Archive for November 27th, 2012

I saw two videos recently which not only inspired me greatly but also helped reinforce my confidence in this continent, in our people and in our unequaled ability to transform a state of hopelessness into success through our innovativeness, resourcefulness and creativity, all of which make up a billion reasons to believe in Africa.

The first video was a TED talk by William Kamkwamba, a Malawian self taught engineer.  At age 14 , William the son of a poor maize farmer battling to survive a severe famine dropped out of school but refused to let his zeal to acquire knowledge die. From books accessed in libraries, William became exposed to science and taught himself to build a facility that not only changed his family’s life but transformed that of his community as well.

To power his family’s home, young William Kamkwamba built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap — starting him on a surprising journey that has led him to stardom but more importantly, has inspired so many like him to never give up on their dreams.

Now at 22, William Kamkwamba, who speaks at TED, here, for the second time, shares in his own words the moving tale of invention that changed his life. He has also detailed his journey in a book  “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”

William’s TED Talk

The second video was of a boy who wowed researchers at the prestigious MIT. It was like a short documentary on Kelvin Doe’s visit and residency at the MIT following the awe inspiring innovation in his local community in Sierra Leone.  The video by THNKR captured his experience travelling away from home for the first time, interacting with MIT scholars, exploring incredible opportunities an mapping out his plans for the future.

15-Year-Old Kelvin Doe is an engineering whiz living in Sierra Leone who scours the trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators and transmitters. Completely self-taught, Kelvin has created his own radio station where he broadcasts news and plays music under the moniker, DJ Focus.

Kelvin became the youngest person in history to be invited to the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” at MIT.

William and Kelvin represent the true African spirit, one which has been ignored for far too long, one that has been subdued by a myriad of challenges but one which despite all these, is increasingly becoming manifest. It is such stories which hardly makes it to the front burner, which are not celebrated enough, which are often overshadowed by the now stereotypical stories of war and famine that Coca-Cola highlights and celebrates through the “A billion reasons to believe in Africa Campaign.” These are stories that prove beyond whatever fallacies has been spread in the past that the African mind is in no way inferior and that despite our existing inadequacies, we can rise above them to greatness.

These stories also reiterate the fact that what Africa needs is not financial aides and handout from the West. Decades of these has only helped pauperize Africans. What we need is the platform in the form of education, exposure, opportunities and support and the African genius will overwhelm the world.

William and Kelvin are just a representation of millions of other great minds in Africa holding their own in science, Information technology, business, literature, music and all other spheres of life. We must celebrate such success stories and use them to inspire a generation. We must hold firm to our abilities and polish them until they shine. We must renew our belief in this continent and do whatever it takes to ensure that the generation after us meets a continent leading and inspiring the rest of the world.

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