Over the years, TED and TEDx (independently organized) conferences have gained notoriety for producing some of the most inspiring and qualitative presentations ever given on a public stage. TED talks are given by experts from diverse fields from science to literature so there is something for everyone whether you’re a science geek, wellness enthusiast or book buff. One thing they all have in common is that they encourage individual, social and political change.
Successful Nigerians have graced TED and TEDx stages around the world and few have been truly exceptional. Let’s get to know them!
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has become somewhat infamous for her feminist beliefs. The renowned novelist/ speaker is no stranger to the TED stage.
My love for TED talks was solidified after I watched the “Danger of a Single Story” released in 2009 which is another of her well-known talks given on the same platform.
We Should All Be Feminists is littered with anecdotes about her experiences with misogynistic men as a woman in Nigeria. She gives lengthy backstories that buttress the main gist of her talk which is that both sexes must embrace feminism.
Her speech was sampled in Beyonce’s 2013 hit “Flawless”. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a New York Times Notable Book; and Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013.
2. Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
For those who don’t know, Luvvie Ajayi is the author of the New York Times best seller
“I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual”. She started off her prolific career as a writer and a speaker with her blog AwesomelyLuvvie.com in 2003.
Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable is all about getting out of you comfort zone and confronting your fears. It lays emphasis the importance of speaking up against injustice in the society. She injects a lot of humor in her presentation which the audience eats up.
Muhammadu Sanusi II, the 14th Emir of Kano, gave this speech in 2013 while he was still Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
It covers the premise of vested interests which alludes to the corrupt ulterior motives of Nigeria’s ruling class. He exemplifies this using the cases of ex bank CEOs who siphoned public funds for their own personal benefits.
He ends with a call to action for young people to come together and elect more suitable leaders. The topic is controversial as it exposes the debased inner workings of government officials in Nigeria.
Cobhams Asuquo‘s talk on overcoming the his disability and fear of ending up a failure to becoming a critically acclaimed songwriter/music producer. He emphasises on the need to be “blind” to distractions in order to succeed.
His accomplishments including songwriting for Asa, Banky W, Omawumi, Eldee, Sasha, Dare Art-Alade, Waje, Timi Dakolo, Djinne, Faze, Seyi Shay, Korede Bello, Tiwa Savage to name a few under his music production company Cobhams Asuquo Music Production (CAMP) founded in 2008. He has been featured on CNN, Global Citizens Festival, World Economic Forum, Harare International Festival of Arts, AFA Sponsored French Cultural Center Concert and many more.
5. Trust Your Struggle
Zain Asher’s presentation details her journey from working as a receptionist to being a reporter for one the foremost news companies in the world, CNN. The Nigerian-British reporter talks about the importance of trusting your struggle despite challenges because the end result will justify the toil eventually.
She stresses the need to avoid a competitive mentality and getting creative instead. According to her, the more you give, the more you receive.
Asher was one of the reporters sent to Nigeria in 2014 to cover the story of the missing Chibok girls.
6. Choosing a Path of Service
This compelling presentation given by Amina J Mohammed, the present Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations follows her journey from the private sector to becoming a high level professional in the development field. She speaks about dedication to a cause and problem solving. She believes that everyone especially young people should be involved in development and be held accountable.
She is a former Minister of Environment for Nigeria and Co-Chair of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s Leadership Council.
7. Failing All the Way to Success
Jason Njoku, CEO of Iroko TV tells the story of his rocky journey of entrepreneurship. He talks about starting of as a spectacular failure, being broke, moving back in with his mother and how it prepared him to take risks.
He believes failure should be embraced. That way, it would be easier to bounce back from disappointment.
In July 2012, he was cited by Forbes Africa as one of the ‘Ten Young African Millionaires to Watch’ and, in 2013, Njoku was named as the CNBC All Africa Business Awards Young Leader of the Year for West Africa. He has also been named as one of Fast Company’s Top 1000 Most Creative People in Business.
8. Who Belongs in a City
Olutimehin Adegbeye’s carefully articulated speech about coastal communities displaced by Lagos government land grabs is a must watch. She covers the destruction of slums by authorities in the quest to build “new dubai”.
For her, every life matters regardless of class and that the focus should be on the eradication of poverty, not poor people. According to her, “You don’t need to be the new Dubai when you’re already Lagos.”
She is a Nigerian writer, speaker, and activist whose work focuses on gender, women’s rights, sex, sexualities and sexual violence, as well as urban poverty and Ssustainable development. OluTimehin is an alumna of the inaugural Writing for Social Justice workshop organised by AWDF in collaboration with FEMRITE (Uganda, 2014), the Farafina Trust Creative Writing workshop (Nigeria, 2015) and the BRITDOC Queer Impact Producers Lab (USA, 2017). She is a Carrington Youth Fellow and a Women Deliver Young Leader. She is the winner of the 2019 Gerald Kraak Prize.
Ndidi Nwuneli tells a compelling story of her journey as a social entrepreneur and lessons learned along the way. She talks about leaving the US to return to Nigeria in order to establish the Fate Foundation, a non-profit which helps unemployed young people start businesses in 2000.
She believes that young people need to get angry about social problems and “get up” from their seats and do something about it. She states emphatically, “Be mad enough to do something.”
Nwuneli is a co-founder of Sahel Consulting and serves as its managing partner. She has 23 years of experience in international development, and through her work with
She is also the co-founder of AACE Foods, a social enterprise which processes nutritious food made from the best of West Africa’s cereals, herbs, pulses and spices. She is also the founder of LEAP Africa.
She was recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and received a National Honour – Member of the Federal Republic from the Nigerian Government. She was listed as one of the 20 Youngest Power African Women by Forbes.
10. Girls- Know Thyself
Kechi Okwuchi may well be the most inspiring person on this list because her story if an embodiment of resilience. The singer and motivational speaker survived the Sosoliso plane crash of 2005 and has gone on to achieve great things.
Her presentation centers on the need for young girls to find their purpose and pursue it. She urges parents to respect their children’s choices despite their fears.
She was a finalist for the twelfth season of America’s Got Talent in 2017.