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With conference in Mogadishu, TEDx is officially everywhere

The Somali capital is not an obvious choice for a conference that highlights 'ideas worth spreading,' but organizers say growing peace gives Somalis a chance to change their future.

By Jonathan KalanContributor / May 17, 2012



For the past two decades, Somalia’s shredded and shell-shocked capital of Mogadishu has shown the world little more than recycled failures. Bad ideas, policies, and governments replaced by worse ones. Unmitigated piracy on its high seas, brutal civil war and tribal divisions, a governance system that has become almost synonymous with anarchy, Islamic extremists, kidnappings, and humanitarian catastrophes.

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Most people would assume that one of the most dangerous places on earth, where both man and nature’s worst elements have destroyed and demoralized the population, would be a hopeless place to scour for good “ideas worth spreading.” But an independent group of Somalis see things differently.

Today, the TEDxMogadishu conference with the theme of "rebirth," aims to showcase the brighter side of Somalia.

An offshoot of TED – the global conference that holds powerful, inspiring, and “riveting talks” by the worlds most remarkable people, from former presidents to Nobel Prize winners – TEDx’s are independently organized conferences that stimulate dialogue and bring “TED-like experiences” to the local level. While they have been held in places from Baghdad to Bogotá, Harare to Hanoi, Mogadishu is perhaps the most daring – and risky.

Wave of optimism

“Rebirth” rides on the heels of a budding wave of optimism that the city is turning around, undergoing its own bizarre renaissance.

The Al Qaeda-linked terrorist network Al Shabab vanished from the capital city, the African Union’s 17,000 troops have brought a level of peace and security that was once unimaginable – helping expand the control of the Transitional Federal Government to more than just a city block – and the city is reveling in its longest period of sustained peace since 1991. Even Turkish Airlines has opened up direct flights to Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport.

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