Is Africa’s Future Online? | Siyanda Mohutsiwa | TEDxAmsterdam

Is Africa’s Future Online? | Siyanda Mohutsiwa | TEDxAmsterdam

Translator: Axel Saffran
Reviewer: Denise RQ It began with one question. If Africa was a bar, what would your country
be doing or drinking? I started off with a guess
about South Africa which wasn’t exactly
according to the rules because I’m not South African. But alluding to that continual attempt to overcome that racist past
and create a rainbow nation, I said, “If Africa was a bar, South Africa would be drinking
all types of alcohol and trying to get them
to get along in their stomach.” (Laughter) And then I waited, and then I had that funny feeling
where I wonder if I had crossed the line. So I wrote another tweet
about my own country, Botswana. I tweeted, “If Africa was a bar, Botswana would be drinking
traditional beer in the club and champagne at home.” And then I waited again; and then I read through the tweets to remind myself that I am so funny, and even if nobody else gets it,
it doesn’t matter. (Laughter) But luckily, I didn’t have
to do that for very long. People very soon were participating. By the end of that week in July, the hashtag #ifAfricawasabar would have gotten around 60,000 tweets, and lit up the continent,
and made it all over the world, to publications everywhere. People were using the hashtag
to do many different things. To make fun of their stereotypes, to criticize government spending [South Africa would be ordering
bottles it can’t pronounce running a tab it won’t be able to pay] (Laughter) to make light of geopolitical tensions [Somaliland would try to get in
with Somalia’s ID-card.] (Laughter) to remind us that there are some countries
we forgot exist in Africa. [Lesotho would be that person
who nobody really knows but is always in the pictures] (Laughter) People were using the hashtag to remind us that there are
some other African countries that don’t realize
they’re African countries. [Egypt, Libya, Tunisia,
Algeria and Morocco: “what the hell are we doing here?!!] And then we were also doing it
to note the successes of countries that had made a huge turnaround. [Rwanda would be that girl
that comes with no money or transport but leaves drunk, happy, and rich.] But most importantly, people were using the hashtag to connect. They were connecting
over their Africanness. So for one week in July, Twitter was actually a real African bar, and I was like so pumped. I was exited, firstly because I got
on CNN, BBC, and all that stuff, but also because I realized
that pan-Africanism could work. That we had before us,
between us, at our fingertips, a platform that only needed a small spark to light in us a hunger for each other. My name is Siyanda Mohutsiwa, I’m 22 years old, and I’m pan-Africanist by birth. I say I’m pan-Africanist by birth, because my parents are from
two different African countries. My father is from
a country called Botswana, which is quite large,
around the size of Germany, has been a stable democracy
for the past 50 years, and has some very successful
socialist policies. My mother’s country is Swaziland, which is quite small, as you can see,
it’s around the size of Switzerland, and it is Africa’s last complete monarchy. So it’s ruled by a king
and a royal family, in line with that tradition
for a very long time. On paper, these countries
seem very different. But when I was a kid,
I didn’t really realize why it mattered that my parents
were from two different places. They still yelled at me
about the exact same stuff. (Laughter) And they still do, actually. But it would go on to have
a very peculiar effect on me. You see, I was born in one country,
and raised in the other. When we moved to Botswana,
I was a toddler who spoke fluent siSwati, and nothing else. So I was being introduced
to my new culture, to my new home, my new cultural identity, as a complete outsider, who couldn’t understand anything
that was being said to me by the society and the country whose traditions
I was meant to move forward. But very soon, I would drop siSwati, and I would begin to learn
English and Setswana. But when I returned to Swaziland, I would be constantly
confronted by this realization that I was not so Swazi anymore. After that, my entry into Africa’s
famous private school system, whose entire thing is about
beating the Africanness out of you, and I had a very peculiar adolescence. But I think that my interest
in the ideas of identity was born here, in this strange intersection of kind of belonging
to two places at once, but not belonging to either one very well and kind of belonging to this vast space
in between and outside simultaneously. I developed an interest
in the idea of a shared African identity. Since then, I’ve continued
to have a lot of interest in ideas of culture,
language, tradition, geography, and what all those things mean. Most importantly, I’ve kept within me an interest
in the idea of African philosophies. So when I was old enough
to read what I wanted to, I started with the works
of black intellectuals like Steve Biko and Franz Fanon, I read the speeches
of iconic African presidents like Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara
and Congo’s Patrice Lumumba. I read every single
piece of African fiction that I could get my hands on, which is actually not as easy
as you will think, even in Africa. I continued to have a huge hunger
for African history, and world history, and everything I could learn. So when Twitter came, I hopped on with the enthusiasm
of a teenage girl whose friends were so tired
of hearing about this random shit. (Laughter) So, the year was 2011,
and I don’t know how, but somehow Blackberry
had this deal in African countries that, if you bought the device
for roughly 150 dollars, you could get like unlimited internet
on some really, really good rates. I think I paid like 15 dollars a month, for unlimited access to Twitter,
and Facebook, and all this stuff, and it was quite remarkable. But the thing is, of course, it is Africa,
so not everybody has this luxury. So this meant,
that if you were girl in Botswana, and you really wanted
to have fun on Twitter, 1) you had to tweet in English, 2) you had to follow more than just the three other people
you knew who were on Twitter. You had to follow Ghanaians, Nigerians,
Zimbabweans, South Africans, and suddenly, your whole world opened up. And my whole world did open up. I followed vibrant Africans who were
traveling around the continent, posting pictures of themselves
under hashtag #myafrica. And at that time,
when you were on Twitter, if you were to Google the word “Africa”, or like, Twitter search “Africa”, you would think that the whole continent
was just pictures of animals, and white guys drinking cocktails
at the beach. But Africans were using this hashtag
to post pictures of themselves traveling around the continent taking ownership
of our own tourism sector. It was Africans taking selfies
on the beaches of Nigeria. It was Africans
in cocktail bars in Nairobi. And these were the same Africans
that I began to meet in my own travels. We would meet, and we would talk about
writers like Chinua Achebe, we would talk about Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, but almost invariably, almost every time, we would end up talking about Twitter. And that’s when I realized what this was. We were standing in the middle
of something amazing; something almost revolutionary. Because for the first time ever, young Africans could connect
with each other, talk about the future
of our continent, in real time, without the restrictions of finances,
borders, and watchful governments. The little known truth is, Africans know a lot less about each other than some Europeans do
about Africa as a whole. This is by accident,
but sometimes by design. Many oppressive government systems
thrive on their citizen’s ignorance about neighboring African countries. In South Africa, during Apartheid, the black South Africans
were constantly bombarded by this message that any country
that was ruled by black people was destined for failure. And this was done, of course,
to convince them that they were much better off
under crushing white rule, than they were
living in another African country. Add to that the strange education system
that we have in Africa, which has been carried over
from colonial times — and at the age of 15, I could name all the causes
of the various wars that had taken place
in Europe in the past 200 years, but I couldn’t name the president
of my neighboring country. And to me this doesn’t make any sense, because, whether we like it or not, the fates of African people
are deeply intertwined. When turmoil hits, when disaster hits,
we share the consequences. When Burundians flee political turmoil,
guess where they go, they go to us. What was once a Burundian problem,
becomes an African problem. In my mind, there are no Burundian problems, or South African problems,
or Kenyan problems, because we eventually share the turmoil; it is all just African problems. So my question is: if we eventually share the turmoil, why aren’t we doing a better job
of sharing the successes? And how can we do that? Well 1) we could focus
on increasing inter-African trade from 13% to something
that makes more sense, 2) we could make it easier for Africans
to travel around other African countries without criminalizing their movement. We could also get our leaders
to fulfill the regional agreements they’ve already signed. But I think my idea worth sharing today is that the best way for us
to share our successes, is to foster something I like to call “social Pan-Africanism”. Now, political pan-Africanism
already exists. but it’s usually the unity
of African leaders themselves, and who does that benefit mainly? It mainly benefits themselves. What I’m talking about
is social pan-Africanism. The pan-Africanism
of the ordinary African. Because of the Internet, we now have access to online networks
that mean that Africans can now connect in a way that they never could before. We now have something that young Africans used to have
to violently take: a voice. We now have a platform. Before, if you wanted to hear
from the youth in Africa, you waited for
the 65-year-old minister of youth, to wake up in the morning, take his heartburn medication, and then tell you what plans he had
for your generation in 20 years. Before now, if you wanted to be heard
by your possibly tyrannical government, you were pushed to protest,
suffer the consequences, and have your fingers crossed that some western paper somewhere
might make someone care. For the first time ever, Africans are in the position
to back each other up. We don’t have to worry about money, we don’t have to worry about distance, we can support each other
in ways we never could before. And it’s as simple as a hashtag. The South African students
are being supported by a hashtag called “feesmustfall” where they are protesting
ridiculously high tertiary fees. The Zimbabwean women
are marching to parliament, Angolan journalists
are being detained illegally, and we discuss these things. For the first time ever, African pain has the opportunity
to be witnessed by those who can empathize
with it the most: other Africans. With pan-Africanist thinking,
with the Internet, we now have the ability
to rescue each other, and ultimately, to rescue ourselves. I’m going to tell you one more story;
I have 2 minutes left. A few weeks ago,
I started an indiegogo campaign, so a crowdfunding campaign,
for my YouTube channel, which I’m tentatively calling
“Africa this week, with Siyanda.” I’s basically me, in a room
with a camera, talking to myself, about Africa, and hoping that it makes
any kind of sense to anybody. So, I set up the campaign,
and I spread the word, and in my first night, I raised 63 dollars. (Laughter) But those 63 dollars moved me so deeply, and I’m overcome,
just remembering that first night, when I sat down,
and I went to the website — because it has a really cool feature, where you can find out
where the money was coming from. So you click on this little icon,
and then it lights up a map and says, “This is
where your contributions came from.” When I clicked that, I got 5 countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. If you were to put those countries
in a Google search, you’re going to be told that these are
the poorest countries in the world. And I don’t know the people
who sent me the money personally, but if I had to guess, of course, the subset of people in this world who can afford credit cards
and reliable Internet, they’re not the most unfortunate people. But still, this support was coming
from the poorest corners of the world. And I realized that– even though sometimes
it’s very difficult to believe in Africa, Africa has no problem believing in me. Is Africa’s future online? Yes; we are Africa’s future,
and yes, we are online. Thank you. (Applause)

Danny Hutson

93 thoughts on “Is Africa’s Future Online? | Siyanda Mohutsiwa | TEDxAmsterdam

  1. That was a wonderful talk. Thanks to Twitter, our voices can be heard. I'm from Kenya and I follow you on Twitter and have subscribed to your channel. Keep on sharing.

  2. Beautiful, I feel so inspired and connected Siyanda. The way you are so in tune with SA politics(seen on tweeter) I forget you are from Bots lol. Your talk was amazing, thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Great speech, these types of people give me hope that Africa will be a great place someday. The young ones are determine to change the status quo.

  4. We all need (specially the youth) this kind of pure love and caring and listen to it. Just want to thank! To me it means a lot, it means it is possible it means hope it means there is a way out of all this madness!
    Blessing from Sénégal! Dieuredieuf!

  5. This is very inspiring Siyanda. #SocialPanAfricanism is indeed a priceless means for the "ordinary" African to contribute towards a better Africa. We must seriously think of how to leverage this as African Youth. Africa has been waiting for us. Africa has been waiting for you Siyanda!

  6. Absolutely loved this talk Siyanda; just wanted to know though what you mean by 'Africa's success' exactly? It's so broad.

  7. This video truly needs more views from young African and all who believes in the need of Social PanAfricanism

  8. Great video ! How do imake it to tedtalks ? I wana talk about diversity in the technology industry and how Africans can and should join this industry in order to level the playing field and so that Africans can be proprietors of technology which can bring solutions to some of Africa's problems .

  9. What a lovely young woman! Very inspiring and informative speech, full of humility and truth! She uses Africa as an example that could be applied to other colonized nations that have been drained of their resources, stifling their potential and access to basic education, food and shelter. They accomplish this by supporting corrupt regimes, systemic racist policies, implemented by a powerful and privileged class to keep the masses enslaved and indebted in all aspects of life, not to mention the squalid conditions some of them are forced to live in.

  10. you cannot talk about africa's future amongst the white man coz thats not what they want to see.. they're busy killing millions in the east of congo as well as stealing resources such as Coltan used to make iPhones.. they are stealing resources in many wealthy nations of africa.. watch out black people

  11. "You were pushed to protest, suffer the consequences, and have your fingers crossed that some Western paper somewhere would make someone care" …the situation in RSA right now.

  12. Excellent! She had the opportunity to stand and she took that opportunity. She conveyed her message to the world – every continent and most ethnic groups now has access to her speech. Her ambition is admirable and her notion achievable. Thank you madam.

  13. You are just potential for development and more, young beautiful lady. It's actually Ruanda and Burundi and the Congo.
    Well done! I send you a love.

  14. Siyanda, girl you on IG too? I am so proud of your talk, and your passion!! I am so glad I am listening to your talk! Thank you!

  15. SisStar Shiyanda you are a DayStar bringing the awakened light of Africa forward during cloaked times in places that get the hurrays all to often such as my home America. p.s. Discovered your youtube review of Lola Shoneyin book 'The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives."

  16. interestingly, only white people l see in the audience. anybody else noticed that?
    Maybe we need to channel these talks towards blacks and not whites as these gives them chills and thus help them do more damage……..

  17. it's my first time commenting on YouTube and its because I've found a reason why. that is the most touching ted talk which I could connect with . and the curriculum stuff about studying Europe history instead of Africa I was like ' f**k this girl is really speaking' . thanks for the contribution . u deserve a Nobel or something.

  18. I'm from Botswana too but I spent the first 8 years of my life abroad. Once my family moved to Botswana for good, I felt like an outsider in my own country and I'm extremely mediocre at Setswana. I've spent 10 years in Botswana now and I still feel like an alien in my own country.

  19. i have enjoyed listening to your narrative. your simplicity and diction of words make whatever you say interesting to listen to

  20. Hi Siyanda…woww… you are amazing! thank you for a brilliant presentation. Very inspiring! More Africans need to listen to you.

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