Today marks 58 years since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity on 25 May 1963. Since then, the continent has undergone dramatic change, politically, economically, socially and technologically. What does the future look like? Well, to celebrate Africa Day this year we’ve put together a collection of a dozen thought-provoking TED Talks that cover everything from technology and business to science fiction, fashion and art on the African continent.
Why is the movement to change narratives about Africa so critical? Why do we need our own brand of science fiction? What could our cities of the future look like?
If you’re looking for a way to be inspired this Africa Day, pop in your earphones and take in these compelling talks.
How young Africans found a voice on Twitter – Siyanda Mohutsiwa
“The little-known truth is many Africans know a lot less about other African countries than some Westerners might know about Africa as a whole. This is by accident, but sometimes, it’s by design.
“Add to that Africa’s colonial, archaic education system, which has been unthinkingly carried over from the 1920s – and, at the age of 15, I could name all the various causes of the wars that had happened in Europe in the past 200 years, but I couldn’t name the president of my neighbouring country. And to me, this doesn’t make any sense because, whether we like it or not, the fates of African people are deeply intertwined.”
The danger of a single story – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my “tribal music”, and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey.”
The next generation of African architects and designers – Christian Benimana
“The unprecedented growth of Africa cannot be ignored. Imagine Africa’s future cities, but not as vast slums, but the most resilient and the most socially inclusive places on earth. This is achievable. And we have the talent to make it a reality.”
Why Africa must become a centre of knowledge again – Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò
“Things have not always been this way when it comes to knowledge production and Africa. In antiquity, the world went to Africa for intellectual enrichment. There were celebrated centres of learning, attracting questers from all parts of the then-known world, seeking knowledge about that world. What happened then has implications for our present.
“For example, how Roman Africa managed the relationship between settlers and natives between the second and fourth centuries of our era might have something to teach us when it comes to confronting not-too-dissimilar problems at the present time. But how many classics departments do we have in our universities?”
You don’t need an app for that – Toby Shapshak
“Now, this is real innovation, not the way people have expropriated the word to talk about launching new products. This is real innovation, and I define it as problem-solving.
“People are solving real problems in Africa. Why? Because we have to. Because we have real problems. And when we solve real problems for people, we solve them for the rest of the world at the same time.”
4 myths and misunderstandings about doing business in Africa – Nomava Zanazo
“A share of my wallet is here for the taking. But not for long. African businesses are booming and trade across all 55 countries is getting easier and faster by the day.
“So it won’t be long before non-African products are less desirable than the ones that we make here at home. So if you want in, great, come join us. But do it thoughtfully, do it intentionally, spend the money, and for goodness sake, don’t underestimate us. Don’t underestimate me.”
The powerful stories that shaped Africa – Gus Casely-Hayford
“The struggle to keep African narrative alive has been one of the most consistent and hard-fought endeavours of African peoples, and it continues to be so. The struggles endured and the sacrifices made to hold onto narrative in the face of enslavement, colonialism, racism, wars and so much else have been the underpinning narrative of our history.”
How Africa can use its traditional knowledge to make progress – Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu
“I am convinced that Africa’s further transformation, Africa’s advancement, rests simply in the acknowledgment, validation and mainstreaming of Africa’s own traditional, authentic, original, indigenous knowledge in education, in research, in policy making and across sectors.”
Sci-fi stories that imagine a future Africa – Nnedi Okorafor
“I can best explain the difference between classic science fiction and afrofuturism if I use the octopus analogy. Like humans, octopuses are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. However, octopus intelligence evolved from a different evolutionary line, separate from that of human beings, so the foundation is different. The same can be said about the foundations of various forms of science fiction.”
Fun, fierce and fantastical African art – Wanuri Kahiu
“This was my first experience with science fiction, and I loved it. So when I started to write my own science fiction and fantasy, I was surprised that it was considered un-African.
“So, naturally, I asked, what is African? And this is what I know so far: Africa is important. Africa is the future. It is, though. And Africa is a serious place where only serious things happen.”
Fashion that celebrates African strength and spirit – Walé Oyéjidé
“Ostensibly, I stand before you as a mere maker of clothing, but within the folds of ancient fabrics and modern textiles, I have found a higher calling.
“Through my work as a designer, I’ve discovered the importance of providing representation for the marginalised members of our society, and the importance of telling the most vulnerable among us that they no longer have to compromise themselves just so they can fit in with an uncompromising majority.”
Visions of Africa’s future, from African filmmakers – Dayo Ogunyemi
“Who really cares what The New York Times thinks?
“What matters is that Africans are validating African art and ideas, both critically and commercially, that they are watching what they want, and that African filmmakers are connecting with their core audiences. And this is important. It’s important because film can illuminate and inspire.
“Film can bring visions of the future to us here in the present. Films can serve as a conveyor belt for hope. And film can change perspectives faster than we can build roads.”