Africa Gathering

This week’s been busy as ever. Friday night and Saturday was Africa Gathering, ideas, tech, change for Africa.

Flickr Pool
What has the twitterverse to say about Africa Gathering? (links to blog posts, pictures etc)
Full list of speakers

It was a hugely diverse event. And that’s mostly quality-wise. We had Teddy Ruge from Project Diaspora, but we also had a very questionable young American Peace Corps worker, and a Nigerian who is president of an organisation with Olusegun Obasanjo as Grand Patron who came from nowhere.

But let me write a somewhat organised report.

It was a strange mix of idealists, finance people, entrepreneurs, academics – and some people who are combinations of some or all of these things. On both days, the quality of the talks varied hugely. On Friday, the lowest point for me was the stage being given to Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, President of the Association of Telecoms providers of Nigeria, an association with ex-president and hugely controversial, disgraced ex-president General Olusegun Obasanjo as its Grand Patron, and who was talking about running Youth Summits to try and inspire the youth of the country.

I got this close to standing up and asking him if he really believes Nigerian kids are that naive.

teddy1The high point on Friday night was undoubtedly Teddy Ruge from Project Diaspora who gave a TED quality presentation about challenges and solutions faced by East African manufacturers, focusing on the importance of customer service, interspersed with slides saying African Banks Suck – no really!

That was also the end of the Friday, apart from the Afriguzzling at the nearby Lincoln Lounge.

Saturday again, a mixed bag of all sorts. Starting with Leon Benjamin from Winning by Sharing who was stimulating everyone’s brain activity by describing the organisational skills of slime, moving on to Glen Mehn describing Appfrica’s progress in the mobile market, moving on to Molly from the Peace Corps (yeah, I know. The Peace Corps? Have you seen their mission statement? *Americans*?) Professor Tim Unwin commented on the talk thus: “Listening to US speaker giving the same old top-down, arrogant, do-gooding presentation – please really listen to the voices of Africa”.

35695589-34a3f8e6f094594d5316be2aa0519edb.4ad33874-fullUp next was Kevin “Banana Man” Allen who started the Banana Appeal – he gave an account of how he got into wanting to do something practical, and it had to do with being too lazy to get to the remote control which was at the other side of the room. Really inspiring and funny – and Kevin was also the only person who said he wasn’t on Twitter because he’s not clever enough – I wonder if we could change that perception of social media.

Anyways – I probably forgot a few people (Like Ken Banks of Frontline SMS, and the fact that Credit SMS is now FrontlineSMS:Credit! How could I! And Justin Lyon from Simudyne who does water-related installations and who Akvo will have to talk to, again, how could I! And Bill Liao, one of the founders of Xing, who has started Neo.org) but that’s because I just can’t wait to tell you about Emmanuel Jal. There was another TED quality talk – I recorded 4 audioboos (War Child poem, Escape 1, Escape 2, Escape 3) and managed to post them straight away, thanks to the good wifi at the Hub. There’s no doubt going to be video of it as well. Emmanuel used to be a child soldier and was talking about his escape – there is just no way that you go away from this kind of talk thinking that you’re having problems.

After that, the panel – most of us were flagging seriously by then and were ready to go off to the pub. Emmanuel performed one of his songs, Emma, his thank you to the charity worker who rescued him and some of his friends, and managed to get everyone seriously emotional – after that an award was given to Kevin Banana Man Allen for his work with the Banana Appeal. Even more emotion.

I shall no doubt add videos of the talks here as they are being published.

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