This weekend, Nairobi hosted TED. The famous conferences on “technology entertainment and design” are nothing new, but only in the last five years has the informative output of these events been online for anyone to watch. More recently, ”TEDx” events threw the doors open even wider, allowing individuals and groups to host their own events and to make the TED brand local. I attended TEDxNairobi on one of my first weekends in Kenya back in 2010.
Two years later, I was one of about 25 speakers who had six minutes to share, per TED’s parlance, “an idea worth spreading.” TED showed up in Nairobi because the organizers felt that the annual conference has become overly “established.” In response, they’ve trained the searchlight outside of America, looking for ideas worth spreading from the whole world. In Africa, events have been held in Tunis, Nairobi and Johannesburg.
Here’s a shot of most of the gang (my leg is through the “D”):
I spoke about my (forthcoming) book, and the need for the world to embrace and learn from the informal networks and innovations that Africa does best. Participating really brought home TED’s awesome convening power. The crowd was electric. All of my fellow speakers were rock-stars and inspirations in diverse fields. I came away with a stack of cards and great new friends from the region. Some standouts:
Saki Mafundikwa has done the most wonderful in-depth work on Afrikan Alphabets: writing systems built in Africa. Some are centuries old.
Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu leverages the phenomenal reach of radio in Africa to help hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers in Nigeria.
Richard Turere, only 13 years old, stole the whole show with his tale of innovation to stop lions from attacking his family’s cattle near Nairobi National Park.
All the talks, including mine, will be on the web in June, I’m told. Definitely worth your time.