Thursday, 24 February 2011

TEDxEuston - Richard Dowden - Ordinary miracles from Cabinda to Cape Town

Richard Dowden is the President of the Royal African Society. He was previously the African Editor of The Economist. Ten years ago his magazine published an article he had written on the state of affairs on the African conitnent titled "The heart of the matter". However, the cover of the magazine carried the extremely judgemental headline; "The Hopeless Continent". I remember vividly the furore caused by this headline as the continet responded to the views of The Economist that appeared to sterotype us all as being without hope!

At TEDxEuston, Richard speaks about this experience for the first time. 

But he also speaks about a lot more....from his reaction to the typical stereotyes on Africa, through the growing influence of China to his analysis of how generations of Africans have changed since his engagement started. You cannot help but admire Richard's knowledge and honesty about the continet.

Watch the talk again HERE.

Richard Dowden first worked in Africa as a volunteer teacher at a bush school in Uganda in the early 1970s. On his return to Britain he was employed by a peace organisation in Northern Ireland and then became a journalist, and was made Editor of The Catholic Herald in 1976.

After joining The Times foreign desk in 1980, he reported from the Middle East and Africa, before being appointed Africa Editor at The Independent when it was founded in 1986. During the next nine years he visited almost every country in sub Saharan Africa. He later became Diplomatic Editor. In 1995 he was invited to join The Economist as Africa Editor continued to travel regularly to Africa. He left The Economist in 2001 and a year later, began working as a freelance journalist and writer. In November 2002 he was appointed Director of the Royal African Society.

In addition to writing extensively about Africa, he has made three full length documentaries on Africa for Channel 4 and the BBC as well as several shorter films. He also continues to write on African issues and appears frequently as a commentator on African affairs on the BBC, CNN, Sky News and other broadcast media. His book: Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles was published by Portobello Books in September 2008 .

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Michela Wrong - Telling the story of a whistle-blower on a crusade for the truth

At the inaugural TEDxEuston we heard Nuhu Ribadu speak eloquently on his struggles and challenges as the Chief Executive of the anti corruption agency in Nigeria. At the 2010 TEDxEuston, Micheala Wrong, a journalist who spent many years working in Africa spoke about how she met John Githongo the former anti corruption czar in Kenya who also had to leave his country when the truth became too uncomfortable for the powers that be. Why are these matters important to us? Well, while it is true that we seek to inspire ourselves and friends with the great stories of progress from our continent, it is also true that we will remain honest regarding the challenges we face and celebrate those people that choose to walk the difficult path of honour that hold people in public service to account. Michela's talk is about one of these people.

Michela tells this story honestly, with a clear sense of responsibility and clarity that is so rare in reportage on similar issues. She tells it without stereotyping or hyperbole....with calm and rectitude that left the audience deep in thought on why it has to get to this and why many of our leaders just do not learn. Watch again HERE.

Michela Wrong has spent the last 16 years writing about Africa. As a correspondent for Reuters news agency, based in first Cote d'Ivoire and then Zaire, she covered the turbulent events of the mid 1990s in west and central Africa, including the fall of Mobutu Sese Seko and genocide in Rwanda. She then moved to Kenya, where she became Africa correspondent for the Financial Times. In 2000 she published her first book, "In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz", the story of Mobutu, which won a PEN prize for non-fiction. Her second book, "I didn't do it for you", focused on the Red Sea nation of Eritrea. Her third book, "It's Our Turn to Eat", tracks the story of Kenyan corruption whistleblower John Githongo. It has been described as reading "like a cross between Le Carre and Solzhenitsyn".

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

TEDxEuston - Paul Onwuanibe - Taking your business home to Africa

Home is always on the minds of many Africans living in the so called Diaspora. We talk about Africa with emotion and nostalgia, at once yearning for its embrace and fearful of its challenges. The decision of leaving our comfort zones, the paycheck at the end of the month, constant electricity, healthcare etc often proves a step too far. So our plans to support the renaissance of the continent ends on our dinner tables and wine bars. With our decision not to engage, dies the dreams of a continent. Paul Onwuanibe chose to challenge conventional wisdom by not only founding a successful company in the UK but in taking his business back home to the continent. He tells the remarkable story of this journey that has taken him to open offices in all the major African cities. He shares the pains and the joys......and you cannot help but be infected by his enthusiasm for the opportunities that await those who dare to dream. 

Listen to the talk HERE.

Paul Onwuanibe began his career in the 'built environment' with a formal education in Architecture, Property Development and Construction Management, together with a London Business School MBA with a merit in "Value Engineering".Paul has 20 years in the professional property environment with experience of design and execution projects (Africa, USA, Europe). He served as Development Director with Beacon Housing, a UK based house builder producing over 1000 homes. Paul was the Executive with responsibility for the Property and Logistics team of Regus Plc during its rapid expansion years, which oversaw the opening of 190 business centres in 62 countries globally. He has expert knowledge of commercial property and workplace management and led Landmark's expansion into America, Europe and Africa. He has a deep and passionate interest in real estate in Africa, knowledge, experience and fresh views.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Father Matthew Kukah - the folly of ethnic compartmentalisation

Father Matthew Kukah is quite a man. Many that grew up in Nigeria got to know him from his articles in the Guardian. Very few contributors to debates on the Nigerian polity could articulate the complexity of the country as eloquently as Father Kukah. When we invited him to speak at TEDxEuston we expected a lot and wow, did he deliver! He produced a fascinating tour de force of his engagement with the country. Few people can address the complex issues of religion and ethnicity with integrity, authority and wit. Father Kukah left us laughing uncontrollably about the tears in our eyes, and the pain in our hearts. The gentleman below could not hold himself!

His talk beautifully encapsulated the unfulfilled potential of a country that awaits greatness and what Nigerians can do about it. Watch his talk here....

Matthew Kukah is a Catholic Reverend Father and former Secretary-General of the Catholic Secretariat in Nigeria. He served on Nigeria's Presidential Truth Commission into Past Human Rights Violations. Until recently a Senior Fellow at St Antony's College, University of Oxford, Dr Kukah is a rigorous scholar and respected commentator, Dr Kukah received his PhD from the University of London.

He is the author of the critically acclaimed work, Religion and Politics in Northern Nigeria since Independence (Spectrum, 1994), and most recently of Democracy and Civil Society in Nigeria (Spectrum, 2002). Father Kukah is a regular commentator on complex social and political issues in Nigeria.
Professor Bart O. Nnaji is currently the Special Adviser to the President on Power and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Power – an organ charged with the reform of the Nigerian Power Sector. He is the founder Geometric Power Limited - the first indigenously owned private sector power Company in Nigeria. Geometric is currently building a US$400 million Integrated Power Project (IPP) in Aba to generate more than 188 MW. He served as Federal Minister of Science and Technology of Nigeria in 1993.