I know, I know, it has been a full week since TEDx Antananarivo. This blog post is very tardy. I needed some time to digest the day, and recover from some pretty intense taxi-brousse experiences. And I made it onto the news – I have people telling me on the street that they saw me on TV!
What a day it was. Arriving early to make last minute preparations, we the organizers sweated and swore, moved chairs and hooked up electronics, tried to set up a stage that could withstand the predicted jumping of the final presenter, Jean Emilien (a one-man band!). I don’t think any of us realized how significant this event would be. The first TED even of many, this one got off to a rocky-ish start. We had some issues with technology, with microphones, and the room was getting hot (because the windows wouldn’t open and there was a slight A/C malfuction). It was a pretty full house and the 3 o’clock start time got pushed later and later (ah, fotoana ‘Gasy). But people were mingling! The room was full of innovators, passionate development professionals, entrepreneurs, internet geeks, bloggers – each person committed to making Madagascar a better place! It was extremely inspiring, walking around, listening to and joining interesting conversations, watching the presenters make last-minute preparations, oogling the fancy huge-screen Macs at the front of the room…
At 4:10, we announced the start of the meeting and dove right in with the very talented Jenny Raharivola. This young woman’s voice brought me to tears, and the message she sings (about Madagascar’s environment, the people, the need to preserve all of the incredible heritage that exists on this island), is profound. She has promised to email me her song to post here. Her future is so bright – I can’t wait to see and hear what Jenny creates next!
The rest of the program was star-studded to say the least. Rabary Desiré, winner of the 2010 Seacology Prize, spoke of the Antanetiambo Nature Reserve, which he established near Marojejy National Park with his own funds, and asked for support in the fight against illegal rosewood logging. His words were strong, his passion was tangible. He’s right – we HAVE to stop just writing about the problems we see and do something about it.
Adriaan Mol of BushProof spoke about his transition from Aid to Social Enterprise – his is a journey I can really identify with (and one that more people should take, in my opinion).
Miora Rajaonary of PAPMAD discussed the business of paper recycling in Madagascar, and I think every company in this country should be placing orders with her. Right now. From WWF, we were lucky to have Malika Virah-Sawmy, who spoke with great verve about the ‘sokake’, an extremely endangered species of tortoise endemic to the south of Madagascar. They hope to implement an SMS alert system to help get a handle on all of the smuggling – very tech savvy.
Alice Plane represented one of my favorite organizations, Ashoka, and her presentation was about bringing this incredible initiative to Madagascar – we could definitely use it with all of the innovation going on around here. The extremely energetic designer, Anja Besson, shared with the crowd her imagination, her creativity, and some great music. Mandrantoso Ndrianiana, founder of Jojopil Innovation and self-proclaimed geek, showed us his plan to recycle old computer terminals instead of throwing them into landfills.
Andrew Tanswell, co-founder of ToughStuff, did a great demonstration of how their solar panels work, and how tough they really are. His rules are simple – 1) Understand what people want, 2) Develop appropriate technology, and finally 3) Make it affordable and available. Love it!
Audrey de Fondaumière really sparkled as she talked through her new website – a great social network for businesses – called Youtaa.com. TEDx Antananarivo was its official launch! TED Fellow in Kenya and co-founder of the hugely awesome Ushahidi Erik Hersman talked about innovation in Africa, and the importance of celebrating the successes of others as you work to build up your own enterprise instead of feeling the pinch of competition. He sees innovation EVERYWHERE, and he shares each initiative on AfriGadget. World Bank’s Bienvenu Rajaonson showed us his idea for renewable energy – he brought a stove that runs off sugarcane (or moonshine, if that’s all you got).
The program closed with the world-famous Jean Emilien, dressed in traditional Malagasy garb, with guitar in hand and harmonica ready to go. He stepped up on that stage and proceeded to completely blow me away. What a voice, what spirit – and he did really jump a lot so I’m glad the stage was solid!
It was a long day, full of important messages, great presentations, new directions, and most of all, so much HOPE for the future of Madagascar. I can’t wait for the next TED Event. I’m going to push for TEDWomen…