TEDxKakumaCamp, the first ever TEDx event in a refugee camp

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Kakuma Camp is located in the heart of Turkana, in northwestern Kenya. It was established in 1992 to serve Sudanese refugees and has expanded ever since to take in people fleeing war and disaster from across Africa.


Currently, Kakuma is home to over 185,000 refugees from 14 countries such as South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, the DRC, Eritrea, Uganda and Rwanda. Some have been living there for over 20 years.

In many ways, Kakuma is a camp that embodies a spirit of perseverance. In the midst of  the multitud of tents and shelters, stories of hope and tenacity have emerged. Many refugees have also proved to be self-reliant, starting businesses and engaging in thriving economic activities.

A recent study by International Finance Corporation showed that Kakuma camp and the surrounding area are a marketplace worth over $56 million. There are more than 2,000  active businesses. The refugees have strong spending and buying power, trading with local community hosts, and investing in buying everything from food and cosmetics to mobile phones. About 69% of the camp’s residents also had access to mobile services and the internet, improving their future business and investment prospects.



TEDxKakumaCamp is the first ever TEDx event in a refugee camp. It brings together current and former refugees, as well as other speakers and performers who wish to share stories of resilience and creativity.

The purpose of TEDxKakumaCamp is to move us away from the biased images of suffering and disappointment that are too easily attributed to refugees. It aims to offer a different look at the reality of refugee life, highlighting stories of resistance, participation, contribution, and creativity.

Stories that uplift and inspire not just the communities that welcome them but the whole world. The theme of the event, “thrive”, supports their belief that empowered refugees can change not only their lives but the communities and countries in which they live, that they can shape a peaceful and tolerant future of our world. 

The gathering, inspired by the TED global ideas conferences, comes as refugees in Kenya continue to face abuse and uncertain futures. Authorities have also threatened to close the largest refugee camp in the country at Dadaab.

[mkd_blockquote text=”“We want the world to experience the phenomenal lives that the refugees are living” said TEDxKakumaCamp co-curator Melisa Flemming. “And we hope to change the narrative about refugees. It’s no longer a story of surviving but also thriving, there is so much happening here. There is so much talent.”” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]


Refugees, TEDxKakumaCamp Speakers

Speakers includes both current and former Kakuma Camp refugees, as well as international experts and artists who want to make the world a better place for people forced to flee their homes.

Some of the success stories are about Yiech Pur Biel, the 23-year-old Sudanese runner who arrived in the camp as a child and in 2016 participated in the first Refugee Olympic team; Halima Aden, the first hijabi model to grace fashion’s top runways; Aminah Rwimo an international award-winning Congolese film-maker; or Mesfin Getahun, who fled Ethiopia in 2001, but now manages a wholesale business so successful it has won him the nickname “the millionaire.” 

In the hope of transforming the way we see refugees, all share their inspiring stories on stage at TEDxKakumaCamp. Another sign that giving opportunities to refugees helps them overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

[mkd_blockquote text=”“We have refugee speakers who have never spoken on this kind of a global platform before” said co-organizer Dana Hughes. “They’ve really started to believe in themselves. It’s been incredible to watch them gain confidence to come to the point where they can share their stories on a world-class stage.”” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]


TEDxKakumaCamp was held in a tent at a secondary school in Kakuma Camp, attended by a refugee audience and a number of high-profile guests. 

The event was also livestreamed on large screens at Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, allowing thousands more refugees to watch along. 



[mkd_blockquote text=”“What I get about life is that the winners of today are actually the losers of yesterday that never gave up”, Mary Nyiriak Maker, South Sudanese teacher and TEDxRefugee Speaker.” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]





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