When I first listened to Chimamanda Adichie’s talk ‘The danger of a single story’ I was a young business journalist working for CNBC Africa, and this new found patriotism for the continent had flooded my mind and all I wanted was a better Africa, in perception, and also in tangible terms.
For 18 minutes I was engrossed in her thoughts of how Africa’s perception has been shaped through time. Right then I knew that this is the space I wanted to be in. A place where Africans can passionately speak about their continent,what they are doing to make it a better place, despite the world seeing it as a dark and hopeless continent, as the Economist one called it.
So when I bumped into my friend Suraj Sudhakar of the Acumen fund just a day before Ted Talk held its audition for African Speakers in Nairobi, I knew that I wanted to bed there. To be re-energized by other believers of a successful Africa. TEDtalks are Ideas worth sharing. In their own terms, they say, Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.
The Nairobi auditions were in search for a participant for the TEDtalks 2013. It intends to showcase, The Young, The wise, The Undiscovered. These talks (auditions) however were 6 minutes each, unlike the well 18 minute talk.
For 6 minutes I listened to a talk about vultures, transfixed at a topic I would ordinarily flip past. I soaked in the passionate story telling and after that talk I vowed to buy my daughter a book about vultures.
For 6 minutes, I listened to undercover Journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas tell us about Africa Investigates and his desire to uncover corruption on the Afrivcan continent, he passionately puts his life on the line, for a continent that he believes will change. A number of those he has uncovered through his Television features have been arrested.
For 6 minutes, I listened to Lorna Irungu tell us about the 3 lessons that she learned after being diagnosed with lupus and having undergone a number of kidney transplants.
For 6 minutes, I learned about the bees that make it possible to have chocolate, built for pollination, and how they do it, for those minutes, I laughed and smiled, and took in the passion with which the story was told.
For 6 minutes, I listened to Eric Wainana telling about finding an edge, in life, at work, in whatever it is you put your mind to.
For 6 minutes, and another 6 minutes, and more 6 minutes after that, I regained an even bigger pride for Africa.
If these people, who are not just beaming of great oratory skills have such passion and belief in what they are doing to make a better Africa, then the continent will change.
There’s farmers finding Agri-solutions through an online platform called I-cow. There’s Maasai herdsmen now happy that Lions will not invade their cattle boma ‘s because of a flashing light a 12 year old invented.
There’s Su Kahumbu who’s hoping Agriculture can be packaged in a sexier way so that young people can not only be part of feeding the continent, but also part of the global food chain.
It is these things, that I want to be part of, and for 18 minutes, we may one day change the world’s perception of Africa.
I wish all the TEDtalk audition candidates all the very best!