Watch the video of Bandi Mbubi’s talk at TEDxExeter 2012.
Scroll down the page for biographical information and news.
Video and Live blogging
Bandi is talking about a difficult topic that is close to him, and closer to many of us than we realise: the Congo.
Our mobile phones connect us to our loved ones and colleagues, at home and overseas. They are symbols of our interconnected world. But they leave a bloody trail. Tantalum is mined in the Congo as Coltan, for use in phones, and all sorts of medical and other equipment. The Congo consistently scores dreadfully in global poverty and health rankings, but the worth of the country has been estimated as over $24 trillion. The extraction of tantalum has financed and fuelled ongoing war. It has contributed to terrible suffering – killings, rape, depopulation. 30,000 children are enlisted and made to fight in armed groups. The state-regulated mining industry has collapsed, so control has splintered and is easily taken by armed groups, who disguise the minerals and use illegal trade routes into Rwanda.
But don’t throw away your phones yet.
The irony is that this technology that has brought such suffering, has also brought the situation to our attention. The mobile phone has given people around the world an important tool in gaining their political freedom.
We are faced with a paradox.
TED has always celebrated what technology in its finished form can do for us. It is time to start asking about where technology comes from, who makes it, and why. At the moment, there is no clear Fairtrade solution, but there has been a huge amount of progress. The US has introduced legislation. The UK could do the same. Nokia has a new policy on sourcing. There is a petition to Apple.
On arrival in the UK, 21 years ago, Bandi found communication very difficult. Today, his two sons can talk to their grandparents and get to know them. Why should we allow such a brilliant product be the source of unnecessary suffering. We demand Fairtrade food and clothing. It is time to demand Fairtrade phones. This is an idea worth spreading.
Massive standing ovation. Very emotional.
Bandi Mbubi’s talk from TEDxExeter 2012: “Demand a fair trade cell phone” has been published on TED.com, to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 5.
Your mobile phone, computer and game console have a bloody past — tied to tantalum mining, which funds the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Drawing on his personal story, activist and refugee Bandi Mbubi gives a stirring call to action.
Learn more about the issue, and discover how you can engage with Apple and the other mobile phone manufacturers, on Bandi’s Congo Calling campaign website.
Bandi spoke at TEDxExeter 2012, and is back to update us about his work with the Congo Calling campaign. The campaign was a direct result of the support following his talk.
He is reminding us of the impacts of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo has gold, diamonds, tin, tungsten and tantalum, which are vital components of mobile technology. Congo should be wealthy, but this wealth has become a curse. The profit from the trade in conflict minerals has financed much of the war.
At the moment, there is an international peace process in the Congo. There are signs of hope, but the suffering of ordinary people continues. What can we do?
Congo Calling encourages individuals to lobby for and buy fairtrade technology, and lobby their governments; it encourages governments to develop and enforce legislation; and it encourages technology companies to purchase their minerals from conflict-free sources.
Our actions are beginning to make a difference. TED.com released Bandi’s talk on the same day that Apple released the iPhone 5. Bandi has asked us all to take our mobile phones out of our pockets. He wants each of us to ask our phone company what they are doing to source conflict-free minerals; and ask our MP re what they are doing to support legislation.
Congo Calling was launched at TEDxExeter 2012 following Bandi Mbubi’s powerful call for the development of fair trade technology which uses ethically-sourced, conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We are delighted to welcome Bandi back to TEDxExeter to share the many successes of Congo Calling and his vision for the campaign.
“My wish is to convince everyone to do one simple thing: to insist on fairly traded mobile phones, tablets, and games consoles, and in so doing, transform an industry and the world. The illegal trade in minerals for these devices has fuelled two decades of violent war in my home country, the DRC, and in so many others, but one small action by many could help end the violence.” — Bandi Mbubi, July 2013.
News about Bandi Mbubi
Congratulations to Scilla Elworthy, whose talk on “Fighting with nonviolence” has now been watched more than 1 million times on TED.com!
“How do you deal with a bully without becoming a thug? In this wise and soulful talk, peace activist Scilla Elworthy maps out the skills we need — as nations and individuals — to fight extreme force without using force in return. To answer the question of why and how nonviolence works, she evokes historical heroes — Aung San Suu Kyi, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela — and the personal philosophies that powered their peaceful protests.”
Subtitles are available in 31 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Persian, several Far East and Southeast Asian, and many European languages.
Also, at the time of writing,
- Karima Bennoune’s talk on “When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism” has been watched 1,279,000 times, with subtitles available in 23 languages
- Harry Baker’s “A love poem for lonely prime numbers” 785,000 times, with subtitles in 9 languages [how do they do that?!]
- and Bandi Mbubi’s impassioned plea to “Demand a fair trade cell phone” 520,000 times, with subtitles in 28 languages.
The videos of the talks at TEDxExeter are just being finalised before being uploaded. We hope they’ll be available in about a week.
The fourth of our short series of stories from speakers and attendees at previous TEDxExeter events. Bandi spoke powerfully about the Congo and fairtrade mobile phones, and the Congo Calling campaign was launched on the back of the enthusiasm generated by his talk. We’re looking foward to hearing from him again in 2014, when he will give us an update on the campaign.
The invitation to speak at TEDxExeter came about through Claire Kennedy. I have known her since I first arrived in England. I fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo 22 years ago because my activities there as a student activist placed my life in danger. I came to the UK and claimed political asylum and Claire acted as my lawyer. We have since been friends. She has been aware of my personal commitment to social justice both in the Congo and in the UK.
The situation when I first left the Congo was bad, but it was getting even worse every year. Since 1996 over 5 million people had died because of the on-going war. Rape was used, and still is, as a weapon of war. The vast majority of people live in abject poverty in spite of the Congo’s immense natural wealth. I felt compelled to act. Speaking at TEDxExeter offered me a precious opportunity to raise awareness and to mobilise people to act like the international community did during the anti-apartheid movement. I trusted in the ability of people to act for justice for the Congo, but I was unsure about the angle to take to appeal to them. I needed to give them the tools to enable them to act. How could they act in a way that could make difference?
Claire as a curator was both supportive and tough. She introduced me to the TED commandments of public speaking, the dos and don’ts of great talks. Her mantra to me was “prepare”. Giving a TEDx talk was unlike any talk I had ever given before. It is not about reciting facts or telling an interesting story. It is about sharing an idea. The key question for me was “how can I rally global citizens to act on the Congo in a way that helps build peace and prosperity?” The answer I came up with was to ask people to use their consumer power in a way that exerts pressure on technology companies so that they would source their minerals from the Congo more responsibly. In so doing, the trade in minerals would not fuel the war but help the local economy through legitimate trade. I enlisted the help of friends, both Congolese and British, to help me with the process. They were invaluable in reducing my workload. There was a lot to be done, including design, research and crafting of the talk. They helped with fact-checking everything, even information that I took for granted. They served as a friendly but critical audience. They were like midwives helping me deliver my baby.
I felt many emotions, mostly anxiety. Whilst preparing for the talk, I wondered about its final content. How would it be received by Congolese people and those around the world. Would I manage to condense everything I wanted to say into 10 minutes? I felt nervous about the task ahead. The preparation took every spare moment I had. I was often away from my family and friends. On the actual day of the event, though I felt nervous, I felt hopeful about the impact my message could have on people in the Congo. Anxiety gave way to a great sense of hope. The audience in the theatre was very attentive and receptive. They gave me a standing ovation. I was recalled to the stage to acknowledge properly their applause. It is then that I felt a personal sense of responsibility to carry on.
Giving a talk at TEDxExeter not only helped me think through my idea but it also gave it the exposure it needed worldwide. It gave me credibility in the eyes of many stakeholders. I received numerous invitations to speak, some of which I could not accept for lack of time. I still work full time, running the Manna Society, the largest day centre for homeless people in South London. Campus Party, the biggest technology conference, invited me to speak at their event in Berlin. At the event, moved by my talk, the lead worker at Facebook UK invited me to give a talk to their employees on the same topic. They have since offered assistance in publicising further our message.
Because of the outpouring of support I received from people, I led the formation of Congo Calling. We campaign for the ethical management of Congolese natural resources to help build peace and sustainable development. Many of those who have come on board were in attendance on the day I gave the talk at TEDxExeter. The campaign is more structured now. The organisation has charitable status and a team of trustees. The organising committee of TEDxExeter have been very supportive of our work.
The campaign demand that technology companies source their raw materials more responsibly has gained traction. With the help of student groups, we successfully persuaded the University of Exeter to adopt a procurement policy that favours technology companies that source their minerals responsibly. As a result of these student groups, the National Union of Students adopted a similar policy and recommended that their member guilds promote training around conflict-minerals from the Congo. Our increasing profile has enabled us to engage policymakers in the UK, Europe and US. We are campaigning for the political, commercial and legal frameworks needed to ensure the use of conflict-free minerals in our technologies, and are working in partnership with international and Congolese NGOs. We are now actively fundraising to increase the scale and scope of our work. All this has resulted from one 10 minute talk and the power of an idea.
At the end of November, TEDxExeter 2012 alumnus Bandi Mbubi returned to Exeter to give another talk on “Conflict-free Congo – the paradox of our new technologies”. He spoke in more depth about fairtrade mobile phones, the situation in the DR Congo, and the strides being taken by Congo Calling – the campaign calling for fairtrade mobiles set up following Bandi’s TEDxExeter talk. Afterwards, Andy Robertson interviewed him about fairtrade videogame consoles.
Andy was also a speaker at TEDxExeter 2012, about sustainable video games. TEDx speakers have to agree to attend the whole of the day, so Andy was there to hear Bandi’s talk, which encouraged him to think more about ethical gadgets. In particular, Andy was impressed by Bandi’s “insistence and hope that it would be the very technology that was causing the problem that would also be its solution.” We hope you will enjoy their conversation.
Bandi Mbubi spoke at TEDxExeter 2012 about how our mobile phones, computers and game consoles have a bloody past — tied to tantalum mining, which funds the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Drawing on his personal story, activist and refugee he gave a stirring call to action. So stirring, that his talk was one of the few chosen each month to be featured on TED.com. As of September this year, there had been 19,900 TEDxTalks, of which only 196 talks had been featured on TED.com. Moreover, the talk was highlighted on September’s State of the X blog. It has been viewed on TED.com nearly 175,000 times.
Since April, there has been much enthusiasm and interest in working towards fairtrade phones and clean mineral campaigns. A very real human momentum has built up in response to Bandi’s talk, resulting in the launch of the Congo Calling campaign. Bandi has spoken on conflict minerals at Campus Party, the international technology conference held in Berlin, and participated in the Centre for African Development and Security/SOAS Round table on Conflict Minerals. He is supporting student groups, including Exeter University, in their campaigns for conflict mineral free campuses.
At TEDxExeter, Bandi had only 9 minutes to share his message. But he is returning to Exeter on 29 November to speak in more depth about the DR Congo and the campaign. It will be a great opportunity to learn about the issues and what actions we can take, and discuss our response. Tickets are £5 only, and can be booked on the Eventbrite website.
Conflict-free Congo: The Paradox of our New Technologies
29 November at 7.30pm
St Stephen’s Church, Exeter