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TEDGlobal 2017

Dayo Ogunyemi: Visions of Africa's future, from African filmmakers

Filmed:
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By expanding boundaries, exploring possibilities and conveying truth, films have helped change Africa's reality (even before "Black Panther"). Dayo Ogunyemi invites us to imagine Africa's future through the lens of inspiring filmmakers from across the continent, showing us how they can inspire Africa to make a hundred-year leap.

- Cultural media builder
As an entrepreneur and investor in film, media and technology, Dayo Ogunyemi reconstructs the image and reality of Africa. Full bio

As a child growing up in Nigeria,
00:12
books sparked my earliest imagination,
00:15
but films, films transported me
00:19
to magical places with flying cars,
00:23
to infinite space with whole universes
of worlds to discover.
00:27
And my journey of discovery
has led to many places and possibilities,
00:31
all linked with ideas and imagination.
00:34
A decade and a half ago,
00:39
I moved from working in law
and technology in New York
00:41
to financing, producing
and distributing films
00:44
in Nairobi, Lagos and Johannesburg.
00:48
I've been privileged
to see firsthand how in Africa,
00:52
film powerfully explores
the marvelous and the mundane,
00:56
how it conveys infinite possibilities
and fundamental truths.
01:01
Afrofuturist films like "Pumzi,"
01:06
Wanuri Kahiu's superb sci-fi flick,
01:09
paint brilliant pictures
of Africa's future,
01:13
while Rungano Nyoni's "I Am Not A Witch"
01:17
and Akin Omotoso's "Vaya"
01:20
show us and catalogue our present.
01:22
These filmmakers offer nuanced snapshots
of Africa's imagined and lived reality,
01:25
in contrast to some of the images
of Africa that come from outside,
01:31
and the perspectives
that accompany all of these images,
01:35
whether sympathetic or dismissive,
shape or distort
01:38
how people see Africa.
01:43
And the truth is,
01:47
many people think Africa is screwed up.
01:49
Images play a big part of the reason why.
01:53
Many tropes about Africa
persist from pictures,
01:59
pictures of famine
in Ethiopia 30 years ago,
02:03
pictures of the Biafran war
half a century ago.
02:06
But on a continent
where the average age is 17,
02:11
these tragic events
seem almost prehistoric.
02:16
Their images are far removed
02:20
from how people in Africa's many countries
see themselves and their neighbors.
02:22
For them, these images
do not represent their reality.
02:28
So what is Africa's reality,
02:32
or rather, which of Africa's
many realities do we choose to focus on?
02:34
Do we accept Emmanuel Macron's
imagination of Africa in 2017
02:39
as a place in which all women
have seven or eight children?
02:45
Or do we instead rely on the UN's account
02:50
that only one of Africa's 54 countries
has a fertility rate as high as seven?
02:54
Do we focus on the fact
02:59
that infant mortality
and life expectancy in Africa today
03:01
is roughly comparable
to the US a hundred years ago,
03:05
or do we focus on progress,
03:08
the fact that Africa has cut
infant mortality in half
03:11
in the last four decades
03:14
and has raised life expectancy by 10 years
since the year 2000?
03:15
These dueling perspectives
03:21
are all accurate.
03:25
Well, aside from Macron's.
He's just wrong.
03:26
(Laughter)
03:28
But one version makes it easy
to dismiss Africa as hopeless,
03:30
while the other fuels hope
that a billion people
03:36
can continue to make progress
towards prosperity.
03:38
The fact that Africans
03:43
do not have the luxury
of turning their gaze elsewhere,
03:45
the fact that we must make progress
03:48
or live with the consequence of failure,
03:51
are the reason we must continue
to tell our own stories
03:53
and show our own images,
03:56
with honesty and primarily
to an African audience,
03:58
because the image that matters most
04:02
is the image of Africa
in African imaginations.
04:05
Now, honesty requires that we acknowledge
04:11
that Africa is behind
the rest of the world
04:14
and needs to move swiftly to catch up.
04:16
But thinking of a way forward,
04:20
I'd like us to engage
in a thought exercise.
04:21
What if we could go back a hundred years,
04:25
say to the US in 1917,
04:27
but we could take with us
all the modern ideas,
04:29
innovations, inventions
that we have today?
04:33
What could we achieve with this knowledge?
04:37
How richly could we improve quality
of life and living conditions for people?
04:40
How widely could we spread prosperity?
04:46
Imagine if a hundred years ago,
04:50
the education system had
all the knowledge we have today,
04:52
including how best to teach.
04:55
And doctors and scientists knew all we do
04:58
about public health measures,
surgery techniques,
05:01
DNA sequencing,
cancer research and treatment?
05:05
If we had access then
to modern semiconductors,
05:09
computers, mobile devices, the internet?
05:12
Just imagine.
05:16
If we did, we could take
a quantum leap forward, couldn't we.
05:17
Well, Africa can take a leap
of that magnitude today.
05:22
There's enough untapped innovation
05:27
to move Africa a century forward
in living conditions
05:30
if the will and commitment is there.
05:34
This is not just a possibility;
it's an imperative for Africa's future,
05:37
a future that will see
Africa's population double
05:42
to two and a half billion people
in just three decades,
05:46
a future that will see Africa
have the world's largest workforce,
05:49
just as the idea of work itself
is being radically reconsidered.
05:55
Now taking the leap forward
isn't that far-fetched.
06:00
There are tons of examples
that demonstrate the potential
06:03
for change in Africa.
06:06
Just 20 years ago,
06:09
Nigeria had fewer than half a million
working phone lines.
06:11
Today it has a hundred million
mobile phone subscriptions,
06:14
and this mobile miracle
is mirrored in every African country.
06:18
There are over three quarters of a billion
mobile phones in use in Africa today,
06:21
and this has spurred justified
excitement about leapfrogging,
06:26
about bringing the sharing economy,
artificial intelligence,
06:30
autonomous machines to Africa.
06:34
And this is all promising,
06:38
but we need to think about sequencing.
06:40
Forget putting the cart before the horse.
06:44
You can't put the self-driving car
before the roads.
06:47
(Applause)
06:51
There's a whole infrastructural
and logical layer to innovation
06:56
that we take for granted,
07:00
but we have to triage for Africa,
07:02
because some of the biggest
infrastructure gaps
07:05
are for things that are so basic
07:08
that Westerners rarely
have to think about them.
07:09
So let's explore this.
07:13
Imagine your internet access
went off for a day,
07:18
and when it came back,
07:23
it only stayed on
for three hours at a time,
07:25
with random 15-hour outages?
07:27
How would your life change?
07:31
Now replace internet access
with electricity.
07:33
Think of your fridges,
your TVs, your microwaves,
07:38
just sitting idly for days.
07:40
Now extend this nightmare
to government offices,
07:43
to businesses, to schools,
07:47
to hospitals.
07:50
This, or worse,
07:54
is the type of access
that hundreds of millions of Africans
07:57
have to electricity,
08:00
and to water,
08:03
and to healthcare,
08:05
and to sanitation,
08:07
and to education.
08:09
We must fix this.
08:12
We must fix this because ensuring
widespread and affordable access
08:14
to decent infrastructure and services
08:18
isn't just low-hanging fruit:
08:21
it's fundamental to achieving
the hundred-year leap.
08:24
And when we fix it,
08:28
we might find some unexpected benefits.
08:30
One unexpected benefit
of the mobile miracle
08:35
was that it led to what is perhaps
the greatest cultural resurgence
08:38
that Africa has seen in a generation:
08:43
the rebirth of African popular music.
08:45
For musicians like P-Square,
08:49
Bongo Maffin
08:53
and Wizkid,
08:55
mobile phones paved the path
to local dominance
08:57
and global stardom.
09:00
And the impact
isn't limited just to music.
09:04
It extends to film, too.
09:08
Beautiful, engaging films
09:10
like these stills of "Pumzi,"
09:12
"Vaya," and "I Am Not A Witch" show.
09:15
For while its external image
might be dated,
09:19
Africa continues to evolve,
as does African film.
09:22
Now, every now and again,
the rest of the world catches on,
09:26
perhaps with Djo Munga's
hard-hitting "Viva Riva!"
09:30
with Newton Aduaka's intense "Ezra,"
09:34
or with Abderrahmane Sissako's
poetic "Timbuktu."
09:37
With mobile, Africans are discovering
more and more of these films,
09:41
and what that means is that it really
matters less in Kinshasa or Cotonou
09:45
what Cannes thinks of African film,
09:50
or if those opinions are informed or fair.
09:53
Who really cares what
the "New York Times" thinks?
09:58
What matters is that Africans
are validating African art and ideas,
10:01
both critically and commercially,
10:06
that they are watching what they want,
10:08
and that African filmmakers
are connecting with their core audiences.
10:10
And this is important.
10:15
It's important because film
can illuminate and inspire.
10:18
Film can bring visions of the future
to us here in the present.
10:22
Films can serve
as a conveyor belt for hope.
10:26
And film can change perspectives
faster than we can build roads.
10:30
In just over a decade,
10:36
Nigeria's film industry, Africa's largest,
10:38
has taken the country's
words and languages
10:40
into the vocabulary
and imaginations of millions
10:45
in many other African countries.
10:49
It has torn down borders,
10:52
perhaps in the most effective way
since the Berlin Conference
10:54
sowed linguistic and geographic
division across Africa.
10:57
Film does speak a universal language,
11:00
and boy, Nigerian film speaks it loudly.
11:03
Making Africa's hundred-year leap
11:06
will require that Africans summon
the creativity to generate ideas
11:09
and find the openness to accept and adapt
ideas from anywhere else in the world
11:13
to solve our pervasive problems.
11:18
With focus on investment,
11:21
films can help drive that change
in Africa's people,
11:23
a change that is necessary
to make the hundred-year leap,
11:26
a change that will help create
a prosperous Africa,
11:29
an Africa that is dramatically
better than it is today.
11:33
Thank you.
11:37
Asante sana.
11:38
(Applause)
11:39

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About the speaker:

Dayo Ogunyemi - Cultural media builder
As an entrepreneur and investor in film, media and technology, Dayo Ogunyemi reconstructs the image and reality of Africa.

Why you should listen

Over his career, Dayo Ogunyemi has worked as an entrepreneur, investor, music journalist, DJ, producer, entertainment and IP lawyer and strategy consultant. Now he advises, promotes and invests in companies in Africa's creative and entrepreneurial scenes, including startups in technology, fashion and apparel, event production, content aggregation, film production and distribution. 234 Media's portfolio includes mSurvey, Cinemart, Starflix Cinemas, House of Deola Sagoe, Pixaplex and the African Movie Academy Awards. 

Prior to 234 Media, Ogunyemi founded Lexscape, a start-up that used AI and expert system technology to change the consumption and practice of law. He subsequently co-founded Constant Capital, a West African boutique investment bank. Ogunyemi has long been interested in the impact of technology and media on how societies and economies develop, especially in Africa, stemming back to 1991 when he founded Naijanet (the first Nigerian online community) as a freshman at MIT.

More profile about the speaker
Dayo Ogunyemi | Speaker | TED.com