The Only Thing Dark about Africa is Your ignorance

The best 100 African wise proverbs and inspiring quotes

The Only Thing Dark about Africa is Your ignorance: Best TED Talks on Africa – Started in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED), TED hosts the most popular conferences devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. In this post I’ve collected the best TED  talks on Africa (+ few from other sources) for those hungry to know more about Africa and its promise. I hope you like it.


1. Kid President: I think we all need a pep talk

Kid President commands you to wake up, listen to the beating of your heart and create something that will make the world awesome. This video from SoulPancake delivers a soul-stirring dose of inspiration that only a 9-year-old can give.

Kid President is otherwise known as Robby Novak, age 9. His executive order: for us all to “treat everybody like it’s their birthday,” every single day.

Best comment “This is life people! You got air coming from your nose! You got a heart beat! That means it’s time to do something!” Love that part – Charlie Davidson


2. What if foreign aid is making the plight of Africans worse?

Zambian Economist, Dambisa Moyo is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa and How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly and the Stark Choices Ahead.

In 2009, Dambisa was named by TIME Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and to the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders Forum. Her writing regularly appears in economic and finance-related publications such as the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Best Comment: “Someone had to be poor. Indirectly the African continent volunteered by accepting the role.But.Situation will change.Soon.Another group will have to be poor. Any volunteers? The human mind is a scary place to visit.”


3. Leslie Dodson: Don’t misrepresent Africa

Real narratives are complicated: Africa isn’t a country, and it’s not a disaster zone, says reporter and researcher Leslie Dodson. In her talk, she calls for journalists, researchers and NGOs to stop representing entire continents as one big tragedy.

Leslie Dodson’s work has taken her from Latin America to Indonesia covering international finance, economics, and politics.

Best comment “At the end we all are to be blamed, we consume the news, we are the donors and we promote the “Misrepresentation of Africa”Ignacio Hennigs


4. Chris Abani on the stories of Africa

In this deeply personal talk, Nigerian writer Chris Abani says that “what we know about how to be who we are” comes from stories. He searches for the heart of Africa through its poems and narrative, including his own.

Imprisoned three times by the Nigerian government, Chris Abani turned his experience into poems that Harold Pinter called “the most naked, harrowing expression of prison life and political torture imaginable.” His novels include GraceLand (2004) and The Virgin of Flames (2007).

Best comment: “Two of his quotes really stuck out to me: “We’re never more beautiful than when we’re most ugly; because that’s really the moment we know what we’re made of.” and “The world is never saved in grand gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion; everyday acts of compassion.” Nick Bowlby

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5. Andrew Mwenda takes a new look at Africa

In this provocative talk, journalist Andrew Mwenda asks us to reframe the “African question” — to look beyond the media’s stories of poverty, civil war and helplessness and see the opportunities for creating wealth and happiness throughout the continent.

Journalist Andrew Mwenda has spent his career fighting for free speech and economic empowerment throughout Africa. He argues that aid makes objects of the poor — they become passive recipients of charity rather than active participants in their own economic betterment.

Best comment “In the case of Africa more aid would actually make things worse because it would keep the unhealthy relationship between African countries and the aid givers. The longer this relationship lasts the stronger it will become. Therefore, governments have to be made dependant on their people in order to act in a responsible way – a slow shift in how the money is spent might not be enough.” – Zhivka Ivanova


6. Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies all but forgotten by recent generations of westerners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels and stories are jewels in the crown of diasporan literature.

Best comment “People who experience injustice don’t usually think about the injustice they do to others, though not intentionally. Stories need to be revealed and we should not wait for someone to do it for us but rather take the initiative and help humanity become equal.”Saleh Khan


7. Ludwick Marishane: A bath without water

If you had to walk a mile for a jug of water every day, as millions of people do, it’s unlikely you’d use that precious water to bathe. Young entrepreneur Ludwick Marishane tells the amazing, funny story of how he invented a cheap, clean and convenient solution: DryBath, the world’s first bath-substituting lotion.

Student Ludwick Marishane invented a water-less bathing lotion and was named the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award — all because he didn’t feel like taking baths.

Best comment: “very good product. should be in survival kits, military kits, used in hospital care. and others.” Alexander Johann Leibengeist


8. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on aid versus trade

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former finance minister of Nigeria, sums up four days of intense discussion on aid versus trade on the closing day of TEDGlobal 2007, and shares a personal story explaining her own commitment to this cause.

As the first female Finance Minister in Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala attacked corruption to make the country more desirable for foreign investment and job creation. Now as a director of the World Bank and head of the Makeda Fund, she works for change in all of Africa.

Best comment: “Giving to people can be investing in their weakness… trading and investing in people affirms their strengths.” kandy davis


9. George Ayittey on Cheetahs vs. Hippos

Ghanaian economist George Ayittey unleashes a torrent of controlled anger toward corrupt leaders in Africa — and calls on the “Cheetah generation” to take back the continent.

Economist George Ayittey sees Africa’s future as a fight between Hippos — complacent, greedy bureaucrats wallowing in the muck — and Cheetahs, the fast-moving, entrepreneurial leaders and citizens who will rebuild Africa.

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Best comment: ” I recently read an article written by Ayittey that discussed the different viewpoints of internalists and externalists. These two schools of thought blame Africa’s problems on external and internal forces. Ayittey falls under the category of an internalist. I agree with both view points. I think that many of Africa’s problems were started by Western forces, such as colonialism, imperialism, the slave trade, and the multinational companies that dominate in Africa today. Many externalists think that because Africa’s problems weren’t caused by Africa that they can only be fixed by the ones who started it. However I believe that Africa can tame the effects of all of these happenings, most Africans just don’t believe it to be possible. However for the effects of the West to be pacified Africa’s government systems need to be effective and just, which they are not. Africa now is its greatest enemy. It is keeping itself from healing the wounds inflicted upon by the West. Africa has all of the potential from its abundant and rich land to its large and capable populous but Africa is being held back by itself.” Hannah Neville


10. Euvin Naidoo on investing in Africa

South African investment banker Euvin Naidoo explains why investing in Africa can make great business sense.

As president of the South African Chamber of Commerce – America, Euvin Naidoo works with leading corporations and governments to strengthen trans-Atlantic economic ties.

Best comment: “What would be great is if Africans are the drivers of this economic revolution, having growth that’s driven by foreign investment makes the continent vulnarable to the global economic cycles.” James B


11. Jacqueline Novogratz invests in Africa’s own solutions

Jacqueline Novogratz applauds the world’s heightened interest in Africa and poverty, but argues persuasively for a new approach.

Jacqueline Novogratz founded and leads Acumen Fund, a nonprofit that takes a businesslike approach to improving the lives of the poor. In her new book, The Blue Sweater, she tells stories from the new philanthropy, which emphasizes sustainable bottom-up solutions over traditional top-down aid.

Best Comment: “giving charity can invest in weakness..unless it encourages growth..
investing in trade and micro lending encourages peoples strength. “ kandy davis


12. Jacqueline Novogratz: A third way to think about aid

The debate over foreign aid often pits those who mistrust “charity” against those who mistrust reliance on the markets. Jacqueline Novogratz proposes a middle way she calls patient capital, with promising examples of entrepreneurial innovation driving social change.

Jacqueline Novogratz founded and leads Acumen Fund, a nonprofit that takes a businesslike approach to improving the lives of the poor. In her new book, The Blue Sweater, she tells stories from the new philanthropy, which emphasizes sustainable bottom-up solutions over traditional top-down aid.

Best comment “I think the genius of Jacqueline Novogratzs approach is that she gives a hand to local innovators to find solutions to local problems. Local innovators have a lot more knowledge of what the people you are trying to help want, and what will and will not work “Gil Meiri


13. Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls

Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee has two powerful stories to tell — of her own life’s transformation, and of the untapped potential of girls around the world. Can we transform the world by unlocking the greatness of girls?

Leymah Gbowee is a peace activist in Liberia. She led a women’s movement that was pivotal in ending the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003, and now speaks on behalf of women and girls around the world.

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Best comment “If every woman provided leadership for one girl in the world, we could create world peace.”Julie Wiley


14. Patrick Awuah on educating leaders

Patrick Awuah makes the case that a liberal arts education is critical to forming true leaders.

After working at Microsoft for almost a decade, Patrick Awuah returned home to Ghana and cofounded Ashesi University, a small liberal arts college that aims to educate Africa’s next generation of leaders. Its first class of students graduated in 2006.

Best Comment: “As a kid who grew up in Nigeria, we used to sing a song which goes ” Parents listen to your children, we are the leaders of tomorrow” , I never felt like a leader until I left Nigeria, and moved to the United States, and I became exposed to new things. I became even more courageous, and I made up my mind to go back home to educate my people. Africa will one day catch up with the rest of the world. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We need more people abroad to rise up, come home and make a change. Yes there would be oppositions. Rome wasn’t built in a day. There were also oppositions when building Rome.”Ugbomma Chi


15. Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs

‘I am a mathematician, and I would like to stand on your roof.’ That is how Ron Eglash greeted many African families he met while researching the fractal patterns he’d noticed in villages across the continent.

Ron Eglash is an ethno-mathematician: he studies the way math and cultures intersect. He has shown that many aspects of African design — in architecture, art, even hair braiding — are based on perfect fractal patterns.

Best comment: “It turns out that fractals have been used in designs of many cultures, especially African and Indian cultures. Ron’s work on this subject has been critical for alerting the world to the fact that mathematics is embodied in material crafts. We can literally know math by engaging in material practices such weaving, basketry, tiling, and lace-making. To me what is so grab about Ron’s work is that it highlights non-symbolic ways of knowing. “Margaret Wertheim

16. Hans Rosling: Stats that reshape your worldview

You’ve never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called “developing world.”

In Hans Rosling’s hands, data sings. Global trends in health and economics come to vivid life. And the big picture of global development—with some surprisingly good news—snaps into sharp focus.

Best Comment “Fantastic visuals. Amazing insights. We have so much of preconceived notions”- Avadaiappan Rajendran

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Written by Aba Forson

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