Why A Cape Verdean Brought The First TEDx Conference To The Country

Why A Cape Verdean Brought The First TEDx Conference To The Country

TEDx talks are world famous for inspiring people passionate about technology. They create visibility, reinforce status or raise status in destinations where they’re held, ranging from France, the U.S., and Portugal to Angola, Mozambique, and Sao Tome and Principe.

On March 18, TEDx will debut in the small African island nation of Cape Verde, thanks to the perseverance of Pedro Fernandes Lopes, a relative new comer with deep roots.

TEDX Praia will feature eight speakers on the theme of connection — the importance and benefits of connecting Cape Verde to the world and the diaspora.

Speakers include Microsoft’s Nick Pinheiro; Emily Macauley, CEO of Wansati Communications, named one of the top 50 managers in Africa by Jeune Afrique; Portuguese entrepreneur Paulo Solinho, founder of Facestore, the first worldwide platform to create online stores on Facebook; and Mozambican entrepreneur Tania Tomé, an economist and CEO of Ecokaya Investments and winner of the Mozambique Presidential Award for Merit, among other speakers.

There will also be presentations by tech institutions such as Innovation Lab, I-Lab: University of Cape Verde (Uni-CV), iDEiA, jobs.cv, Innovation Lab, Bonako, Life Solutions, AIESEC Cape Verde and Generation B-Bright. TEDx Praia has attracted major sponsors such as as Unitel Tmais.

TEDx falls under the TED (technology, entertainment, design) conference umbrella. Anyone who obtains license from TED can organize a TEDx event. TEDx events are actually independent TED-like events and one has never taken place in Cape Verde until now.

After moving to Praia, Lopes pondered ways to help Cape Verde. When he came up with the idea of bringing TEDx to Praia, many thought it would be impossible. But after months of hard work, Lopes received the license and OK from the TED organization and he started recruiting volunteers via Facebook to help organize the event.

Lopes was born in Portugal to a Portuguese mother and Cape Verdean father. His dad made sure he spoke Kriolu, the local Creole language. After he’d had the chance to travel the world, Lopes decided four years ago to move to Praia, Cape Verde, where he works at the United Nations in communications.

He has also worked as a project manager and communication consultant for Wansati Communications in Praia as well as for Ihaba-Africa Innovation Summit in Praia. In Spain and Italy, he worked on a project for the European Commission.

Lopes is founder and president of Generation B-Bright in Praia, an organization whose goal is to empower local youth.

Lopes graduated in international relations from Portugal’s University of Coimbra and completed his master’s degree at the University of Bradford in England in international conflict resolution. He also has a degree in strategic communications.

Lopes talked to AFKInsider about his vision for connecting Cape Verde to the diaspora, his dream of bringing TEDx to Praia, and about the local tech sector in Cape Verde.

AFKInsider: Why did you decide to stay in Cape Verde?

Pedro Fernandes Lopes (PFL): There are some obstacles such as it is difficult to travel to other countries and it is hard to keep up with your friendships outside of the country. But living here gives you a new perspective and appreciation for community. Here, everyone says hello to you in the street and once I got here a lot of things clicked. I understood things about myself better because I could relate to the culture, the people.

AFKInsider: Why TEDx? And why in Praia?

PFL: I was starting to show the kids the TED Talks videos and they were really excited by it. So I started to think about how we could do an event in Praia. People were telling me it would be difficult to do in Cape Verde, but still I decided to ask for the license. It is a tough process and a long process–five-to-six months. But I really believed in the idea. When the licence finally came, I started setting up a team. I recruited almost 60 people from Facebook alone. These people volunteered to help me organize the event. We will be live streaming and showing it outside for people unable to get a ticket.

This has been a year in the making but it has been worth it. I am so excited and feel this is just the beginning of more creative conversation in Praia that needed to be had. It is time for us to build a CV 2.0 (a global resume community group). We have CV in the (Cape Verdean) diaspora working and doing great things. Yet here in Cape Verde we don’t know how to benefit from that. We need to bring a way for all these people to communicate and let Cape Verde benefit from all of the talent out there.

AFKInsider: Why did you decide on the theme of connection for TEDx Praia?

PFL: In the past, I was involved in the biggest summit in Cape Verde — Ihaba-Africa Innovation Summit, and I understood some the obstacles tech companies in Cape Verde faced. I think we need to discuss ways to move forward in this sector and help local tech companies compete and sell their products in other parts of Africa because Cape Verde is such a small market.

AFKInsider: What are some of the obstacles for tech companies in Cape Verde?

PFL: The sector is growing in that there are some people making money in it, but there is no Silicon Valley in Cape Verde and the government plays such a major part in the sector that it is hard for independent companies to be successful. The government information technology agency NOSI sells a lot of tech services that independent companies could be providing. Here in Cape Verde, the government is not just a regulator, it is also a provider. And this limits the private market.

Because of this, there has to be a way for Cape Verdean companies to reach outside of Cape Verde to the diaspora and sell in those markets. These are things we need to talk about, debate, to come up with ideas.

Also, because Cape Verde is so small, it is hard for local companies to even get up and running. We have a local app company that had to work for months just to register the app because Google didn’t even recognize Cape Verde. These are some of the reasons we need to raise the global visibility of Cape Verde and its tech innovators. And I think TEDx Praia will play a part in that.

It’s even hard for consumers to use tech products, such as iTunes (in Cape Verde). Since we are not a credit card society, we can’t even purchase from iTunes because you need a credit card. It’s these challenges (that) we need to get over here in Cape Verde.