Rape and Joke: two words that don't belong together

Rape is not a joke My personal goal is for Africans to be respected around the world before I die. While we Africans can certainly blame slavery, colonialism, racism, etc. for our troubles, if we want to be respected we need to be worthy of respect. We need to be exemplary human beings.

Recently a Nigerian comedian made a joke about dating white women vs. dating African women which ended with a "joke" about raping the African woman. The joke was tasteless and stupid, and the comedian has apologized.

But the fact that he would think this way, and that others would laugh about it, shows that rape culture is all too alive and well in Nigeria. I don't know how this man was raised, but I was raised to believe that men should respect women and that, above all, they should not violate women. Moreover, around the world women are reclaiming their rights as human beings - this is the healthy and important work of first generation feminists. Going forward, the morally respectable cultures and subcultures will be those cultures that authentically honor and respect women and which harshly repudiate any suggestion that violence against women is acceptable or legitimate.

As a woman I'm disappointed in the joke and the response that it received. As an African, I'm even more disappointed.

I believe the comedian's apology was sincere - it was an act of stupidity rather than viciousness. But there is justice in judging a culture by its humor, and the fact that the comedian thought he could get laughs by a rape joke is as much an indictment of his audience as it is of him.

I hope that we will see more and more moral leadership from both male and female Africans going forward, both high profile individuals as well as ordinary people. I would expect that we all want to deserve respect, and we should confront those among us who do things that are not worthy of who we really are.

P.S.: See here for an excellent, passionate diatribe on the reality of rape to give you a very vivid sense of why no one should EVER joke about it.

Hold On Forever!

tumblr_mc0w6cTzam1ryr9i1o1_500 Earlier this week, I received a letter from one of my Senegalese fans, B. Her letter hit me hard, for its rawness and truth. Although my life is very hectic, I wanted to get back to her rather sooner than later, because we cannot afford to lose any such engaged person to hopelessness and despair.

I also decided to post her letter here and my answer, because I know many go through the same. And I am trying to lift them up through this as well.

Read on, and hope it helps.

B's Letter:

Hi Magatte,

It's 2h30 am in Dakar and I cannot sleep...I have been very troubled these days and my mind constantly keeps going back to you. You know, when discouragement hits me really hard, I listen to the Coran, my beloved Khasidas and I read/watch inspirational talks/quotes. Among them are your youtube videos and blog. You are such an inspiration, machallah! So, I thought I would write to you to share a couple of concerns and hopefully pick your brain and get unstuck.

Magatte, I am very concerned about our country's economic development and I am trying my best to make my little contribution. I know I am still very far and that the road will be a long one. First, because working in a so-called development agency is not the best place where you can effect meaningful change, hence I am considering making a drastic change. Secondly, because I have not identified yet a field, an area and issue that will keep me awake in the middle of the night (like you said at the Global Competitiveness Forum, I loved that). Everything is a priority area for Senegal and Africa and it can be overwhelming to pick and commit to one fight (education, health, citizenship, access to water, people's empowerment etc)! I personally believe that being spread out is not an option, especially if one want to get meaningful results. Magatte, how do you choose one cause to fight for the rest of your life when so many issues move you to tears?

I was just reading your blogpost titled "My biggest fear" and this sentence deeply resonated with me: "Thus if I became famous like some freaks I will not name here or for some BS, I would not be happy, at all." This might sound like an unfair generalization but I have come to realize that our people give precedence to looks, wealth, fame, elegance, over substance, authenticity and hard work. People like to take shortcuts and being famous at any cost is what seems to drive the majority of Senegalese, hence the booming of "top models", wrestlers, actresses, tv presenters, politicians-by-training (and not for genuinely serving the community), people who indulge in multiple TV appearances where they make shallow interventions. I have nothing against people being artistic or into sports and expressing their inner talents through those means. However, the core of the matter is to be seen and "sagn-see ba diek". Even if you are selling BS, people will worship you. Sometimes it saddens me to see that the millions for whom a few are genuinely fighting for do not seem to care about development, about doing what is right, about preserving our values. People lie and take shortcuts to be rich and famous. Girls sell their souls for petty cash. It saddens me that the majority of the Senegalese population gets abused by BS-tellers who manipulate them and seek political power just to just fill up their bank accounts. Magatte, where does one find the energy to keep on fighting when the majority don't give a damn and barely listen? How does one keep on fighting when trying to be genuine+authentic in a general atmosphere where one is looked at like an alien? I am just in tears as I am writing this...

I hope you will have time to read my long message and look forward to your insights. You really give me strength to push through the disappointments.

Love,

B

 

My  Answer:

Hello My Dear B!

Sorry it took me awhile to get back to you. I have been very busy.

I know too well the feelings and realities that you are describing. It is not surprising you feel development agencies are not the proper answer to our situation and needs. Because they simply are not!!! For many reasons, that I am sure you probably understand better than most by now. So I support you getting out of there, because we cannot afford to have the very few youth (and people in general) who have their heart + mind in the right place slowly give into the ranks of the "establishment" because they got beat. So get out before you let your fighting soul die there!

All those problems you are referring to (when you say "education, health, citizenship, access to water, people's empowerment etc") have to do with ONE cause at the end of the day: POVERTY more or less directly!! And poverty is because people have no jobs. And we know jobs are created by entrepreneurs. So in a way, you already do know what keeps you up at night :) And the remedy is a "monomaniacal focus on entrepreneurship". Everything that you do from here on should focus on supporting entrepreneurship. It does not matter if you decide to work from the Education, Government, Private or NGO sector, you need to be laser focused on "How can I support entrepreneurship from my position". So pick what you are most excited/passionate about and operate from there.

As for all the crass-ness and mediocrity surrounding you that you are referring to, I can understand how frustrating it can be. And it is tempting to lift up your hands in the air with a defeated "Why even bother? I give up!". But in times like this , you must remember that you are not alone in this. Somewhere else, 10 feet away from you, or 10,000 miles away from you, someone else is fighting your fight. Your job is to find them and together create little islands of excellence in everything you do and the way you do it (especially having and taking pride in not cutting corners). At some point others will start noticing, and wanting to emulate that for you would have created something very irresistible.

Things will change, I believe that firmly. But things will change because of people like YOU! And every little thing you do counts. Cheikh Amadou Bamba, Mandela, Ghandi, Dr King, and countless others all operated within very hostile environments, and they still managed to win their battles. I am trying to give up on being mad at my fellow contemporaries, but it does not mean that I am happy to say "Oh this is the way it is". Instead, I focus on those beautiful alternatives I am working on creating for them. I know that the day those become real, others will slowly embrace them. And at some point it will become the new norm. Most will resist at first of course, because as humans we are creatures of habit. But there are always going to be those 2-3 first people to join you. And those are the ones who will change everything. But you have to create "IT" first, for them to have something to rally to. At the end of the day, "there is nothing to promote until there is something to sell". So go back to your core, remember your dreams for your country and the world you live in, and get back to work! Be relentless at it and only llisten to that small voice in you, the voice of God. Let that voice and its comfort guide you as you create your "it" and they will come! Criticize by Creating!!! Hope it helps! Much Love.

Magatte

Unlearn. Unstick. Unleash. Be.

Ayelet Book A month or so ago, my friend Ayelet Baron, sent me the manuscript of her book, called "Unstuck" (you can read the book here Getting Unstuck - by Ayelet Baron) .

I read the book while on a trip in Guatemala. There, sitting by a gorgeous pool and surrounded by a wonderful breeze, colorful flowers and peaceful energy, I started scrolling through the pages. By the end of the preface, I decided to do something I have never been able to do while reading: I put on music. I always write with music, but I am normally not able to read with music. Very strange! In any case, in this situation, I put together this playlist and went back to my reading. That is when I experienced something a bit surreal: a situation in which I had goose bumps all over my body, filled with emotions, crying sometimes even.

I think what was happening is that Ayelet was talking to every single part of my being with her book. Every page, every line, every word resonated with the life I have come to embrace 6-7 years ago. A life in which I decided I would not wait for anyone to validate me, a life in which I would create and live by my own rules, be my own original self, following my passions and dreams. I had decided to have the courage to "Find out who I am, and do it on purpose" (Dolly Parton). Ayelet's book is amazing in the sense that it does not follow traditional book writing style. You can start it at any page and it still makes sense. It is authentic, with the unforgiving wittiness of a woman who has gone through enough and is now determined to follow her own path from here on. I think that as humans we all crave the freedom to be ourselves. Ayelet's book shares the lessons of the journey of a woman who took the leap of no return towards herself so to completely deprogram and free herself from society's chains. Hopefully, you will not wait for a flight gone terribly wrong (in Ayelet's case) or the death of your soul mate (in my case) to realize that you only have ONE life and it is about time to make it YOUR life. May you find in her book the same comfort and encouragements I found. I salute Ayelet's courage.

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.

We grow old by deserting our ideals

Tonight, I found in my inbox a poem that a very dear friend of M (and through him, of mine) has sent. These words of Samuel Ullman (1840-1924) are wonderful! Enjoy (thank  you, Leif Smith).

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. 

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. 

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what's next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

A Model for How to Commit to a Meaningful Life While Young

Tonight I want to write about an amazing young woman. Her name is S. I met her at Columbia University when she came to me after I gave  a keynote for the 2010 Africa Conference there.

I will never forget about the first sight of her as she was simply stunning: tall, svelte, gracious, fashionable, and grave, in one word she was regal! What attracted me most to her was this feeling of seriousness and determined will that emanated from her . Her whole aura was exuding PURPOSE! But purpose for what? I became very intrigued.  Because of her bearing, she stood out among all of those who had gathered around me.

She joined a conversation I was already engaged in. I don't remember what we talked about. The day after that talk, I fell ill, completely overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response I had received from fellow Afropolitans. It was wonderful, but so scary at the same time!

In any case, few months later, I saw her again as I attended the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival for  a documentary  featuring the genocide.  At the end, she found her way to me. There again we talked, but everything was so busy we did not get a chance to speak in-depth. But at least that night, I got to know that she was from Rwanda, and in a very strange way  I "felt" what she was all about in my bones. The documentary, the presence of all of this history and her presence in the middle of all of that gave me the clues. I finally grasped why this young woman felt so grave. And I developed a huge sense of admiration and care for her. She has gone to the place of no return: she had gone and tasted the world of Purpose! Eventually we had to go to another gathering that night, and I left full of wonders and wanting to know more .

Little did I know that God would give me that opportunity. Indeed few months later M & I went to visit  Rwanda . There we met her at a function.

Few days later, we had dinner in Kigali and that is when my heart finally translated what was going on to my mind. S lives and breathes JUSTICE. She wanted to devote her life to tracking those responsible for the genocide in her country and those who committed heinous crimes. And while I thought it was a tremendously laudable goal, I also had the sad feeling inside that this bright star of life might get her soul and heart crushed in the process of tracking down former genocidaires. I insisted that there was another way to see her country move forward, one that would not demand for her soul to be sacrificed in the process. I could see a solution in which she could use her skills, youth, person and beautiful aura to focus on the present to build the future she wanted for her country rather than chase demons of the past.

After that dinner and as we flew back to NYC, I did not see her for some time and soon stopped hearing from her as well. I feared that maybe I had been too focused on my work to maintain a real relationship. But I am so passionate about my work that it could not have been otherwise. I thought of her often wondering how and where she was and hoping she would find peace.

Well last week, and more than a year later, I got an email. It's from S. And she is telling me that she actually took my advice and left behind the past.  She then began focusing on the present and the future.  I very much look forward to seeing her happier as a result of her decision to focus on building a better future.

A GrandMother's Advice

http://youtu.be/VhfF2Bd7xj0 "Conseil" (french word for "advice") is Youssou Ndour's new single. And I LOVE it!!!!

Youssou  just entered the Presidential Election Race for Senegal, but I will not comment on that today. All I want to do today (and doing) is dance! Once again his lyrics are full of comfort for those, who like me, vowed to live their life with Honor and Dignity in a world unfortunately currently overwhelmed with  Mediocrity and Crassness, with messages like this:

"The Truth is the only thing that should be of  interest to you

If you have something grave to say, think it through

It is worth being alone with God (meditating)

If it's money, it's not worth it

If it's something else, it's not worth it

Don't sell out your honor nor your dignity

Because everything has an end eventually..."

And he says that it is the advice his grandma gave him. Mine did too!!!! I so miss my GrandMother Arame Ngom!

Will GMO Africans all be blond and blue eyed?

My friend Zach (him again) just forwarded this link on FB about how L'Oreal and western mass market beauty companies are now looking to African women in Africa as their next frontier customer base.

The only little piece of good news (and I even see that one as a poisoned one) is the jobs that will hopefully be created locally by the installation of new manufacturing plants. I say it is a poisoned good news because of all that it could mean in the long run for our cultural heritage.

Besides that, articles of this nature reinforce my urgency in growing my current skin care company, Tiossan. Not because I am afraid of having competitors. First of all, there is a lot of room for many to succeed, but most importantly l'Oreal and its like cannot compete with my type of company simply because our values are so fundamentally different. But my problem is all the good, healthy hair and skin that is about to be ruined by the horrible products they offer this demographic. Think about it: hair straightener, skin lightning skincare products and complexion concealers (that only results in a zombie-like look when women have a face that looks so light compared to the rest of their skin). All the products and brands cited in the article are full of very harmful chemicals. It is all about emulating the white woman. The picture that accompanied the article (see above) is a perfect illustration of that flagrant display of lack of self esteem.

We know that black women in the western world are returning to their healthy roots. Indeed "the number of black women who say they do not use products to chemically relax or straighten their hair jumped to 36% in 2011, up from 26% in 2010, according to a report by Mintel, a consumer spending and market research firm. Sales of relaxer kits dropped by 17% between 2006 and 2011, according to Mintel" (see the whole article here). So because these companies are now loosing revenue at a rapid rate because their usual customers have become more savvy and gained self-confidence, they are now turning their clout of toxic ingredients to those who did not bother to question what is going on, completely blinded by their complex of inferiority.

Sooner or later I know that more African women will also come to value and join the "natural hair" movement, natural skin care, and love their own dark complexions, but not before too many bodies have been ruined by these poisons in a bottle.   So the faster brands like Tiossan can grow, and with them all the proper awareness around healthy ingredients and rituals as well as a sense of indigenous pride, the more healthy bodies and beautiful African faces we will preserve. To add insult to injury is the use of brand names like "Softsheen", "Fair & Lovely", and what they imply.

So wake up, dear African sisters! Know that you can be beautiful and loved with the skin     and hair that God gave you.  My husband constantly admires me and regards me as the most beautiful woman on the planet, BECAUSE of my very dark skin and African hair.  Find a man who loves you as you are, and take good care of your healthy, natural skin and hair.

With that, I wish you all a wonderful Holidays :)

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 Witch's advice for happy customers & employees

"Customers and employees live in the same world: reality is nothing but a series of electrical stimuli to the brain. What we think we 'see' is a pulse of energy to a completely dark part of the brain. However, if we get on the same wavelength as other people, we can try to change that reality. In some way that I don't understand joy is infectious, as enthusiasm and love. Or indeed sadness, depression, or hatred - things that can be picked up 'intuitively' by customers and other employees. In order to improve performance, we have to create mechanisms that keep these positive stimuli alive."  The Witch of Portobello

Must See this weekend: "Elevate" the Movie

Today, I received the most beautiful news about my beloved  SEEDS Academy in Senegal (SEEDS stands for Sports for Education and Economic Development in Senegal). Michael and I have been good friends of Amadou Gallo Fall (the incredible and wonderful visionary behind SEEDS)and advisers for SEEDS for several years.

Anne Buford, an all time amazing supporter of SEEDS directed a documentary, "Elevate", on SEEDS and how it is allowing athletically and academically skilled young men in Senegal to earn college scholarships in the United States and Europe . The movie has been winning many awards at various prestigious film festivals. And today, the New York Times just gave it a well deserved review.

It is a dignified representation of our country, our boys and our culture of hard work in general. See this video for a quick take on my culture from Anne.

And I could not agree more with the author that my dear friend Amadou  "is the real hero here"!

The movie opens today in New York and Los Angeles. Make sure to go see it!

Love cures headaches

This morning, I woke with a terrible headache. M and I have been sick for the past couple of days. That happens when we do not manage to get enough sleep for an extended amount of time, which was the case with our latest travels.

So my Beloved, as he does every morning, prepared us breakfast as I went to the living room to lounge on the couch trying to calm my headache.

But I could not relax because of the many things I have to do and take care of. I felt so overwhelmed that my headache got worse. And from my to-do list, I started thinking about all the things I want to accomplish in my life and how this stupid headache is taking seconds, minutes and hours of productivity away from me, and ultimately away from my dreams. The frustration amplified the pain even more. And then I started thinking about my three little kids in Senegal (not mine but I love them as such), for whom I cannot wait to start the most wonderful schools ever, inspiration behind Tiossano's "The Purpose of  Our Profits" mission. And from there, I went on thinking of all the children of Senegal that Tiossano will be able to give fresh opportunities to as well as all the adults that we will be able to provide jobs to. How the whole country could change  if only our model could inspire others to jump in.  It was all thoughts of "I am not going fast enough, I am not doing enough! Everything is being delayed. My little namesake is already 2 years old and I would have liked to have his school started already!".  Then I went on thinking about how many more young men were planning trips to Europe in little fishermen's boats and would not make it. I was thinking of how every single minute, the best aspects of my indigenous culture were at risk of being corrupt by the nastiest sides of western civilization through TV and the Internet, mainly . Which all brought me back to "I need to move faster, better, there are problems there that are getting worse by the minute!!!". Needless to say that at this point, I was simply a pure mess of emotion with a head that was about to explode.

In moments like this, I turn to Michael for wisdom. He is one of the most determined and patient people I know in this world. His goal and purpose, he knows very well and never looses sight of. He has also accepted that anything worth anything in this life takes time to build. Anything else is smokescreen. I know that, but I still do not have the required discipline in life to exercise those virtues all of the time.

But in moments like this, I also often turn to my Sufi guide who lives in Senegal. So I called him, and we talked for an hour. He reminded me of how far I have come. I asked him again if it was all my vanity and ego urging me to do more and more, all the time. He replied that everything in me longs to make other people's lives better of. That all I ever talk about are the jobs I want to create, the schools for a new breed of citizen, and giving my culture the spotlight it deserves in this world.

He reminded me to avoid comparing myself to others. Their paths are theirs, whatever they do with it, and that mine is mine. He reminded me that I have everything I could possibly hope for in this world: a husband that would give his life for me, people who, like him, respect and admire me so much he named his little boy after me, and that I have people rooting for me out there. Some I will never know, but they are there. He said that for some people I am doing and being what they always wished to do and be. Some will love me for it, but some will hate me for it. But he reminded me not to care. He reminded me that no one owns my life or destiny except for God. And that even Him will only help me if I prove that I am worthy of it by waking up everyday and working hard at what I want.

He said it was okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes, but he also reminded me that it is the best time to express gratitude for all that I am and all that I have and those who care about me, even if it is only one person (and as he said I can at least count two such people in my life for sure :)).

Then we talked about the children, he told me that my little namesake is all about soccer these days and the first thing he does when he rolls out of bed is go get his ball and say "Papa, do you want to play soccer with me?" or anyone else he comes across as a matter of fact. He told me that everyone is fine, the children are fine, talk of and ask for us often.

He reminded me that all is good and to keep on pushing ahead. He reminded me that he is rooting for me, and that he knew that Michael was too, and that people like him and Michael don't do that for everyone.

The whole conversation, as usual put such balm on my heart and my headache vanished. At that point, I became very clear again about who I am, what my purpose is and that focused hard work is the only way forward.

So I got up, went to shower, and while the tasty meal I concocted for M and I is cooking on the stove, I am sitting here, writing this blog post, before charging forward with what I have to do. I now have a big, bright smile on my face, and the confidence in my heart that I will create those jobs, build those schools and turn Dakar and Senegal into a hot cultural leader around the world.

Real Flesh & Bones in Politics

http://youtu.be/z5X04KlnSCc Last night after a long flight from New York to Austin and settling in the beautiful Resort we are now calling home for the next few days, my Beloved and I took care of some more business and decided to call it a day when it came to work.

We then did what we only do at hotels (not that, you sillies!). We turned the TV on so I could try and catch glimpses of  the GOP debate that just went on. I wanted to "show" Michael what I meant about Herman Cain.

I could care less about politics, I think the very game of politics is a rigged one, by definition. Most saddening is the fact that whether they are Republicans or Democrats, in the end it is the same: there must be a winner and a loser. Well I despise that and any game that feels that we must have a loser and a winner. I still believe in win-win-win. Call me crazy. In any case, this time around, i found myself really intrigued and interested in what is going on on the political scene. And I have been captivated at the rise of Perry, then his fall, then Christie's decision not to run, followed by his endorsement for Romney, now Herman Cain coming back from the depths of the system...

I have been watching indeed. And I have been wondering. Again, I am not into politics, at all. I am observing this phenomenon from the standpoint of a Senegalese born young woman who spent most her formative years in France. And beyond all of that, I am most interested in the human aspect of things, even in politics.

And when it comes to humanity in politics, I just love Herman Cain, the man. I love listening to him. I find him so funny and real. He does blink a lot :)  But he is no non sense. And I crack up whenever he says "9-9-9" plan. It is a very catchy term. He is so not your typical politician, and that is probably why he will not win (but hey, I am not an expert in these things).  He is also a man of simplicity, which is very refreshing. I just wish that more of these men and women who want to take the supreme seat would show this much authenticity and transparency. You may or may not like who he is and what he stands for, but at least he shows you who he is and what he really stands for, unlike so many others. Everyone else on this GOP list  of contenders (except maybe for Ron Paul) feels so plastic and fake (i.e Perry, Romney, Santorum), when they don't  just come across as outright slimy and shady (i.e Gingrich).

Again, I am not judging here any of Herman Cain's proposed policies or strategy, just his human contribution to the race.

African Entrepreneurs Taken Seriously

Until now I have never devoted a blog post to an event I will be speaking at. Not sure why, just something I don't think about I guess.

This time is different.  Because this is more than an event. It is a way of thinking AND behaving that I so truly, deeply believe in. Actually it is one of the very few forms of "development" that the proud African woman do-it-first-and-they'll-show-up  I am  can accept and does respect.

Convergence Africa simply states its vision as "where capital meets opportunity". I say "YES! YES! and YES!" (singing). When I see and hear those words of "where Capital meets opportunity" right next to the word "Africa", well it brings tears to my eyes.

Africa's time has come, I'll never say it enough. And the world will be better for it.

So I cannot wait to join this global community of folks who take African entrepreneurship seriously. I can't wait to hug again fellow warriors friends like Claude Grunitzky and Jacqueline Musiitwa and greet other fellow warriors I have not met  yet, but whose work I have been following and cheering for along the sideline like Fred Swaniker and Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu .

It will be refreshing to participate to a convergence where the crowd is made of representatives of a healthy eco-system an entrepreneur needs with topics directly related to the entrepreneur's toolkit (ie. legal framework for a business, execution, securing financing, training of the next generation of leaders and talent, channelling african creativity for new business opportunity, etc).

I also cannot wait for the Gala dinner at which the  2011 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship will honor  outstandingly deserving change agents. While the hippos are fattening themselves into a pond that they can't get out of anymore and slowly drowning in it, the cheetahs are creating, innovating and enjoying the run of their lives. We have not given up on our Continent, and we are using entrepreneurship as the Master Tool to create better lives for ourselves, those around us and those to come.

The War of Art

Few months ago, on a Saturday morning, I felt really down and discouraged by the task before me. I had not launched my new Company, Tiossano, yet and was freaking out bigtime because I have been without inspiration for few days.

As I was wandering around the house frustrated and unproductive, my Beloved suggested I read this book a friend, Brian Johnston,  had sent him to get his thoughts on it. The book was titled the "the Art of War" by Steven Pressfield.  The title was intriguing enough, but most importantly Michael's comment was "give it a try, I have a feeling it will talk to you". Still grumbling and in a terrible mood, I decided to give it a chance.

And WOW! My fingers were burning to turn the pages, my soul was drinking every word and my brain was concurring. I finished it in one breath!

As it turns out, "the art of War" was about that very exact force that has taken over me for days, interposing itself between me and my work: that force he calls it RESISTANCE! The book is brilliant, concise, clear and without any pretension, and super funny at times.

I like to "criticise by creating", and Pressfield just reminded me how Resistance is the enemy of the creator, and most importantly he walks us through simple steps to fight the demon. When I got to the end of the book, I jumped out of the couch, took a long shower and went to war, with a powerful jolt of energy. My Beloved just looked at me with a "you're welcome, dear" smile on his face.

"Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got" ~ Steven Pressfield

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.

Welcome To The Century of Meaning

An article just came out from CNN asking the question of "Are Jobs Obsolete"?

I smiled while thinking "Knew so" and also as it reminded me of something that happened a few years ago.

Back in september 2008, few months after he had met me for the first time, my Beloved and now husband, wrote what he thought to be a provocative sketch about the future:

 
"Are Women Entrepreneurs Real Entrepreneurs?   A Whole New Mind, A Whole New Gender, A Whole New World

The world of entrepreneurs is a male-dominated world.  The great entrepreneurs of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century were industrialists, inventors, and salesmen:  Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, P.T. Barnum, Henry Ford, Thomas Watson, the railroad builders, the retailers, the newspaper publishers, etc.

The great entrepreneurs of the second half of the 20th century were tech entrepreneurs and media moguls:  Hewlitt and Packard, Intel's Noyce, Moore, and Grove, Jobs and Wozniak, Gates, Ted Turner, Richard Branson, etc.

First we were a manufacturing economy, then we became an information economy.  In both cases, the world we lived in and the wealth that transformed our standard of living was largely created by men.  In a recent survey ranking history's great entrepreneurs, the most highly ranked women were Mary Kay Ash and Oprah Winfrey:  both highly successful, but make-up and a talk show about relationships?

Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind" makes the case that in the 21st century, the most important growth industries will be in the realms of beauty, empathy, harmony, and other aesthetic and quality of life values.  He makes the case that Asia, Automation, and Abundance will dictate this transformation.  Low-cost manufacturing in Asia has already displaced much of the manufacturing base in the developed world, and even some of the manufacturing in Latin America.  Meanwhile, automation of manufacturing is continuing at a rapid pace, such that fewer and fewer human beings will be required in manufacturing processes in any case.  And, finally, due to abundance, most of us in the developed world are already at the point at which we really don't need any more stuff.  We have enough quantity.  From here on out, quality will matter far more than it has in the past.

The successful entrepreneurs of the future will be those who can improve the quality of the products and services we consume, especially insofar as those improvements result in improved quality of life.  The growth industries of the future will be led by entrepreneurs who specialize in excellence in beauty and design, in style and fashion, in taste and elegance, in better lived environments and better social environments, in more harmonious workplaces, more empathetic and patient-respectful health care, in more humane education, etc.

Pink's notion of "A Whole New Mind" refers to a future in which both the left brain, analytical, and the right brain, intuitive and holistic, will be more valued than they have been in the past, especially when used together.  Although it is not politically correct to make gender generalizations, precisely because in the past women have had to prove their proficiency in a male dominated world, it seems likely that the future will favor women entrepreneurs to a greater and greater extent.  Now that we have enough big cars and powerful computers, maybe we need more wonderful environments in which to live, work, and socialize; better human interactions with our colleagues and from our professional service providers; more design, beauty, style, and taste incorporated into every object we use, every thing we taste, every surface our eyes see.

Most business training is 100% oriented towards the analytical side of business.  It is mostly by men, for men, to create male businesses, even when occasionally women go through the pipeline.  But what if the next generation of business training is far more focused on art, design, style and taste, and on improving the quality of human interactions?

What if women are the real entrepreneurs of the 21st century, the ones who create not only the wealth, but more importantly the well-being, that we all so crave?  What if they are the ones that finally shift us from a world based on quantity to a world based on quality?  From a world based on ugliness, aggression, and stress to a world based on beauty, empathy, and peace?" - By Michael Strong

I found it so beautiful and told him so. To which he sent me the following email:

"dear m, i get dizzy when you say nice things about me. literally you are the inspiration for many little things - flossing and running every day but you are far more deeply the inspiration for very, very big things it will take you many, many years to accept all that i see in you but despite any number of fights, arguments, and challenges to our friendship, at some point you will know and accept my profound belief in you and you will know that my belief in you was based in good judgment and some part of you will feel content and secure with great love and respect, m" 

I just had to share. A new era has come, I so profoundly believe it. Let the robots do what we have created them to do and enhance our lives. They and technology in general are freeing our time. Let's use the new gained time to build and create which that only humans can create: more meaning for richer lives. So no, jobs are not obsolete,  just the idea that a "job is just a job".