Who Are the 10 African TED Talkers?

The TED Global 2017 conference is almost upon us, and we can’t wait for the creative ideas, inspiring stories, and thought-provoking discussions from this year’s speakers. Set for Arusha, Tanzania from 27 to 30 August, this year’s edition promises to be an electrifying affair if the list of the speakers is anything to go by. Ten of the 21 TED Global Fellows are African, hailing from countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Uganda, Liberia, Kenya, Somalia and Nigeria. They represent a variety of industries, including science and technology, media, and the arts, among others.

Meet the 10 African leaders and change-makers on the list of speakers.

1Mennat El Ghalid – Egypt

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The Egyptian microbiologist has dedicated her time to study fungal infections in humans. Her work has led her to discover the causes of these diseases and develop new treatments to fight them. Mennat is also the co-founder of ConScience, a non-profit organisation dedicated to science education. She gained her Master’s degree and PhD from the Paris Diderot University in France and Spain’s University of Córdoba respectively.

2Saran Kaba Jones – Liberia

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In 2008, after spending nearly 20 years abroad, Saran Kaba Jones returned to her native Liberia and came face to face with the hardships faced by her fellow citizens. One of the common challenges is a lack of access to clean running water. Saran, then 26, set out to solve this problem by founding FACE Africa, an organisation that builds infrastructure to provide safe access to clean water for rural communities.

FACE Africa is currently working hard to solve the water crisis in River Cess, one of Liberia’s struggling areas. The organisation has changed lives of more than 100,000 people by providing them with clean water. Thanks to her life-saving work, Saran, now 35, is a Board Member of the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Group and a 2013 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

3Adong Judith – Uganda

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Simply put, Adong Judith is a voice for the voiceless. The Ugandan director and playwright creates art that promotes social change and ignites dialogue on issues that have plagued her country, including LGBTQ rights and war crimes. “I write about things in my society that I question. But, I am always minding my own business when these societal diseases find and hit me huge that I have no cure but to write about them,” she explains.

Adong’s plays have been showcased in New York, London, Toronto, and other parts of the world. One of her successful works is Silent Voices, a powerful play that calls for justice for war crime victims in Northern Uganda. Adong also dabbles as a lecturer at Makerere University and Artistic Director at Silent Voices, a non-profit performing arts organisation. Named after Adong’s acclaimed play, the organisation trains aspiring theatre makers and connects them to renowned local and international artists.

4Yasin Kakande – Uganda

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Fearless Ugandan journalist Yasin Kakande was thrust into the spotlight in 2014 after publishing a damning book describing the plight of migrant workers as well as media censorship in the United Arab Emirates. For more than ten years, Yasin worked and lived in the Gulf country, where he went undercover for his autobiographical novel, “The Ambitious Struggle: An African Journalist’s Journey of Hope and Identity in a Land of Migrants.”

Following the publication of his book, Yasin was fired by the newspaper he worked for and forced to leave the country. Making the TED Fellow list gives the Ugandan journalist the opportunity he has always wanted to tell his story to the world.

5Katlego Kolanyane-Kesupile – Botswana

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Katlego Kolanyane-Kesupile is a performance artist and writer who describes herself as an ARTivist. As Botswana’s first publicly open transgender public figure, she established Queer Shorts Showcase Festival, the country’s first and only LGBT-themed theatre festival. Katlego uses diverse forms of art as well as her personal experiences to raise awareness about the plight of the LGBT community in her country.

6Kasiva Mutua – Kenya

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Kasiva Mutua is a Kenyan drummer and percussionist who has toured a plethora of countries on the continent and abroad. While she holds a degree in journalism, she decided to pursue her passion for music, an art she learnt from her grandmother at a young age. Her decision has paid off remarkably as the 28-year-old artist has become hot property. She has worked with legends of African music such as Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi and South African Hugh Masekela.

Kasiva is a pleasure to listen to. Her performance style fuses Afrobeat, zouk, samba, reggae, and soul. Her talents have taken her from rural Kenya to Europe, USA, and the Middle East. You can’t expect any less from an artist who plays a variety of instruments, including djembe, guitar, the Egyptian Tabla, and cowbells.

7Abdigani Diriye – Somalia

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An undying passion for technology and invention is the fuel that keeps Somali scientist Abdigani Diriye running. Abdigani has made an indelible impact in the East African country’s tech scene hosting coding camps and establishing incubators and accelerator programmes. He has also founded several non-profit organisations that focus on supporting start-ups in Somalia.

Abdigani currently works as a Research Scientist at IBM Africa, based in Nairobi. Apart from entrepreneurial work, his research in mobile-based financial services has helped him become a TED Fellow. Given the outstanding work he’s done to address Africa’s challenges through technology, Abdigani seems to have something enlightening in store for the world come 27 August in Tanzania.

8Robert Hakiza – DRC/Uganda

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The refugee crisis in Africa is at unprecedented levels, and so it’s always laudable when brave, ordinary individuals like Robert Hakiza step up to help those fleeing war and persecution. Robert is the co-founder of Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID), which focuses on rehabilitating refugees in Uganda through computer literacy skills, vocational education, English classes, and sports training.

A refugee himself, Robert fled DRC to Uganda and has been living there since 2008. His organisation is one of the best-known refugee-focused organisations in Kampala, addressing social issues such as ethnic conflicts, unemployment, public health, and lack of access to education.

9Wale Oyéjidé – Nigeria

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US-based Nigerian fashion designer, Wale Oyéjidé, uses his designs to tell stories about immigrant populations to the Western world. “Too often, the issues of Sub-Saharan Africa are spoken about, and spoken to, by outsiders who don’t have accurate frames of reference from which to base their judgments,” he explains. Wale’s designs fuse West African fabrics with influences from other global cultures.

Through his fashion line Ikiré Jones, Wale has showcased his work in countries including France, Germany, Spain, Israel, and Brazil. Interestingly, his designs will feature in the much-anticipated Marvel Studios film “Black Panther.”

Wale is a man of many talents. Apart from fashion designing, he is a writer, musician, and a lawyer.

10Carl Joshua Ncube – Zimbabwe

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One can’t talk about Zimbabwe’s stand-up comedy scene without mentioning Carl Joshua Ncube. The 38-year-old entertainer is his country’s top touring comedian, jumping from one country to another in a quest to make a name for himself. In the process, he has helped put Zimbabwe’s comedy scene on the map and carved a path for upcoming talent.

Carl holds the Guinness World Record of most comedy shows in one week. In August 2016, he staged 31 shows in 31 different venues in South Africa and Zimbabwe, beating Australian Mark Murphy’s record of 30 shows which had been in place since 2007.

Moza Moyo
Moza Moyo is based in Johannesburg and is passionate about telling news stories that change the African narrative. His writing touches on an array of issues and topics, including human interest, business, race, and culture.