sponsored links
TEDxExeter

Bandi Mbubi: Demand a fair trade cell phone

April 20, 2012

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. (Filmed at TEDxExeter.)

Bandi Mbubi - Social Justice Activist
Bandi Mbubi would like to make sure that you are using a fair trade cell phone. Full bio

sponsored links
Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I want to talk to you today
00:16
about a difficult topic that is close to me,
00:18
and closer than you might realize to you.
00:21
I came to the U.K. 21 years ago
00:25
as an asylum-seeker.
00:29
I was 21.
00:32
I was forced to leave the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
00:33
my home, where I was a student activist.
00:38
I would love my children to be able to meet my family
00:43
in the Congo.
00:46
But I want to tell you what the Congo has got to do with you.
00:51
But first of all, I want you to do me a favor.
00:56
Can you all please reach into your pockets
01:00
and take out your mobile phone?
01:03
Feel that familiar weight,
01:08
how naturally your finger slides towards the buttons.
01:13
(Laughter)
01:16
Can you imagine your world without it?
01:19
It connects us to our loved ones,
01:21
our family, friends and colleagues,
01:24
at home and overseas.
01:28
It is a symbol of an interconnected world.
01:30
But what you hold in your hand leaves a bloody trail,
01:35
and it all boils down to a mineral:
01:40
tantalum, mined in the Congo as coltan.
01:44
It is an anticorrosive heat conductor.
01:49
It stores energy in our mobile phones,
01:53
Playstations and laptops.
01:56
It is used in aerospace and medical equipment
01:59
as alloys.
02:04
It is so powerful
02:06
that we only need tiny amounts.
02:08
It would be great if the story ended there.
02:11
Unfortunately, what you hold in your hand
02:15
has not only enabled incredible technological development
02:18
and industrial expansion,
02:24
but it has also contributed to unimaginable
02:27
human suffering.
02:30
Since 1996, over five million people have died
02:33
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
02:39
Countless women, men and children
02:42
have been raped, tortured or enslaved.
02:45
Rape is used as a weapon of war,
02:50
instilling fear
02:52
and depopulating whole areas.
02:55
The quest for extracting this mineral
02:58
has not only aided, but it has fueled,
03:01
the ongoing war in the Congo.
03:06
But don't throw away your phones yet.
03:12
Thirty thousand children are enlisted
03:15
and are made to fight in armed groups.
03:19
The Congo consistently scores dreadfully
03:24
in global health and poverty rankings.
03:29
But remarkably, the U.N. Environmental Programme
03:33
has estimated the wealth of the country
03:38
to be over 24 trillion dollars.
03:41
The state-regulated mining industry has collapsed,
03:50
and control over mines
03:55
has splintered.
03:57
Coltan is easily controlled by armed groups.
03:58
One well-known illicit trade route
04:02
is that across the border to Rwanda,
04:06
where Congolese tantalum is disguised as Rwandan.
04:08
But don't throw away your phones yet,
04:12
because the incredible irony is that
04:16
the technology that has placed such unsustainable,
04:18
devastating demands on the Congo
04:22
is the same technology
04:25
that has brought this situation to our attention.
04:28
We only know so much about the situation in the Congo
04:31
and in the mines
04:35
because of the kind of communication
04:37
the mobile phone allows.
04:39
As with the Arab Spring,
04:43
during the recent elections in the Congo,
04:45
voters were able to send text messages
04:49
of local polling stations to the headquarters
04:53
in the capital, Kinshasa,
04:56
and in the wake of the result,
05:00
the diaspora has joined with the Carter Center,
05:05
the Catholic Church and other observers
05:08
to draw attention to the undemocratic result.
05:12
The mobile phone has given people around the world
05:16
an important tool towards gaining their political freedom.
05:22
It has truly revolutionized the way
05:28
we communicate on the planet.
05:31
It has allowed momentous political change
05:33
to take place.
05:37
So
05:39
we are faced with a paradox.
05:41
The mobile phone is an instrument of freedom
05:45
and an instrument of oppression.
05:49
TED has always
05:54
celebrated what technology can do for us,
05:57
technology in its finished form.
06:01
It is time
06:04
to be asking questions about technology.
06:06
Where does it come from?
06:10
Who makes it?
06:12
And for what?
06:14
Here I am speaking directly to you,
06:17
the TED community,
06:21
and to all those who might be watching on a screen,
06:23
on your phone, across the world,
06:26
in the Congo.
06:30
All the technology is in place for us to communicate,
06:32
and all the technology is in place to communicate this.
06:36
At the moment,
06:43
there is no clear fair trade solution,
06:45
but there has been a huge amount of progress.
06:50
The U.S. has recently passed legislation
06:54
to target bribery and misconduct in the Congo.
06:57
Recent U.K. legislation could be used in the same way.
07:01
In February, Nokia unveiled its new policy
07:06
on sourcing minerals in the Congo,
07:10
and there is a petition to Apple
07:13
to make a conflict-free iPhone.
07:15
There are campaigns
07:21
spreading across university campuses
07:23
to make their colleges conflict-free.
07:26
But we're not there yet.
07:29
We need to continue mounting pressure
07:31
on phone companies
07:35
to change their sourcing processes.
07:37
When I first came to the U.K. 21 years ago,
07:41
I was homesick.
07:45
I missed my family and the friends I left behind.
07:47
Communication was extremely difficult.
07:53
Sending and receiving letters took months,
07:56
if you were lucky. Often they never arrived.
08:00
Even if I could have afforded
08:04
the phone bills home,
08:07
like most people in the Congo,
08:10
my parents did not own a phone line.
08:13
Today, my two sons
08:17
David and Daniel
08:22
can talk to my parents and get to know them.
08:25
Why should we allow
08:32
such a wonderful, brilliant and necessary product
08:35
to be the cause of unnecessary suffering
08:42
for human beings?
08:46
We demand fair trade food
08:49
and fair trade clothes.
08:52
It is time to demand fair trade phones.
08:54
This is an idea worth spreading. Thank you.
08:59
(Applause)
09:03
Translator:Joseph Geni
Reviewer:Morton Bast

sponsored links

Bandi Mbubi - Social Justice Activist
Bandi Mbubi would like to make sure that you are using a fair trade cell phone.

Why you should listen

Bandi Mbubi grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, experiencing first hand the political unrest and oppression which have since worsened there. As a student activist, Bandi suffered persecution and fled the country, seeking political asylum in the U.K. But Mbubi has kept his home country on his radar, noting how the mining of tantalum -- a mineral used in cell phones and computers -- has fueled the ongoing war there in which 5 million have died.

While Mbubi sees the cell phone as an instrument of oppression for this reason, he knows that phones can also bring great freedom. And so he has formed CongoCalling.org, a campaign to inspire both the public and companies that make electronics to pay attention to how tantalum used in consumer electronics is mined and traded.

Mbubi is also the Director of the Manna Society, a center for the homeless in South London, and a Trustee of Church Action on Poverty.

 

The original video is available on TED.com
sponsored links

If you need translations, you can install "Google Translate" extension into your Chrome Browser.
Furthermore, you can change playback rate by installing "Video Speed Controller" extension.

Data provided by TED.

This website is owned and operated by Tokyo English Network.
The developer's blog is here.