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TEDGlobal 2017 Tanzania Session 4 – Exploring hard truths

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TEDGlobal 2017 session 4 was about exploring hard truths. It was a delivery of biting truths and harsh realities. 

TEDGlobal 2017 Session 4 Speakers

Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, a professor of African political thought, wonders how a continent that is home to some of the largest bodies of water in the world — the Nile, the Niger, the Congo, the Zambezi, the Orange rivers — can be said to have a water crisis. “Including in countries where the rivers are?” he asks. “Africa does not have a water crisis; it has a knowledge crisis regarding its water, where and what type it is, how it can be tapped and made available where and when needed to all and sundry.” According to Taiwo, a lack of knowledge is what stands between Africa’s current state and a future of prosperity.

At Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, says: “We must find a way to make knowledge and its production sexy and rewarding.” Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Niti Bhan drew attention to Africa’s informal economy. Niti believe it is really what keeps Africa running, creating jobs at four times the pace of the formal sector. And they get zero kudos for it. Niti points out that the informal economy has been much maligned and even criminalized, because African governments cannot be bothered to distinguish between unrecorded and illegal trade. Informal businesses often pay local levies and all kinds of dues, but are almost always targeted for extortion and impoundment by government officials, and denied loans by lenders. 

Niti Bhan studies informal economies — the source of more than half of economic activity in many nations of Africa. Yet, she says, they’re criminalized, persecuted, extorted by officials. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED 

Leo Igwe comes to the stage with a message of hope and faith in humanity’s ability to rise above fear, hate and superstition. Especially superstition. “In Africa, superstition is widespread, with people too often believing in witchcraft, something that has no basis in reason or science. Yet alleged witches, usually women, children or elderly persons, are still routinely attacked, banished or killed. And I have made it part of my life’s mission to eradicate witch persecution in Africa.”

Ndidi Nwuneli has advice for Africans who believe in God, and Africans who don’t believe in god. To the religious, she believes that God loves Africa … just as much as he loves the people all over the world. While her faith in the omnipotence of the divine is firm, she is certain that God is not a micro-manager, or someone for whom the responsibility for how our lives turn out can be outsourced. “By claiming we have no power over past, present or future, we give too much authority to the wicked, who steal funds and ask God for forgiveness.”

Speakers Ndidi Nwuneli, at left, and Leo Igwe, right, discuss the role of faith and belief in modern African, in a Q&A sparked by TEDGlobal co-host Chris Anderson onstage at TEDGlobal 2017, Tuesday, August 29, 2017. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Nabila Alibhai and a group of friends wanted to see if they could create a language that transcended religion, race and political leanings. “The idea,” Alibhai says, “was to unite people of different faith by getting them to paint each other’s house of worship … churches, mosques, synagogues … yellow, in the name of love.” It might sound crazy, and of course they were told so. 

Why is this house of worship — and 24 more like it, churches, mosques and synagogues — painted bright yellow? Because Nabila Alibhai and her friends asked if they would. It’s part of a project to show the interconnectedness and hopefulness of faith. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

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