onstage with Chris Anderson, TED’s curator

I was invited to attend the TEDGlobal conference June 4-7, 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania as one of 100 fellows by Emeka Okafor, a prominent Nigerian blogger (The Timbuktu Chronicles) and program director of the conference. He had blogged about my story back in December. He heard about the story after reading Mike McKay’s post on his blog Hactivate. When it came time to produce the conference, Emeka put the word out and people applied for the 100 positions. Emeka worked very hard to find me. First he emailed and called the Daily News in Malawi, and tracked down the journalist who then connected him to my mentor Dr. Mchazime at the MTTA in Zomba, Malawi, 5 1/2 hours from my home. Dr. Mchazime worked with Emeka to get me to the conference, helping me get a passport, permission to attend from the Ministry of Education, and coaching me on what to expect on my journey.

This was my first trip outside Malawi, my first airplane trip, and only my third time in a hotel, the others being the time I visited Dr. Mchazime in Zomba and the night before I left for Arusha. It was a huge adventure for me. I remember I was smiling the entire plane ride. Fortunately, there was another fellow from Malawi on the plane with me named Soyapi Mumba. He was very kind to me during the conference and even helped interpret for me when I needed to understand or convey something despite limitations in my English.


my first plane ride. photo by Soyapi Mumba

While I was there, the TED staff looked after me and made sure to introduce me to a lot of very interesting people. The team even asked me if Chris Anderson, the conference curator could interview me on stage. They asked me if I had a computer. I said, "No, I don’t have." Then I unbuttoned the top button of my shirt. The TED staff person gave me a quizzical look.

I pulled out a USB jump drive with a PowerPoint presentation that one of Dr. Mchazime’s staff had helped me prepare before the conference. In the presentation I discussed my background, the windmill project, the challenges, how I overcame them, and my plans for the future.

Because the presentation was too long to give on stage, we showed only the photos of the windmill and my family while Chris interviewed me on stage for about three minutes. The audience gave me a very positive response. I was very happy.


More on TED soon…