TED and the sponsors behind the conference made an amazing commitment to including innovative young African leaders, thinkers and entrepreneurs into the TED Global conference. Of the 450 attendees at the conference, 100 are “fellows”, here through the generosity of GE, Google and AMD. That generosity took an unexpected extra step this morning, when TED staffer Tom Rielly announced to the assembled fellows that Google and AMD would be donating a new Mac or PC laptop to all fellows, and that Noah Samara from Worldspace would be giving each fellow a satellite radio and an annual subscription.
This isn’t the only generous effort coming out of the TED Global conference. William Kamkwamba, the amazing young Malawian engineer who built his first windmill at age 14, has captured the imagination of many of the people in the crowd. A number of TED attendees have banded together to support him fiscally to complete his high school education and go onto university. A TED staffer is travelling to Malawi next week to start working on finding tutors for William to help prepare him to attend a top high school in Malawi.
Some members of my blogging community, including Ndesanjo Macha, have committed to coaching William… and critically, in coaching TED on how to provide William with help and support without overwhelming him or uprooting him from his family or community. Friends like Ndesanjo have had the experience of growing up in rural communities and moving to huge cities to pursue their education – I hope that he can help TED support William in a way that’s as constructive as possible.
While today has felt a bit like Christmas, especially for everyone who’s currently dreaming of their new radios and laptops, it’s important to remember that the real value of this conference has been bringing everyone together here in Arusha. It’s rare that we get a chance to hear from this many amazing African voices at any one event. It’s even more rare that these voices get heard by an audience of global decisionmakers, people with the power to help bring some of the amazing ideas shared here to scale. Thanks to everyone who’s made it possible for TED to be in Africa and for a hundred amazing fellows to be here.