Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

TEDx spotlights inspiring African ideas

By Ike Anya, Special to CNN
November 30, 2012 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Ike Anya, organizer of Tedx Euston.
Ike Anya, organizer of Tedx Euston.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • TEDxEuston aims to reflect the ideas of a "new generation of African leaders"
  • 13 speakers will discuss how to engage with Africa
  • Event will shoecase "inspiring African stories," says organizer Ike Anya

Editor's note: Ike Anya is a Nigerian public health doctor and writer based in the UK. With Chikwe Ihekweazu, he started TEDxEuston and the Nigeria Health Watch blog. Follow him on Twitter @tedxeuston @nighealthwatch @ikeanya

London (CNN) -- The past decade has seen a number of developments on the African continent -- a relative increase in political stability, modest economic growth, and the early signs of a re-emergence of a young and vocal middle class engaging actively in debates about the continent's future. Poverty, war and disease are still heartbreakingly common, but there is a sense of possibility that a few decades ago seemed absent.

It is against this backdrop that 500 people interested in ideas from Africa will gather on December 1 in Blackfriars, London, for the fourth TEDxEuston event to listen to 13 distinguished speakers, including Albie Sachs, "patient capital" investor Jacqueline Novogratz and writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- all of whom, in different ways are challenging conventional wisdom, through their work on the African continent.

TEDxEuston, an independently organized TED event, aims to reflect the ideas and inspired thinking of a new generation of African leaders committed to engaging and re-engaging in an active and meaningful manner with the continent. What started as a small event in University College London in 2009 has grown to become one of the premier events focusing on Africa in London.

See also: How 'Afropreneurs' will shape Africa's future

My involvement began with a plane crash in Nigeria. In December 2005, a Sosoliso Airlines flight from Abuja crashed as it prepared to land at Port Harcourt Airport. Only two of the 110 passengers aboard survived.

...I accused all Nigerians of the negligence in our civic duties that had allowed tragedies like this to occur.
Ike Anya

Among those lost were my younger brother's best friend from childhood, Okoloma Maduewesi and his young nephew Chibuzo Kamanu. Sitting in my office in Bristol in England, trying to absorb the news, I was filled with a great anger and sadness which fuelled a polemic article that seemed to erupt through my fingers straight on to the page. The title was "Why are we crying, we are all guilty", and in it I accused all Nigerians of the negligence in our civic duties that had allowed tragedies like this to occur.

The piece seemed to strike a chord with many Nigerians, bringing me praise and invective in equal measure, but one of the positive responses was from Emeka Okafor, a Nigerian living in New York and author of a blog called Timbuktu Chronicles. He asked if he could republish the piece on his blog, I agreed and we kept in touch.

Read related: 'Change is imminent': African CEOs look to bright future

Nigerian doctor fights for women
Africa's advocates for equal rights

Months later, he sent me a link to a call for African fellowships for a TEDGlobal conference in Arusha Tanzania in 2007. I had never heard of TED, but on googling it, thought that it sounded interesting. I forwarded the call for applications to my networks and a few months later, was informed that I and Chikwe Ihekweazu, my friend and colleague had been selected.

Our 4 days in Arusha were simply life changing -- we laughed and we cried and we were moved and inspired as we listened to African speakers like Ory Okolloh, the Kenyan blogger who had set up Mzalendo to bring the proceedings of the Kenyan Parliament to the people of Kenya for the first time, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, then Nigeria's first female minister of Finance, who had just started publishing government financial allocations for the first time in Nigerian newspapers and Eleni Gabre Madhin just on the verge of leaving her job with the World Bank in Washington to set up Ethiopia's first commodity exchange.

Patrick Awuah moved us to tears explaining why he had left a comfortable position at Microsoft to set up Ashesi College, Ghana's first liberal arts college.

Listening to them, we were confronted for the first time with so many successful Africans seeking to contribute in small ways to changing the way things were in Africa.

On leaving Arusha, Chikwe and I started our blog, Nigeria Health Watch, and 2 years later, applied for a licence to organize the first TEDxEuston event. From the beginning, we wanted to continue the conversations from Arusha, to recreate that sense of wonder and inspiration that we had felt in Arusha for an audience of Africans and friends of Africa in London.

From our interaction with the speakers this year, we expect tears and laughter in equal measure...
Ike Anya

That first event with 100 people in a small hall at University College, largely organized on the back of our credit cards, has today grown into a greatly prized event, the only TEDx event outside Africa focusing completely on the African continent. Today, it is organized by a team of 16 dedicated African professionals from medicine, IT, literature, law and NGO backgrounds, all volunteering their time to help create an amazing event aimed at inspiring new ideas about Africa.

At last year's event, Arnold Ekpe, then chief executive of Ecobank, one of Africa's largest banks said from the stage "I have been attending conferences on Africa since the 80s and I have never felt the kind of energy that I am feeling in this room now."

For us, that was a vindication of the long hours put in to produce the event. From our interaction with the speakers this year, we expect tears and laughter in equal measure as we all are inspired by the African stories of another 13 amazing speakers.

Join us at TEDxEuston 2012 -- details on www.tedxeuston.com

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ike Anya.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
African Voices
March 25, 2014 -- Updated 1140 GMT (1940 HKT)
The veiled female rapper tackling Egyptian taboos head on
Meet Mayam Mahmoud, the 18-year-old Egyptian singer tackling gender stereotypes through hip-hop.
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1050 GMT (1850 HKT)
As the head of Kenya Red Cross, Abbas Gullet was one of the first emergency responders at the Westgate shopping mall.
March 19, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Gikonyo performs a medical check-up for one of her patients at Karen Hospital in Kenya.
Leading pediatric surgeon Betty Gikonyo reveals how her life changed at 30,000 feet and her mission to save the lives of countless disadvantaged children in Kenya.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1346 GMT (2146 HKT)
Biyi Bandele
As a child, Biyi Bandele immersed himself in a world of literature. Today he's taken that passion and turned it into a career as a celebrated writer, playwright and now director.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
Sanaa Hamri in Los Angeles, 2011.
Music video and film director Sanaa Hamri shares her story of how she made it from the streets of Tangier to the big film studios in the United States.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 0934 GMT (1734 HKT)
African Voices meets James Ebo Whyte a passionate storyteller with a series of successful plays to his credit.
February 17, 2014 -- Updated 1016 GMT (1816 HKT)
Actress Lupita Nyong'o attends the 86th Academy Awards nominees luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o has become a new critics' darling after her breakout role in last year's hit movie "12 Years A Slave."
March 27, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Celebrated designer Adama Paris reveals how she was tired of seeing "skinny blonde models" on all the runways, so she did something about it.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Packaging can change how people see things. And when it comes to sex, it could maybe help save lives too.
March 21, 2014 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 HKT)
Global perceptions of the tiny country in east-central Africa are often still stuck in 1994 but local photographers are hoping to change that.
April 4, 2014 -- Updated 0939 GMT (1739 HKT)
Lightenings strike over Johannesburg during a storm on December 14, 2013.
Ending energy poverty is central to a resurgent Africa, writes entrepreneur Tony O. Elumelu.
February 7, 2014 -- Updated 1045 GMT (1845 HKT)
A group of young students have taken stereotypes about the continent -- and destroyed them one by one.
April 1, 2014 -- Updated 1014 GMT (1814 HKT)
Grace Amey-Obeng has built a multi-million dollar cosmetics empire that's helping change the perception of beauty for many.
Each week African Voices brings you inspiring and compelling profiles of Africans across the continent and around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT