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TEDxEuston co-founder: 'Africans need to talk to each other'

ORGANISER: Dr Ike Anya

ON THE eve of TEDxEuston – an independently organised TED event – that gives a platform to the ideas of a new generation of African leaders, The Voice catches up with one of its co-founders, Dr Ike Anya.

Anya, alongside Chikwe Ihekweazu, set up TEDxEuston in 2009 after being inspired by a global TEDGlobal conference in Arusha, Tanzania, in two years earlier.

Describing as a “life-changing” experience, the pair were moved to tears by speeches from influencers such as Kenyan blogger Ory Okolloh who had set up Mzalendo to bring the proceedings of the Kenyan Parliament to the people of Kenya for the first time and Eleni Gabre Madhin - then on the verge of leaving her job with the World Bank in Washington to set up Ethiopia's first commodity exchange.

He said: “Listening to them, we were confronted for the first time with so many successful Africans seeking to contribute in small ways to changing the way things were in Africa.”

Hoping to recreate that magic, Anya and Ihekweazu applied for a licence to run an event of their own.

From humble roots at University College London, it is now considered the go-to event TED event focusing on Africa outside of the continent.

Speakers representing countries across Africa – South African classical musician Pumeza Matshikiza; award-winning writer Binyavanga Wainaina, from Kenya; Rwanda’s Health Minister Dr Agnes Binagwaho among others – will tomorrow (Dec 6) gather at The Mermaid Conference Centre, in central London, to deliver individual short speeches.

Anya said: “Every year we have people who say they were in two minds about coming because of the price but their final thought is that this event completely exceeded their expectations.

“You will get intellectual stimulation and make new friends. It’s an experience that you take so much from.”

Reflecting upon what makes TedXEuston special, the Nigerian-born medical professional said: “We are the only TedX event outside the African continent that focuses completely and exclusively on Africa. I think that means we bring a broad perspective and a perspective that’s very important in the world today.”
And one of its merits, Anya believes, is that it brings together Africans from different countries for one big conversation.

“We know there is a sentiment, that Africa is not a country – which I totally identify with. I see it also as a family. We are a group of individuals but there is a shared identity,” said Anya.

“One of the challenges we have in Africa is that we don’t talk to each other, we don’t trade enough enough with each other, we don’t visit one another enough. We need to swap ideas and share stories.”

And while Anya is far too diplomatic to have a favourite this year, he said if he could invite any speaker from history to speak at TedX Euston he would choose the President of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara, dubbed ‘Africa’s Che Guevara’, assassinated in 1987.

“His vision of the world was so rooted in an African sensibility,” explained Anya.

For more information about the event, visit www.tedxeuston.com

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