TEDxAddis – November 21, 2015 Speakers

Building Bridges – Linking Knowledge 

Dagnachew Wakane at TEDxAddis


Why you should listen to him:

Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dagnachew B. Wakene (‘Dag’) has been working for over nine years as an advocate, educator and research consultant with a focus on Disability Rights and Inclusive Development. He holds a Bachelor of Law degree from the Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and a Master's of Philosophy majoring in Rehabilitation and Development Studies from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He is currently the Africa Regional Coordinator at Disability Rights Promotion International, a research project run by York University (Canada) to establish a monitoring system that addresses disability discrimination globally. He’s also co-founder of "THISAbility" Consulting, an initiative which aims to bridge existing gaps of participatory disability research in Africa. A childhood polio-survivor, Dag embraces an outstanding blend of lived experience and professional excellence in his fields of expertise. Dag is a Mandela Washington Fellow, Class of 2015, and having recently returned from this prestigious Fellowship Program in the United States, he has continued his robust contributions to efforts of creating an inclusive society in Ethiopia and the continent.


Why you should listen to him:

LEMN SISSAY MBE is associate artist at Southbank Centre, patron of The Letterbox Club and The Reader Organisation, ambassador for The Children’s Reading Fund, trustee of Forward Arts Foundation and inaugural trustee of World Book Night and an honorary doctor of Letters. Lemn is author of a series of books of poetry alongside articles, records, broadcasts, public art, commissions and plays. Sissay was the first poet commissioned to write for London Olympics. His Landmark Poems are installed throughout Manchester and London. They can be seen in The Royal Festival Hall and The Olympic Park. His Landmark Poem,Guilt of Cain, was unveiled by Bishop Desmond Tutu in Fen Court near Fenchurch St Station. Sissay’s award winning play Something Dark directed by National Theatre of Wales artistic director John McGrath has been performed throughout the world and his stage adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Novel Refugee Boy at West Yorkshire Playhouse toured Britain in 2014. A BBC TV documentary, Internal Flight , and a radio documentary, Child of the State, were both broadcast about his life and his Ted Talk has close to a million views. Between the ages of 18 and 32 he tracked his family down across the world.

Israel Dejene TEDxAddis


Why you should listen to him:

Israel Dejene is the founder of Love in Action – Ethioskate, a community organization for youth that he runs with his siblings (especially his sisters Muluken and Elsa). Israel is a talented Ethiopian musician who visited Sweden to perform, where he picked up a skateboard after having followed the sport for years. He returned to his childhood neighborhood Shiromeda, in the foothills of the Entoto mountains on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, and the instant popularity of the couple of boards he brought back turned into a full-blown organization providing about 30 local children (up to 60 when there are enough boards) with motivation to dream and access to Addis Ababa’s only skate ramp. The organization consists of skateboarding sessions, skateboarding trips for youth who rarely get to leave the city, service for the community, local skate performances, goal and dream building sessions after every session, and visits from motivational guests such as doctors, musicians, and more who grew up in the neighborhood.


Why you should listen to him:

Arturo Vittori, Architect and co-founder of the NGO Warka Water Arturo Vittori is co-founder of the research and design studio Architecture and Vision (AV). After graduating from the University of Florence, he collaborated with Santiago Calatrava, Jean Nouvel and Francis Design on a variety of architectural projects and with Future Systems and Anish Kapoor on the subway station in Naples. Vittori worked on aircraft, yacht and ship design in Toulouse and London, including designs for the interior of the first Airbus A380. AV’s projects have been exhibited internationally as in Centre Pompidou, Paris and are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. Vittori teaches Industrial Design and Architecture at universities in Italy, Switzerland and the United States.


Why you should listen to him:

Svante Naess is an auto-deduct electrical engineer and versatile handy-man, with a passion for construction, design, recycling and renewable sources of energy. Starting out his professional career as a ferry technician in Stockholm, Sweden, Naess moved to Kenya in 2006 where he got involved in building and managing tourist lodges. His determination to promote ecological and sustainable tourism led him to design and construct a fully solar-powered lodge in Kenya. Naess moved to Ethiopia in 2012 where he has had an opportunity to pursue his hobby of retrofitting old and junk cars with solar panels and batteries to demonstrate easier and cheaper ways of using solar power as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Fikirte Addis


Why you should listen to her:

The young emerging designer Fikirte from Addis Ababa creates cultural everyday wear in Ethiopia. Fikirte started designing in high school enjoying the freedom of creating and experimenting with different designs and fabrics. This hobby and passion has now slowly developed and turned into opening her own label, Yefikir Design in 2009. Since then, she has been into different fashion events in Addis Ababa, including hub of Africa Fashion Week. As a psychologist working with children, her other passion, she manages to integrate the two professions to reach out to disadvantaged kids in Ethiopia. As a designer she creates awareness in various sensitive issues regarding children such as child labor by participating in various fundraising and fashion shows which allows her to give back to the community. Ethiopian fabrics are well known for their sophistication, colorfulness and uniqueness. Yefikr Design is mainly known for turning this fabric into tailored made and fashionable designs without losing its cultural touch for the modern day women. Fikirte believes, "It is important for me not to lose the connection I have to my culture, just giving it a modern twist and bringing it to the international fashion arena" The main fabrics used in all her designs are handmade cotton and the designs are to give comfort with style. Fikirte gets her inspiration from the Ethiopian culture and vibrant environment to reflect the everyday life of the people. She designs from casual to wedding dresses mainly for women.


Why you should listen to her:

Katrin Puetz, Founder, (B)energy Katrin finished a master’s course in Agricultural Engineering in Hohenheim in 2008 and was offered a position as Ph.D. student to continue the work she started with the development of the biogas backpack as her master thesis. Within the following 2.5 years she focused on the development of other low-tech and mobile biogas technologies while partnering with a German company as well as with Addis Abeba University, who both supported the research – actual demand and local efforts were the conditions for her continuation on this topic. In 2013 she accepted the offer of Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre (HoA-REC) under Addis Abeba University to test her technologies and the social business approach of selling biogas in biogas backpacks in several pilot projects in Ethiopia. One year was sufficient to prove the potential of both and the biogas backpack was awarded in the empowering people award by the Siemens Foundation. In July 2014, she founded (B)energy, a company through which she now markets mobile biogas solutions in a special social business way. (B)energy Germany is the franchisor and local (B)franchisees are the ones who make the technology, know-how and business opportunity available for end-users in their countries. Katrin Pütz with (B)energy stands for a social business that strictly excludes the use of “free money”. She wants to show that independence for people in developing countries can be achieved by totally redesigning the current aid-driven approach.

Sharon DalySHARON DALY: President of Mossy Foot Project

Why you should listen to her:

Sharon Barlow Daly president of Mossy Foot Project Sharon was a baby when her family moved to Ethiopia. After finishing high school, she returned to the USA to attend college. At Westmont College Sharon majored in the social sciences then earning a teaching degree at California Lutheran University. She felt privileged to have a teaching career for many years. During this time she would frequently travel during summer vacations. Several times she returned to Ethiopia to visit her parents and friends. Ethiopia was always dear to her heart. In 2004 her father, Dr. Nathan Barlow, M.D. was ill. The Dalys traveled to Ethiopia to be with Dr. Barlow, who had founded the Mossy Foot Project in 1997. That was a turning point in Jim and Sharon's lives. They met the people afflicted with mossy foot disease, also known as podoconiosis. When Dr. Barlow died in 2004 people thought that the Mossy Foot Project was over. Not so, the Dalys got out her father's correspondence and started writing to the donors to inform them that the project would continue. That was the beginning of their involvement in the mossy foot work which is Sharon's passion. Now Sharon is the president of the Mossy Foot Project. The Dalys live in the USA where they work raising awareness and funds to do the work in Ethiopia. About four months of the year Sharon is in Ethiopia.



Why you should listen to her:

Selamawit is the head of the string section at the Yared Music Academy in Addis Ababa from where she a graduate with a Master's degree and today works as a lecturer. In 2013 she won a competition and scholarship to perform with the Symphony orchestra of Seoul. She is a soughtafter performer as one of the leading violinists in East Africa and was awarded the prestigious ‘Successful Young Female Researcher by Addis Ababa University in 2012. She has collaborated with William Stewart and other musicians from around the world on the modern symphony to be performed at TEDx.



Why you should listen to her:

Haymanot is a composer and film maker who goes under the artist name of Whitney Vandell. Her orchestral music album and film One Girl Symphony was recorded and filmed over a span of nearly two years enlisting the help
 of instrumentalists worldwide in an online music collective. The result 
is a style of music that defies categorization into any genre while encompassing everything from classical, rock, hip-hop, folk music and the blues.



Why you should listen to him:

Ralf is a composer and cello player from Weimar, Germany. He toured Europe and the US with his DIE KULTURTECHNIKER doing electronic concert readings based on German and international literature. In partnership with the Goethe Institute and Robert Bosch Foundation they worked at universities in Germany and Eastern Europe. He later formed Cello Chill Sounds, a band playing loop based lounge grooves and soundscapes. Ralf is now a resident in Addis Ababa working at the German Embassy School and with his local group Addis String Loops.


Why you should listen to him:

William was accepted to both Juliard and the Royal Scottish Academy at the age of fourteen on a scholarship and chose to attend the latter. Upon graduating he was the leader of the Scottish Ballet Orchestra before leaving for for Germany to first be the leader of the Passau State Opera Orchestra and then spending over three years as a violinist in the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, renowned as one of the leading orchestras in the world. He as since been involved in performing and producing albums for almost every imaginable genre of music around the world. His current project is with the Yared School of Music playing with the online collective named and led by ‘Whitney Vandell’ set to release the eponymous album to be launched at the 2015 TEDxAddis conference coinciding with performances together with Dr. Mulatu Astatke.


Why you should listen to him:

Malte Prien is a serial entrepreneur from Berlin in Germany. If you asked him about his entrepreneurial career, he would probably answer, that he started two companies: “the first one ruined me, the second one saved me and I am lucky that it didn’t happened vice versa”. Malte’s passion is about smart ideas, game changing creativity and innovation. He believes that if we enable entrepreneurship, we can get our society to the next level. This is why he engages in entrepreneurship teaching or as Malte says: entrepreneurs enabling.


Why you should listen to him:

Gizachew leads Bright Star, a relief and development organization serving among extremely poor children of Ethiopia. His story began with a an idea to work directly with street children and has since gained worldwide recognition and support from the US and Europe to expand to working with thousands of youth around Ethiopia to lift them out of poverty by providing shelters, food, education and assisting with securing employment.