My Biggest Fear

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivUs5uWvuOI&w=560&h=315]  

This video, made by a handful of African students in Germany I've never met (except for  the great Micha Ru  I met online, thank you FB), is one of my favorite YouTube videos.  I'm honored to have been included by them.  I feel accountable to this generation of young Africans around the world who are looking to mentors and models to remind them that the future will be different.

When Dambisa Moyo writes Dead Aid, or I write about Jeff Sachs, we are not criticizing foreign aid or its advocates merely to be critical.  What those who "care" don't understand is the profound injuries to the pride and self-respect that results when our only role as Africans is to be pitied.  The fact that these young Africans somewhere in Germany acknowledge me as worth mentioning in their paean to African achievement and self-worth gives me an immense sense of responsibility towards them and the future of Africa.

I know, I know, I know.... It's been ages since I wrote here. I have been extremely busy with the next phase of my company, Tiossan. We went through a complete rebranding and also opened our first retail store in Hudson, NY.  All of that happened as I continued doing something I really love doing: encourage and empower as many people around the world to follow their passions, especially as they relate to entrepreneurship and just "find out who they are , and do it on purpose" as per Dollie Parton. Freshly back from a an emotionally nerve wrecking time in Nigeria (in the good sense) and just recently Gabon where I spoke at the NewYork Forum Africa and the Dialogue For Action Africa (I had a talk each day for three days), preceded by talks at MIT and Yale. I am so passionate by what I do and sharing my vision for the world with the world that it always feels to the audience that I was born with this ability to speak in public, that it is effortless. But if only they knew that I cannot sleep for hours after I deliver a talk or speech. Indeed, when I speak, it all comes from my core, the depths of my guts and all that I am and who I am. I have this vision of a better world, a vision so pure and wonderful that I am in a complete state of ecstasy! I get such a rush of adrenaline pumping through my veins, I can hardly sleep for hours (sometimes days) after such interventions.

In any case, tonight I am back at my computer to write. Someone I know from Facebook sent me a comment saying that he intends to write a book on humans greatest fears and wanted to know if I had any words for him. This is a very compelling subject and I confess that I have often asked myself the question "What is my greatest fear?".

I think it varies from person to person but I also think there is a common feeling most people think their biggest fears have to do with fear of personal failure of some kind:  financial failure, professional failure, romantic failure, etc.

But fear of not living up to our potential is even scarier, because with all external failures one can always blame someone else, something else, some kind of circumstances.
Not living up to our potential is a failure for which the only person who can possibly be responsible is oneself.  Moreover, the only one who can know whether you have lived up to your potential or not is you (and God).
That is a very scary situation, isn't it ?  No one to blame - but yourself!
So does this change how you choose to live on a moment-to-moment basis?
It  should.
For my part, I, Magatte Wade, am VERY  afraid (actually terrified) of not fulfilling my  potential by not having the impact I want (namely transform perceptions of Africa, create many jobs, create fabulous schools to prepare the next generation to be spectacular).
Even if I became famous, if  I don't make real stuff happen I'll be disappointed when I render my last breath.
Thus if I became famous like some freaks I will not name here or for some BS, I would not be happy, at all.
It has to be real - I have to make those goals actually happen. And THAT is the source of my infinite energy and limitless passion. It is contagious and I hope you get infected.
P.S.:  With love and gratitude towards George Ayittey, who has been fighting this battle on behalf of all Africans for many decades now, and whose TED Africa talk on Cheetahs vs. Hippos will forever remain a classic.

Where were Branson's big hairy ones?

I am just now back from Nairobi, Kenya where I attended Convergence Africa and led a Master Class on the notion of   "Executing on that Big idea".

My session was sold out and the room was packed with people eager to learn more about entrepreneurship and how to overcome challenges specific to the region.

This conference was quite well done and to the point. It's goal was simple and right on: doing business in Africa. You can see here all the reasons why I was looking forward to this Convergence. And I am most happy to report that it turned out to be everything that I was hoping for from its format, to the quality of the speakers and audience, as well as the companies that won the entrepreneurship awards at the Gala Diner.

But one thing bothered me: the Richard Branson's part. It is important I disclose my admiration for the real Richard Branson, the charismatic, flamboyant and full of sex appeal entrepreneur who built the amazing Virgin brand.  To me Virgin is Richard Branson and vice versa. You may like or dislike Virgin/Sir Branson, but you can't be indifferent. Steve Jobs is my ultimate hero when it comes to entrepreneurs, but Branson has not been far behind.

So what bothered me about Sir Branson this past Thursday? Many things. At the top is the fact that when he was asked about his attraction to Africa he basically replied that he has been spending the past 5 years on philanthropic ventures across the Continent, the biggest of them being The Elders. He made it clear that his people handle the business part.

I thought to myself "are you freaking serious"? My admiration for Branson stems from the fact that he is a superb entrepreneur first and foremost. And he accomplished it all despite his modest background and dropping out of school when he was 15, the reality of so many young Africans today. So what I needed from and wanted for him to speak about on Thursday was exactly that! Great entrepreneurs have big, hairy, audacious goals. And at this point of his career,  I expected Branson's would be bigger and hairier than anyone's. He missed out on an outrageous opportunity to inspire an entire audience enamored with entrepreneurship. THAT is what Africa needs more than freaking philanthropy! For a similar account on Branson's disappointing performance, see my friend Andrea's description here.

Transcend negative stereotypes with real value and cool fun

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuYyq_7KhjA&w=560&h=315]  

I command her talk and the questions she finally decided to ask herself. But at this point, the only way to transcend this massive, negative and reductive view of "Africa" that the world has of her and her people, is for a critical mass number of "Africans" to step up to the plate and dazzle with their actions and accomplishments. For that my personal strategy remains branding. No need to patronize people, even if you are preaching the Good. Offer real value, make it fun and cool and they will join in :)

The newly rich and inventive Africans

"Think of technological change this way. Even if you time-travelled back to 1980 with your modern salary, and found yourself far richer than most people, you still could not find wheeled suitcases, mobile-phone signals, hepatitis C vaccines or decaf mocha lattes on the high street. Likewise, time-travel forward to a prosperous 2040 without a wage increase and you might find yourself relatively poor. But think of the products you could find there, some of them supplied by newly rich and inventive Africans. Other people getting rich means other people working to invent things for you." ~ Matt Ridley from "The Rational Optimist"

You can read more here.

Luxury is not Chic... Tiossano ç'est Chic!

I spent these past two years creating the mesmerizing scents for my upcoming line of Tiossano body care  products. I have been immersed in the world of scents and initiated to the art of perfume. I have been blessed to learn from some of  the world most renowned noses.  I also read from some of the most enlightening specialists. Amongst them is an interesting character, Luca Turin.

Luca Turin (1953 - ) is a biophysicist with a long-standing interest in the sense of smell, the art of perfume, and the fragrance industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luca_Turin

A quotation from him in English that perfectly describes what my brand Tiossano draws from:

The French like luxury, but what the French call luxury is actually call-girl chic.  Put it this way.  After finishing secondary school at sixteen, I went back to Paris to go to university, Paris XII, Pierre et Marie Curie.  I rented a room from Madame Clouzot, the sister of the film director Henri-Georges Clouzot, right near the Champs Elysees.  She explained that there were only two great French perfume makers, Guerlain and Caron.  Guerlain, she said, was for cocottes – kept women.  Caron was for the duchesse.  But in fact it was 1880s cocotte style that passes for chic in France.  What the French consider 'chic' is actually kept-woman vulgarity. . . . Caron, on the other hand, is absolutely proper, proper chic. . . .  Chic is, first, when you don't have to prove that you have money, either because you have a lot and it doesn't matter or because you don't have any and it doesn't matter.  Chic is not aspirational. . . Chic is the most impossible thing to define.  Luxury is a humourless thing, largely, and when humor happens in luxury it happens involuntarily.  Chic is all about humor.  Which means chic is about intelligence.  And there has to be oddness – most luxury is conformist, and chic cannot be.  Chic must be polite and not incommode others, but within that it can be as weird as it wants.