News Brief

4 Days of Bold Ideas: Here's What Went Down at TEDGlobal 2017 in Tanzania

We were in the mix at the TEDGlobal Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. Here's our recap on the 4-day gathering of brilliant minds.

A tense on-stage debate about the role of faith on the African continent, a former Kenyan death-row inmate on his path to freedom and a mosquito researcher who would catch the malarial pests using his own ankles as bait—despite the slick feel of TED's online videos, the real thing is far less predictable and far more exciting.

OkayAfrica was at this year's TEDGlobal Conference in Arusha, Tanzania alongside some fascinating artists, makers and doers most of whom are from the African continent and its diaspora. On the program were many of our favorite artists like Blinky Bill, Alsarah & the Nubatones and Kenyan superstars Sauti Sol.

Science fiction author du jour, Nnedi Okorafor read from her book Lagoon, and discussed her vision for speculative fiction writing from an African perspective. Niti Bhan discussed her research on how East African market traders run complicated and successful retail businesses that don't deserve the “informal" label.

One of the highlights from Wednesday morning—a last minute addition to the lineup—was Peter Ouko from the African Prisons Project. He described his path from being a death row inmate to becoming a law school graduate and prison reform advocate. Probably the most mind-blowing moment—quite literally—was a talk from Nigerian tech entrepreneur Oshiorenoya Agabi about his company that is using living neurons to help computers interpret the world.

One of the more fraught moments was an interview with Rwandan President Paul Kagame—about as polarizing a figure as it gets, and a major draw for many conference participants. Many told us that they left frustrated by a lack of hard questions from Zimbabwean journalist, Vimbayi Kajese, who interviewed the President via video conference.

Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women and a much less controversial figure than Kagame, described her entrance into politics as stemming from her own TED talk in 2014, where she appeared in her previous role as a biologist talking about rare plant species.

Sauti Sol were Kagame's opposite—the Kenyan band united the 700-person crowd with their rich harmonies and their talk about the rise of African pop music. Fifteen years ago, said singer Bien-Aimé Baraza, they were a teenage vocal group imitating Boyz II Men with Mariah Carey and 50 Cent posters on their wall—today's African teens have posters of Tiwa Savage and, well, Sauti Sol.

Interview

Sarkodie Is Not Feeling Any Pressure

The elite Ghanaian rapper affirms his king status with this seventh studio album, No Pressure.

Sarkodie is one of the most successful African rappers of all time. With over ten years of industry presence under his belt, there's no question about his prowess or skin in the game. Not only is he a pioneer of African hip-hop, he's also the most decorated African rapper, having received over 100 awards from close to 200 nominations over the span of his career.

What else does Sarkodie have to prove? For someone who has reached and stayed at the pinnacle of hip-hop for more than a decade, he's done it all. But despite that, he's still embracing new growth. One can tell just by listening to his latest album, No Pressure, Sarkodie's seventh studio album, and the follow-up to 2019's Black Love which brought us some of the Ghanaian star's best music so far. King Sark may be as big as it gets, but the scope of his music is still evolving.

Sonically, No Pressure is predominantly hip-hop, with the first ten tracks offering different blends of rap topped off with a handful of afrobeats and, finally, being crowned at the end with a gospel hip-hop cut featuring Ghanaian singer MOG. As far as the features go, Sark is known for collaborating mostly with his African peers but this time around he branches out further to feature a number of guests from around the world. Wale, Vic Mensa, and Giggs, the crème de la crème of rap in America and the UK respectively all make appearances, as well as Nigeria's Oxlade, South Africa's Cassper Nyovest, and his fellow Ghanaian artists Darkovibes and Kwesi Arthur.

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