Cities TED Partners

Video: Three views of tech innovation in Africa

When you watch a video on, we’re proud of the advertisement you see afterward — it’s not your usual blaring video ad. We ask all of’s sponsors to make their post-roll video as thoughtful and idea-driven as the TED Talk it’s helping to support. In fact, we’ll sometimes work with the sponsor to create original video just for us. And we helped make three new videos that are running now on the site — but only seen by our audiences in Africa — that we wanted to make sure the whole world could see too.

These three fascinating videos from TED and IBM show how technology is helping solve problems in three case studies across Africa, filmed on location in Nairobi, Kenya; Cape Town, South Africa; and Lagos, Nigeria. They showcase three innovative projects that use IBM and Watson technology for insight and everyday problem-solving in local conditions.

Along the way, this ended up being the most ambitious content project the TED Partnerships content studio has ever produced. The biggest challenge? Something as old-fashioned and stubborn as the time of day.

While navigating the diplomatic labyrinth of visas and permits in multiple countries wasn’t easy, managing a fluid creative process with a team that spanned 12 time zones proved even more daunting.  Over the course of six months, the creative team met literally morning, noon, and night … at the same time. Weekly telecom gatherings included the client in Dubai, the ad agency in Singapore, the filmmaker in Melbourne, Australia, the films’ subjects across Africa, and creative staff at TED in New York.

Integral to the storytelling for each film was close coordination and input from the people leading these efforts. In Lagos, Nigeria, Professor Benjamin Aribisala selected two of his most outstanding students who collaborated with the creative crew to map out the best way to tell the story of the IBM Africa Skills initiative at Lagos State University. The film captures the program on screen, in the computer lab, and even in the homes of the students as they map out their futures in Nigeria’s booming technology sector.

And the commitment of the film subjects was intense — so intense that Auriel Cupido, our Cape Town call center agent and Watson co-worker, sacrificed her chance to watch a make-or-break South Africa World Cup rugby game in order to do the final shoot overlooking Table Mountain. (The game did play on speaker out the window of the transport van during the shoot. South Africa lost to New Zealand.)  

After adapting for some very early mornings and late evenings, we think the series brings a unique and personal perspective to some innovative work.  The subjects of the films include:

  • And a story of how the next generation of innovators are test-driving some powerful new platforms; professors and students from Lagos State University and Nairobi’s United States International University tell the story

The films were translated into French, Arabic and Portuguese and are now appearing as post-roll video on throughout Africa.  And with the project finally under wraps, the creative team is enjoying a few extra hours sleep.