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"TEDGlobal was a seminal moment for Africa …"

Posted by: Emily McManus

Next week on TED.com, we’ll premiere the first talks from the TEDGlobal 2007 conference, held in Arusha, Tanzania, this June. Several bloggers from the conference will be posting here over the coming week.

TEDGlobal 2007 Fellow Juliana Rotich has been keeping the influential blog Afromusing for two and a half years, writing and interviewing about such issues as green energy, technology and many other topics around Kenya and the African continent. She also contributes to AfriGadget and is working on a forum for renewable-energy information exchange.

As the videos from TEDGlobal are released, I’d like to share a few thoughts on what I felt as a TED Fellow, an African and blogger; what this conference meant to me and other Fellows that I have been conversing with since this historic conference ended.

TEDGlobal was a seminal moment for Africa. It opened our eyes and minds to the ideas, people and technology shaping a continent. Glimpses of history from the segment “Looking Back to Look Forward,” the present innovation in “Emergent Design” and “Tales of Invention,” to the future in the segment “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It felt like a precursor to a Wired Nextfest of sorts — Africa edition, a “jumping-off point.”

It was an out-of-the-box experience: boxes of tribe, nationality, continent and yes, even boxes of race. Chris Anderson and Emeka Okafor on stage reminded me of Seinfeld‘s black-and-white cookie. It was also about conversations between different minds from different continents, backgrounds and specialties. To have been in a forum where views and ideas about Africa are discussed with fervor, passion and engagement was ground-breaking, inspiring, enlightening and fantastic.

As an African, one might think that we would already know about the content presented at TEDGlobal 2007, but many of us could not have imagined the breadth and talent in Technology, Entertainment and Design coming from Africa. There was even a metaphorically poignant moment when the president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, removed his suit jacket and got comfortable to address the TEDGlobal audience. It was a moment that seemed to signal a peeling away of old ideas, seeing new ways to tackle Africa’s challenges. Inasmuch as our minds were opened up to the potential of the African continent, on looking back I am reminded that the themes at TEDGlobal are indeed … Global. As you watch the talks and see the ideas being shared, think of the universal questions that bind us all together.

For the African fellows like me, to have a video by a fellow African who looks like me, comes from the same continent, showing what they have done to change Africa … It touches my mind and resolutely affirms a belief that perhaps was in the back of my mind, but today has been brought to the fore of my consciousness. The belief that Africa’s next chapter is being written with innovative, entertaining and creative ideas that will shape a bright future. As we watch, engage in the conversations, and spread the ideas coming out of TEDGlobal, I am reminded that we are in one sandbox of a planet. We might as well learn and help each other. The African voices you will see and hear will have an idea, a message, a story that I hope will also touch you. Cheers TED, and thank you.


Juliana Rotich’s TEDUniversity talk has been posted. Watch it here »

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