TEDThe first time I watched a TED video, it hit me like a Tsunami. A friend had gone to the Obafemi Awolowo University,Ife and copied about 20 TED videos on his computer. I watched and was greatly inspired by the ideas shared in the videos.

TED was born in 1984 out of Richard Saul Wurman’s observation of a powerful convergence between Technology, Entertainment and Design. The first TED included demos of the Sony compact disc and new 3D graphics from Lucasfilm, while mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrated how to map coastlines with his newly discovered fractals. Several influential members of the digerati community were there, including Nicholas Negroponte and Stewart Brand.

 One reason I am drawn to TED videos is the skill of the speakers in presenting clear ideas in a short time (maximum of 18 minutes) and also that the videos are freely available for streaming or download online.

 Towards the end of 2013, I asked friends on my Facebook page and on the Youthhubafrica Facebook page to share the TED videos which have inspired them, I present to you  my top 5:

  1. Chris Abani: Telling Stories from Africa

    Chris Abani makes a case on Telling African stories. He mentioned that his girlfriend has a tee-shirt that says ‘Bombing for peace is like f*&*ing for virginity. If you want to know about Africa, you need to read our literature and not just ‘Things Fall Apart’ the classic book written by Chinua Achebe. Chris Abani reminds us that Nigeria got independence in 1960 but the first time independence was discussed was in 1922 shortly after the Aba women’s riot. Also in 1967 he says, in the middle of the Nigerian Civil war, Dr. Njoku-Obi invented a Cholera vaccine. He delivers this excellent presentation by wielding the essence of languages and stories and then telling fascinating stories of his own. Chris Abani  (born 27 December 1966) is a Nigerian author. He is part of a new generation of Nigerian writers working to convey to an English-speaking audience the experience of those born and raised in “that troubled African nation”
  2.  Ory Okolloh: How I became an Activist:

    Ory goes personal in this TED Video talking about being embarrassed as a child when her parents struggled to pay her way through Primary School. She gets more personal when she shared the story of her late father and how he struggled with illness. She flips the coin when she asked if that’s all we know about her without meeting the blogger, the Harvard educated lawyer (I add googler and ushahidi cofounder and much more). Ory Okolloh is a Kenyan activist, lawyer, and blogger. She currently holds the position of Director of Investments at Omidyar Network. She was formerly the Policy Manager for Africa with Google
  3.  Patrick Awuah: How to Educate Leaders?

    In ‘How to Educate Leaders’, Patrick Awuah talks about leaving his upper-middle class life in Seattle to go back home to Ghana and inquire about the problems facing his country. He found out that many of the problems faced in Ghana can be traced to ‘corruption, weak institutions and a Leadership problem’. He took a closer look at the educational system and discovered for instance that the typical graduate from a university in Ghana has a stronger sense of entitlement than a sense of responsibility. Patrick ends by saying ‘Africa has reached an inflection point, with the march of Democracy and free market across the continent, we have reached a moment from which can emerge a great society within one generation, it will depend on inspired leadership and its my contention that the manner in which we train our leaders will make all the difference’. Patrick G. Awuah, Jr. OOTV, is the founder and president of the Ashesi University—a private and not-for-profit institution in Accra, the capital of Ghana, established in 2001
  4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single story:

    Chinamanda is fast becoming one of Nigeria’s biggest ‘un-appointed’ Ambassadors. In this TED video recorded in 2009, she calls our attention to the danger of accepting a single narrative on a specifc issue, what she calls ‘the danger of a single story’ To create a single story, she says ‘show a people as one thing as only one thing over and over again and that is what they become’ The single story create stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story! The video itself has gained over 5million views on the TED website and considering Chinamanda’s growing fame following back to back success with her books, her TED videos will continue to attract viewers from across the world. Chinamanda ends by saying ‘when we reject the single story, when we realize that there’s never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise’.
  5.  William KamKwamba: How I Harnessed the Wind:

    At age 14, in poverty and famine, William from Malawi built a windmill to power his family’s home. Now at 22, William Kamkwamba, who speaks at TED, here, for the second time, shares in his own words the moving tale of the invention that changed his life. Williams in this 6minute video says ‘before I discovered the wonders of science, I was just a simple farmer in a country of poor farmers’. He ended up building a windmill from metal scraps and a broken down bicycle. The mill attracted neighbours who came to his house to charge mobile phones and then reporters came calling. One day it was a call from TED, his idea and invention landed him on a global stage!

So, are you as inspired as I was by these ideas? Can you spot any theme from them that you want to work with?


Rotimi Olawale is co-founder of He travels extensively across the continent and beyond. He works  mainly from home, prides himself as an amateur photographer and frequently consults for local and international organisations including the UN, World Bank and the African Union. Catch him on twitter

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Rotimi Olawale, co-founder of is a youth development expert. For more than six years he has been involved in leading youth advocacy efforts mainly around the Millennium Development Goals. In 2006, he represented Nigeria as a youth ambassador at the United Nations Global Youth Leadership Summit held at the UN Headquarters in New York. Rotimi has held several global leadership positions including; member, UNFPA Global Youth Advisory Panel for 2 years; member, African Youth Panel. Rotimi is currently involved in shaping local, national and global policies to benefit youth and also leverage opportunities for young people. He was listed by the Nigerian government as one of 15 Nigerian youth on the world stage in 2008.