O.B. Sisay. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
O.B. Sisay. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
Creative and intellectual thought was abuzz at this weekend’s TEDxBermuda conference. Professors, lawyers, scientists and activists mixed with artists, musicians and poets in the first conference of its kind on the island. Ted is a non-profit organization that began in 1984 dedicated to “ideas worth spreading”. Ted stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and experts in each field make presentations and answer questions from a live audience which are then broadcast for free on the Internet. Organizer John Narraway told us that he planned to organize a second conference in October and hinted that they could become a regular fixture on the island’s community calendar. Sarah Lagan and Amanda Dale attended the conference and reported on the numerous speakers.

African analyst O.B. Sisay talked vividly about the west’s perception of Africa.

He asked the audience what they pictured when they thought of Sierra Leone and the three main answers were blood, diamonds and war. He then pointed out that the war and troubles in the country ended a decade ago.

The thrust of his speech was about what he called the west’s  “effortless condescension towards Africa”. He stressed that if it continued there would be serious implications in terms of who controls the global game of geo-politics in the future. “It is criminal complacency when you look it from the perspective of geo- political stability and security going forward,” he said.

He says while we have been obsessing over politics, security and terrorism, China has “very, very quietly” been staking a claim on Africa’s natural resources. He said that China, over the last few years, has given more loans to African countries than the International Monetary Fund and that 35 per cent of China’s oil comes from Africa. The US estimates that over the next 10 to 15 years, a quarter of its energy needs will be met by one region on the west coast of Africa.

“New wars are not breaking out in Africa,” he said. “We have Somalia and a couple of wars but they are long standing. The difference from the ‘90s is stupendous. Elections are still flawed — we are still dodgy — but we have accepted the principal of having elections.

“Sierra Leone finished blood and gold — we had a government in power, we had elections, we kicked that government out without even a squeak. The west has taken its eye off the ball.

“Africa has changed but the face of Africa remains the same. Ladies and gentlemen, take a second look at Africa.”

TEDxBermuda 2011