the TEDsters.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 11: Ory Okolloh

Ory Okolloh blogger activistAfrica is a continent full of contradictions. You’re Harvard educated and you’re coming here to tell us what to do? She told us about her experiences growing up. Although not in the slums she grew up poor. She was sent to a expensive school and kept being thrown out. And once when she failed she went with her father to request that the teacher make an exception. The teacher insulted him, asking him who he thinks he was asking for this special request.Father died of AIDS in 1999. She figured it out because she’s a nerd and used the Internet to make her own diagnoses of the infections. She got the right slide show again.Afrigator was highlighted as a South African project which allows African bloggers to spread the message. The Swahili Wikipedia has 5 contributors, 4 which are white males, 1 is from Tanzania contributors. Gwyneth Paltrow featured on Vogue in the “I am African campaign.” She mentioned Enablis, the Canadian non-profit that helps entrepreneurs in South Africa and now in East Africa. She also mentioned her Mzalendo blog which tracks performance of Kenyan Parliament. As Africans we need to take responsibility for our continent.


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 11: Paul van Zyl

Paul van Zyl gave one of the regular 3 minute talks that fits in between the main talks at TED. He was involved with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and now runs an NGO in New York that shares these strategies and experience with other countries in transition. For more on this work please visit his website.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 11: Salim Amin

Salim AminThe final session of TED: Leadership and Truth, opened with a short film with photos from the famine in Ethiopia. He open with “My name is Salim Amin and I am an African.” The images from the film saved the lives of 3 million people. Images taken by his father, Mohammed Amin. A24 media project, a 24 hour news channel, covered by Africans for Africans. The short film was an extract from a documentary “Mo and Me” about rediscovering his father’s work. The photos of what his father took is still what people think 20 years on. Children with flies in their eyes and malnutrition.

We have 900 million people on this continent yet we don’t have our own news channel and rely on foreign companies. CNBC is business focused and foreign owned. SABC is largely South African focussed – compromised. Most news usually comes from other sources and focusses on the negative issues. Rely on 46 low cost, regional. Will be offered free to air to all terrestrial broadcasters, mainly because we never get paid.

Private Equity has been set-up in Mauritius for the new media company. And no shareholder will ever own more than 25% of the company to remain independent. We need to empower Africans around the world with knowledge. Great good governance, democracy and holding people in leadership positions accountable is the primary drivers of this bringing this A24 news channel together.

For more on Salim Amin please visit the Mohammed Amin foundation.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 4: Russell Southwood

Russell SouthwoodRussell Southwood publishes one of Africa’s leading newsletters on technology: The Balancing Act. He’s talk was going to be about tech, wealth and culture. He was inspired John Perry Barlow’s dream of wiring the Internet in Africa as written in this great piece written Wired. Russell referred to what he calls Door Openers which may allow Africa to skip much of the industrial revolution.

The first is what he calls “selling shortage and corruption.” About a decade ago it took so long to get a land line people resorted to bribing officials to get to the front of the queues. Cellphones have removed the need for landlines to a large extent. You can walk into most cellphones shops, buy a cellphone and get a SIM card within minutes.

Russell further described bandwidth as the fuel of the new economy. When you have high costs, you have low volume. And this keeps business out of Africa. When you compare this with low cost airlines, the model changes to low cost, high volume. (In South African we now have three low cost airlines!) Kenya has 32 million people with only 2 million that have bank accounts. And only have half a million can afford broadband. Now you may wonder if there is a demand. An example was given of 650,000 exam results published on the Web and how 220,000 students went online to check their results. There is a single cable that connects Africa to the Internet, the infamous SAT3, controlled exclusively by Telkom in South Africa. The African ISP association has been successful in campaign for the reduction in bandwidth, especially on SAT3. There are some very good precedents e.g. terrestrial radio stations. A decade ago there was only a handful and now there are over 1,500 across Africa.

Remember to subscribe to Russell’s newsletter at The Balancing Act.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 4: Ron Eglash

Ron Eglash African Fractals
Ron Eglash is a mathematician and author of African Fractals. According to him concepts of fractal geometry resonate throughout many facets of African culture. He started out giving is a brief history of fractals.

In the early 1900s Helge von Koch was frustrated with the complex definition and set out to simply the understanding. This lead to the the famous Koch snowflake illustration. In 1977 Benoit Mandelbrot brought fractals into the mainstream. He coined the term fractal to describe self-similar structures. With a Fullbright scholarship he began travelling around Africa doing his research and interviewing people.

This was a complex presentation to describe. Again I think Ethan Zuckerman did a superb job doing so on his blog here.