Scarier than the day I ran into a pride of lions on the Okavango. And just as beautiful

Note: this is the music I was listening to while writing this post. Earlier today, I was looking for something and stumbled upon this video of the highlights of the Global Competitiveness Forum I spoke at in 2011 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My panel was called "The power of Unreasonable People" and I come at around 4:46.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lfk1sFvIwq0&w=560&h=315]

It reminded me of a horribly scary situation I found myself in at the same Forum 2 years prior to the 2011 one. Something happened that could have aborted my speaking career on such prestigious stages.

So what happened? I am very embarrassed by it, but I am one who likes to laugh about and share my misfortunes once the stinging stage has passed.

When I received my invitation and saw the list of speakers, I first thought there was a mistake in my being invited. I mean the list was full of titles like CEO of Airbus, Chairman of Goldman Sachs, CEO of 3M, Former Prime Minister of Canada, Former Prime Minister of Great Britain, and so on and so forth. And then me, Magatte Wade, this very young woman, barely out my 20s, President of a small company, with my name on a list of the Who's Who of world leaders. I remember turning to M and saying "Could they not find a better African token? This is ridiculous!". To which M responded: "I do not think that is what is going on. You need to give yourself more credit. And even if it was, you will show them that you earned your presence there". I liked that!

And then, I learned I was set out to debate Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the Chairman and former CEO of Nestle, on the importance of Organics. It turns out that the organizer was 100% sold to my commitment and engagement in sustainability.

I remember coming on stage full of confidence. After all, I had nothing but disdain for Nestle and most of their practices. They were one of the reasons I started my first company. I remember how in front of a crowd of several hundred of the world’s leading movers and shakers – at one point, in the midst of a passionate debate on organics, I turned and pointed to him saying “I believe in criticizing by creating.  You are one of the reasons that I created Adina,” a line which pleased the crowd greatly, putting him on the defensive from there on out :). I was doing good until our moderator, Riz Khan (prominent BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera journalist) asked me the question that almost ruined everything. He asked a minute long VERY technical question on water. Water is one of Nestle pet peeves and Brabeck's specialty. M had wanted to prep me on that topic and I brushed it off because I found it too technical. Poor M, he was listening on via Skype through my computer that I set up next to me. He was cringing, but there was nothing he could do for me anymore at that particular moment.

In any case, and as Riz Khan was finally finishing his question, I realized that I had no viable answer for him. I felt a horrible feeling of disappointment growing in me. I had no place in being there in the first place. The fact I had no relevant answer to this question was the proof. Big swollen tears started to form , and as I was getting ready to get up and leave the stage crying, the miracle happened. Brabeck, who had been stung by what I told him earlier, lost all his manners and did not let me answer the question, but instead went into defending himself from my attack of him earlier. Riz Khan tried, as a gentleman, to give me a chance to answer his question, but then the same thing happened again. By then, I just told him :"It is okay, Riz! Let's move on."

And from there on, I just picked up the ball and pulled them all back into my turf, one that I knew I controlled very well, because Organics and sustainability is something I live for and believe in in my core. Brabeck was so mad he blurted out "Organics is just a marketing gimmick!" Wow! Really?!? From the man who had declared that his Chairmanship would be under the sign of "Organic & Fair Trade". He was lucky Twitter was not en vogue yet...

A few years later, the Forum's Director emailed my husband the following:

"You know, the highlight of my 5 years doing this GCF was the year Magatte spoke and just before she went up on stage, on a session in which I had deliberately placed her and the Peter Brabeck-Lethmate, she looked at me and said something like, “Ray, this is real drag. I’m going to liven it up a bit.”

That was even scarier than the day I ran into a pride of lions on the Okavango. And just as beautiful.

Sometimes, all you need is luck!

 

 

The middle game IS the game

As a couple committed to that which is True, Good and Beautiful (add Noble specially for me), it is fair to say that my Beloved and I have not chosen an easy path. M wrote this on his FB and I got compelled to share it here because it is probably the most succinct way to express the depths of M.

When, like M,  you have a brilliant mind working in perfect harmony with an equally amazing heart, and have the patience of a baobab tree, you are destined to achieve amazing things. It is  fascinating for me to live by the man's side, surrounded by his wisdom. My hot temper makes me sometimes lose sight of the goal, especially when the middle game is so complex and takes forever, but a glance at him and I am back on track. I then hold his hand tighter, and together we make our moves.

So here is what my Beloved posted on his status:

"When I was in high school I played pick-up chess at the public library in Aspen. At one point, a chess junkie who used to be Spassky's tennis partner on the tours played me several games with me and then told me, "You've got an amazing middle game. Your opening game is mediocre and your end game is terrible. But I can train you how to do those. The middle game is the hardest part to train - it requires a deep intuition." I chose not to train with him because I didn't want to give my life over to a game, but ever since I've identified as a middle game player. In a sense, I feel like I'm always playing middle game, trying to intuit how to get where I'm going, but never having the satisfaction of playing the decisive moves of the end game."

To which, one of his friends asked him to discuss further. He then replied:

In order to explain I must first explain the nature of the "opponent" with which I struggle. Coming out of St. John's, I wanted to pursue the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. One of the most obvious forces opposing the Good seemed to me to be free market economists, who advocated for a system that rewarded greedy business people for stoking the flames of materialism and consumerism. As someone in love with the Greek ideal of a virtue culture, this seemed self-evidently evil. So I went to the University of Chicago to examine the Chicago economists from the inside to discover the moral and intellectual errors that led them to promote such an evil system. I discovered that I had not really understood economics. There is nothing intrinsic to free markets or economics that necessarily rewards greed nor that necessarily rewards stoking the flames of materialism. I worked within Gary Becker's framework to create a theoretical structure within which markets would reward virtue, primarily though education. At the same time on the practical side I began providing Socratic teacher trainings through Mortimer Adler's Paideia Program in order to inculcate virtues in public school classrooms. As I shifted to the development of a framework for virtue development that was consistent with economics, I discovered the fury that mainstream academia has for those apostates who work within a market-oriented framework. Despite the fact that my goals as an educator were intellectual and moral goals that most professors would enthusiastically support, because I was now identified with "Chicago economics" I was attacked, ostracized, or ignored. I then spent fifteen years actually creating schools, and again found that because I no longer believed in government schools, even though I was doing work that Enlightenment liberals should love, I was still attacked, ostracized, or ignored. I then began working with John Mackey to promote entrepreneurial solutions to world problems. Again although the substance of each entrepreneurial solution I proposed was largely aligned with the goals of Enlightenment liberals, the same reaction from the academic establishment. Finally, in my work with Startup Cities, the same thing. Thus I feel as if my most tenacious opponent for the last several decades has been the anti-capitalist bigotry of academic intellectuals. Where ever I go, their deep, irrational tribal loyalties prevent me from making progress that is as deep and wide-ranging as it should be. On my part I've been trying to establish such unimpeachable "goods" associated with improving the lives of the poor (in terms of much of my work in FLOW and Startup Cities) and developing intellectually engaged, cognitively sophisticated learners with a moral sensibility (in my education work) that intellectually honest academics would begin to concede position. But it has been a very long, difficult struggle. I had thought our side was making progress in the early decades of this millennium, but then GW Bush's hypocritical use of market rhetoric set us back, and then the 2008 crisis set us back much further. It feels like a chess board where we are fighting for the moral and intellectual high ground, and we are struggling to get the advantage of a pawn or two so that when we move to the end game we will have the advantage needed to win. Their position is intrinsically weaker, but because they've got almost all of academia, the mainstream media, and the K-12 system on their side, our side faces a very tough struggle. Worse yet, untutored human nature is naturally anti-capitalist, as Hayek pointed out, so a corrupt Krugman can pander to the natural economic ignorance of humanities scholars and ordinary people and thereby have immense influence. Thus the only way to win this battle is for the most intellectually influential individuals to acknowledge the power of the best arguments on behalf of entrepreneurship and markets. As you well know, we are still in the middle game on this issue. But at some point we will enter the end game, and if our positional advantage is strong enough, we will win decisively. I expect that you and I are young enough that within our lifetimes the anti-capitalist bigotry of 20th century intellectuals (now extending into the 21st) will exercise a morbid fascination for thoughtful, intelligent minds looking back at the damage for which such people are responsible."

Employment ensures Peace and a Happy Society

Couple days ago, a gunman opened fire at a Market in Florence, Italy, killing two Senegalese Street Vendors, before turning the gun on himself.

Since then, friends have been sending me notes asking if I had heard of it. This morning, I got tagged on Facebook by a friend called Zachary Caceres, wondering if I had seen the news. Zac is extremely intelligent and thoughtful and hit the nail on the head when he wrote this:

"Extremely sad attack in Italy on Senegalese Street Traders. One of the unintended consequences of protectionism and government intervention is the (justified) feeling that the economy is becoming a zero-sum game. Ironically, worldwide Street Trading is a major growth and employment sector, which the Italian formal economy could only hope to rival.

Instead of growth and opportunity, you have a set number of jobs -- many of which are patronage jobs like civil service or in government protected unions -- which everyone has to fight over. Instead of the arrival of foreigners being an opportunity for cultural enrichment and trade, they are instead just another competitor fighting over the fixed economic pie. 

This brings out the worst of our tribal heritage. Advocates that believe in peace and equality and also Government interventionism should consider this."

I agree with him. Let's also add that with or without immigrants, Europe will be completely screwed if they do not manage to create more jobs & opportunities. And their current trend for protectionism and nationalism is really counter productive for that. For now they gang up against those who do not look like them, next it will be those who are not from the town, then those who is not from the traditional ruling families of the town... I said it before: "Well jobs to me are to any sustainable society what water is to Life! Lose them and watch everything die around us, including us humans" and "employment ensures peace and a happy society. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS are critical, everywhere". More 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 :)

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!

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 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.

Be a coward & Surrender or Be noble & Live your life

"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.” Ayn Rand (Russian born American Writer & Novelist, 1905-1982)

The Difference a Job Can Make

My Beloved just sent me this post called "Where children sleep" from LENS, the photography blog of the NYT blog. Basically it is a slide show of photos taken by  James Mollison picturing different children in their home country around the world and where they sleep.

The whole piece is supposed to serve as a commentary on class and poverty.

My husband emailed it to me with the qualitative adjective "fascinating". It made me furious, because in my personal experience the connotation of that word is necessarily positive. And I see nothing positive about this, on the contrary. What a compilation of degrading stereotypes!

Do you really believe that all American kids are spoiled brats with out of touch parents, all japanese little boys are nerds, while all japanese little girls are  geishas or subdued women to be, that all little african boys are fatherless future child soldiers (and that picture of little Lamine of Senegal truly pisses me off by the way!), and that the fate of all young girls in Brazil is teenage pregnancy? Unless you believe so, then this is nothing  but an extraordinary reinforcement of stereotypes manipulating our deepest empathy instincts, especially when it comes to social injustice and  little ones not having their basic needs for food and shelter covered.

I have no problem with the denouncing of poverty. But I do have a problem with three things when it comes to addressing poverty:

1/ When it reinforces negative stereotypes.

2/ When it crumbles people's spirit and their "can do" attitude by only focusing on the negative. I am not sure for you, but I get tired of the same old stories and photos of poor people around the world. We can still address poverty and galvanize people to fight it, but I would find it a million times more uplifting and efficient if the good news of the progress we are already making was also displayed.  However doom and gloom things may look right now, EVERYWHERE around the world, people are better of than EVER before! Is everything perfect? Of course not! Do we still have a long way to go? You bet! But if the progress of the past can tell us anything, it is that we collectively have what it takes to keep on making things better.

3/ When it puts people up against each other because  we try to make it sound like it is a class problem, almost as if some people should be blamed and feel ashamed of themselves because they have more than others; while leaving some others to feel outrageously entitled. Leave the have-tos alone (especially if they worked hard for it), and let's focus on making sure the have-nots have more. If anything, the American Dream should be the living proof that it is not a class problem. Pay attention to the countries of origin of all the little ones who seem poor to us, and start digging into how easy it would be for potential entrepreneurs to start companies there that would give their parents a job, with a salary that would allow them to provide for their children the way  parents leaving in a rich country do.

We can change this, more radically than ever before! We just need to focus on the right culprits: the roadblocks to entrepreneurship everywhere, key to decent jobs with enabling salaries. It may not give you the same immediate satisfaction of feeling "hey, I am a hero because I donated for this child to eat today", but I promise you that in the long run, you will have the wonderful reward of witnessing an ocean of happy children who can live normal lives because of your sustained effort on focusing on that too! I already chose my strategy :)

All Woman?

Just FYI, this is the track I was listening to while writing this blog post.

This article on Lynn Tilton in the New York Magazine was a real treat for me.

An interesting man with whom my Beloved and I have befriended, forwarded it to me. And I must admit that I am a bit confused as to why he felt compelled to send it to me. Did she remind him of me?  A part of me recognizes that this woman could easily be a cartoon version of me. I had never heard of Lynn Tilton before. But as I was reading the article, I was going from "WOW!" to "WTF?" back to "Yes, Woman!" but again to "Are you freaking serious?"And if nothing else, I am simply compelled by the stories of unusual entrepreneurs.

Like Lynn Tilton, I am bold, mouthy, a control freak, extremely sexual, love business (which I view as the greatest force of good in the world), adore my femininity/sensuality and playing with it everywhere all of the time (especially when men fall willing victims of it :) )

I still have not made up my mind on this woman and where she is trying to go, but I can share what I like and do not like about her:

LIKE, +++++, PROs, SHE ROCKS

  • She is a full woman ("an all woman" in her own words). I am profoundly disturbed, annoyed and saddened by all the mutant females that inhabit corporate boardrooms and meetings nowadays, all these so-called women who are consumed in their efforts to imitate men so much that the only thing they have left of being woman are breasts, literally! She understands that there are other ways to stand up to men so that they get "I'll be your girlfriend, but I won't be your b****" . I want to see women bring more beauty and sensuality to this world.
  • She gets the power of business, especially industry and manufacturing-based economy for a country.  She takes seriously how employment ensures peace and a happy society. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS are critical, everywhere!!! It is funny-annoying how too many people take it for granted in this country, so much they get bored just thinking about it, but without it, we can't even begin to be a sustainable society. And that is true for African countries, all of you do-gooders out there - unless you are so in love with "indigenous people" that you want to keep us poor just for kicks!  Just like water sounds like the most boring thing to  and is under rated by most , without it there would be no Life the way we know it. Well jobs to me are to any sustainable society what water is to Life! Lose them and watch everything die around us, including us humans.
  • She perceived that the intellectual notion of business needs to be defended so that we can get more business friendly policies. For my part, I realized few years ago that being a good business person and creating jobs is not enough. Unfortunately "crapitalism" (term used by Gene Epstein, econ editor of Barron's to describe what happens when big business goes to bed with government ) has spoiled the well in people's minds. They think that the corrupt crapitalism that we see everywhere is capitalism - but it is not.  Most of us love small businesses for they are created by people like you and I, providing much-needed services and products to people who need and want them. Most of us admire such folks, and the fact they provide jobs that sustain entire families, help their communities thrive. And it is all based on free will. You buy from that company if you chose so, you work for it if you chose so, and so forth. We all love those principles. Those principle are what I call "capitalism", simply. Are those principles not worth defending for everything they have given us and how they improved our lives? Well if any one is still doubting, I am absolutely ALL OUT to defend those principles. The development of my country Senegal, and beyond that the development of the world depends on it. And right now, unfortunately , I am afraid that a lot of young people are being taught at universities (primarily) by misguided anti-business professors to hate and compromise those principles using the wrong examples. I am sadly seeing how these tenured professors at these well endowed universities, front row beneficiaries are teaching the children, grand-children, great-grandchildren of their greatest benefactors (business people who ran successful businesses who turned around and made donations to allow for those universities to be and function) to despise the very powerful forces that allowed their existence in the first place and subsistence to this day (even the way endowments works means these universities have to place their money in equities, i.e., real businesses). All of this just to say that I feel lucky that I opened my eyes early, which is why I am working at both level: being a real entrepreneur, as well as being an evangelist for business. I do not want to be like a lot of current business people who are just now realizing how our work is taken for granted and how much the anti-business people have managed to own the moral high ground on these issues. They were preaching against the healthy principles of business while we entrepreneurs were busy creating real value for all parties involved. The name of the game must change and we must DO and PREACH right now! We must win the moral high ground because that will allow for faster change, quicker! There is no reason why billions of people must remain poor and live in inhuman conditions for one second longer because a very few select group of people are too petty to recognize they have been wrong all along! I am furious! The "criticize by creating" is my mantra...ZEN....
  • Her spiritual beliefs. I love people who are still connected to the power of the Earth and the Ancestors who came before us. At the end of the day, the journey must be more about than just our little selves, because we are each a part of something so much bigger. So by the time I am hopefully peacefully about to give my last breath, I would like to be smiling feeling in my heart "God, I played my part. I am ready to come home now".
  • She is her own person and definitely not a sheep. At this point of my life, may God help the person that will try to tell me what I can't, nor shouldn't do. I am the ONLY qualified person to determine who/what I can, should or want to be/do!
ARGH!, CONs, But WHY?
.

  • She is too bling-bling in her appearance and her lifestyle. Again for me true class is when money is not a factor because you have so much of it who cares or you have none and who cares.
  • She has gotten a very dirty mouth. While I love mouthy people I believe there is a true art to it, if not you are just a dirty mouth and there is nothing beautiful about that and you know how much I care about beauty. As a matter of fact, one of my upcoming blogs will be on the art of insult, inspired by the classy insults of back in the days, when there was no need for nasty "f" words and such yet you could still elegantly  make your point like Charles, Count Talleyrand's "In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily".
  • Being an all woman should not mean harassing men all over the place.  Gross and distasteful!. There is nothing more fun and sensual than to ensnare a man in a web of love. But that is all one needs to do: build a web of love, an irresistible one, and they will come. Trust me :) So this below is just crazy, just as I thought I could not read worse about this woman's lack of class, taste and manners.
"This employee also says that Tilton perceives all of her male employees as being in love with her. Which is perhaps the reason that, holding court in a conference room during her 50th- birthday party, Tilton offered her male employees a choice: They could take a Jell-O shot off her stomach or lick whipped cream off her breasts. “The crazy part was, she saw it as morale building,” says one person present. “People were hiding in the bathroom.”"
If you have not left the building yet and want to read more, see the full article here.
By the way and at this point of my post, I must say that despite my dislikes about Lynn Tilton, I do appreciate and respect her. She has got what matters when it is all said and done: love, smarts, courage and sensuality.

I am in love with another man

Sir Seretse Khama and wife
Sir Seretse Khama and wife

I was just reading about Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana, and I'm wondering why on earth we don't hear more about him. He was a hereditary king of one of the major tribes of Botswana, who was elected president of Botswana upon independence in 1966 and remained president until he died in 1980.

"From "close to the poorest" country in the world at the time of independence in the 1960s, and with few natural resources, an arid climate and little infrastructure, Botswana has transformed itself into an upper-middle-income nation, with the fastest rate of GDP growth (7.7 per cent per annum) in the world between 1966-1996 and 10.74 per cent between 1965 and 1975. [16] It achieved this by avoiding to follow the path most travelled in Africa, that of anti-capitalist, statist policy development. Instead, keeping much of the British common law and British-style institutions, and led by a visionary founding President, Seretse Khama, Botswana embarked on a series of reforms that reduced the government presence in the economy and promoted economic freedom (respect for rule of law, protection of property rights, disapproval of corruption, etc). As a result, government spending fell from 23 per cent in the mid-1960s to 15 per cent of GDP in the early 1970s."

The entire article can be found here.

Bostwana is now the second wealthiest nation on the continent of Africa (after Equatorial Guinea, a small oil rich nation), wealthier than all of North Africa and wealthier than South Africa. While it is true that Botswana's wealth is due to diamonds, Khama reinvested much of the wealth into health, education, and infrastructure, unlike most African leaders who had mineral resources. He also instituted strong anti-corruption policies. Today Botswana is the highest ranked African nation on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, at 33rd one of the least corrupt nations in the entire developing world, ahead of Costa Rica, Hungary, Taiwan, Italy, etc. Please note that the United States is at close 22nd place.

Moreover, diamonds weren't discovered in Botswana until 1972, thus the incredibly fast growth from 1965 to 1975 must be attributed to Khama's good governance, not to diamond wealth (I doubt the diamonds had a large impact on the economy the first year or two after they were discovered; it takes a while to get a diamond mine into production).  At independence, Botswana was the third poorest nation in the world.  And, in part, I suspect that the fact that he had good governance in place BEFORE the discovery of diamonds helped protect Botswana from the resource curse.

He sounds like simply a fabulous leader, a real African hero. And I can't help but notice how handsome and regal he looks :)

He was also exiled from political office before independence, due to his inter-racial marriage which the South Africans hated. Indeed, curiously his inter-racial marriage helped to keep Botswana independent of South Africa:

"After World War II, the British attempted to combine the Bechuanaland Protectorate with their South African colony, but Bechuanaland was able to thwart this annexation attempt. Two important events helped to keep the Bechuanaland Protectorate independent from the South African colony. First, a strong nationalistic current continued after World War II. In 1948, the National Party, a well-organized party that favored an independent Bechuanaland Protectorate, was formed.More important, Chief Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland was banned from the protectorate in 1948. He studied in England and was not allowed to return to Bechunaland because he had married a white Englishwoman. The British hoped the ban would ease tensions in South Africa. South Africa’s white leadership found the interracial marriage to be repulsive, and they insisted that Khama be prohibited from ruling Bechuanaland. Since most people in Bechuanaland supported Khama, this political issue divided South Africa and Bechuanaland. In 1956, Khama rescinded his claim to chieftainship and returned to Bechunaland."

http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj23n2/cj23n2-6.pdf

Also, as it turns out, Botswana successfully combined traditional tribal law with British Common Law (probably because Khama was both an African chief, and thus knew and supported traditional tribal law, as well as an Oxford-trained British lawyer). Basically the Cato article cited above makes the case that Khama's leadership, which included also support for freedom of speech and for harmony between blacks and whites, as well as good legal institutions and a pro-market, pro-investment approach, is the essential reason why Botswana has been so successful. Perhaps there is something less than perfect about him, but from everything I'm reading he sounds like a truly great African leader who ought to be more widely known and recognized. For my part, I am simply in love!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seretse_Khama

Africa is not part of the World

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyGHHxUFY6w] As many of you know, I love The Onion because humor is often the best way to get a message across, however sad, revolting or outrageous the message may be.

So got the message?

Let's wake up and realize that Africa IS part of the World's Economy (as a matter of fact, in recent years the economic growth of Africa has been at or above the rate of growth in the developed world).

And to those so-called do-gooders out there who believe that "plumbing, door knobs and electricity will violate our culture", I answer again that we are tired of being your anthropological wet dream.

Is this what motivates Jeffrey Sachs?

 

 

This past June, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post  titled  Jeffrey Sachs' Misguided Foreign Aid Efforts. A big message I wanted to drive home was the importance for so-called "do-gooders" wanting to "help" Africa to stop thinking about what makes them feel good, but rather start focusing and respecting the needs and desires of the very people they claim to care so much about.

To this day, I am pretty amazed at how this need to have a role is so important for people. Don't take me wrong, I too want to have a role, but there are many ways to have a role other than the patronizing role. 

Below is an insert from  a great article from a unitarian universalist minister that corroborates my own feeling and gives a good analysis why people fall easily into the patronizing role.

"Defining someone as a victim is one of the most brutal and demeaning things we can do to them. This was, remember, the reason liberals lost permission to speak for the Black Power and Women's movements: they wisely chose to define themselves as survivors and warriors. That left liberals without a necessary role to play. It also shows, perhaps painfully, that the reason we define our token groups as victims is so that we can give ourselves a necessary role to play. The salvation story of political liberals requires victims. That's why it's such a dehumanizing myth"

The Pleasure of Introducing an American into My Thiossane

Last spring I had the pleasure of introducing Michael Strong to my home, my origin, my Thiossane.  He wrote this, which expresses beautifully how I feel about my country: FLOW Vision News - May 2009

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

Rumi

Shuffling through the ankle deep sand of the narrow paths that pass for streets in a traditional Senegalese neighborhood at 2 a.m., guided by a Sufi mystic who has been having visions since the age of 13, we come across a crowd watching a wrestling match behind a makeshift canvas enclosure. Peaking through the holes in the canvas, along with the street urchins who cannot afford the 10 cents admissions fee, by flaming torchfire we see a pair of incredibly powerful men wrestling shoulder to shoulder, dripping with sweat and dust, wearing only a simple loincloth as they throw each other to the ground with great fierceness. We then walk along the beach in the dark, past a graveyard of holy men, with the huge waves crashing and crabs running in the moonlight. And amidst all of this indigenous, exotic romanticism, the marabout wants me to help modernize Senegal.

There is a breed of Westerner who hates our civilization, and wants to return to a more indigenous way of life. But most people who do not have our way of life, long for it. I am reminded of climbing a local promontory in Alaska with an orange-robed Tibetan priest and a group of local hippies, who had asked him to bless the mountain for them. In the blessing ceremony that he was performing, he quite innocently and honestly prayed for them that they would find oil under their land, assuming, as do most people from poor countries, that these people would be delighted to have the gift of sudden wealth. Little did he know that this particular group of people would find the thought of discovering oil beneath their land to be a curse rather than a blessing. Their sudden expressions of repugnance were unimaginable to him.

That said, it is also true that many people from other cultures fear the erosion of their own cultures, even as they long for the comfort, convenience, pleasure, and respect that comes from living the life we enjoy in the "developed" world. A majority of people living on less than $1 dollar per day listen to radio, and a majority of those living on less than $2 per day watch television. They are all watching, at least part of the time, American programs which often show the most tawdry aspects of our culture, unbelievable shamelessness and vulgarity along with unbelievable material wealth.

Senegalese culture is an especially warm, kind, and respectful culture for those who experience it from the inside (for a sense of the warmth and diversity of the music, see herehere, and here). Casual tourists are harassed by beggars and street vendors, so if one does not have personal relationships with individual Senegalese one might not experience the real Senegal. But for those who have the opportunity to develop real relationships here, one can feel a culture that is relatively free from anger, hatred, ego, and vanity. There are, of course, good people and bad people everywhere. But the social norms here are, on balance, more modest than in the U.S. One of the projects I am working on here is the SEEDS Academy, a basketball academy founded by Amadou Gallo Fall, the VP for International Relations for the Dallas Mavericks. Although the Senegalese tend to be very tall and exceptionally athletic, one of the concerns at the academy is to train the players to be aggressive rather than respectful so that they can compete in the NCAA and NBA. To take a different kind of example, in watching a video of a Senegalese concert, most of which was the singing of religious songs, the young people at the concert were as enthusiastic as any American concert crowd. But when a Congolese band came on that, instead of religious songs, sang songs with sexually explicit lyrics and quasi-pornographic dancing, the Senegalese young people became suddenly quiet and visibly embarrassed, en masse. This was a spontaneous response and it was not a behavior that one would see in the U.S., where highly sexualized performances at rock concerts are well received.

So the problem that I am currently working on is how to help a country become wealthy while preserving, as much as possible, its cultural integrity. On the wealthy side, the good news is that Senegal is ready to take off and join the world economy as soon as Americans are ready to invest in and purchase from Senegal. I may be exaggerating slightly by putting the burden largely on Americans, but many Senegalese are frustrated with having France as their primary trading partner, because of the various ways in which they EU economy is formally closed and, even more so, because of the ways in which the Europeans are not as culturally adventurous, open, and welcoming as are the Americans. Plus, relative to the French, the Americans have money and spend it. The Senegalese want to do business with Americans.

Unfortunately, many Americans are burdened with an enormous set of prejudices regarding Africa. Our image of Africa is that it is a land of poverty, violence, corruption, and disease. While there are many Americans who are eager to pity Africa and send money, fewer Americans are ready to recognize Africa as a legitimate place to vacation, do business, and build friendships. And with leaders such as Robert Mugabe in place and the Congo civil wars periodically re-erupting, unfortunately many of the negative perceptions of Africa have a basis in reality.

But most of those generalizations do not apply to Senegal. Senegal has been a stable, functioning democracy since independence. Although one should take malaria pills here, especially in the rainy season, there are no unusual health risks here; even the AIDS rate in Senegal is comparable to that in the U.S. The climate along the gorgeous coast is more moderate than is that of Texas; typical Dakar daytime temperatures range from cool and breezy 70s in the dry season to the high 80s in the brief rainy season.

After forty years of socialism, President Wade of Senegal has, since his election in 2000, put in place a thoroughly pro-market agenda: he has created a one-stop shop business registration service that makes opening up a business in Senegal straightforward for both foreigners and natives, and he has an entire office devoted to setting up industrial parks and free zones, with a determination to attract American investment in the free zones. Senegal has secure property rights and a strong tradition of rule of law and contract enforcement; thus businesses that invest here need not worry about many of the legitimate fears that prevent them from investing in many developing world nations. Only seven hours away via a direct flight from NYC, D.C. and Atlanta, Senegal is, in effect, open for business.

Poverty is the worst problem facing Senegal, and it is clearly the legacy of forty years of socialism. When Senegal achieved independence in 1960, it had one of the strongest manufacturing sectors of any African nation. Leopold Senghor, the first leader of independent Senegal, was educated by French socialists and therefore believed that government control of the economy was superior to capitalistic competition. Until 1986, a hundred and sixty-one different manufactured items essentially had government-granted monopolies due to the misguided belief that competition was harmful to economic progress. The impact was exactly the reverse; sixteen years of government-enforced monopolies resulted in a shrunken manufacturing sector with poor quality standards that prevented Senegalese industry from competing in the global market. A series of reforms starting in 1986 began to open up the economy, but just as the transition economies of eastern Europe struggled when initially faced with global competition, so too did Senegal's economy. Moreover, the combination of ongoing socialism with more open trade resulted in the collapse of the Senegalese manufacturing sector.

The dominant cultural and religious force in Senegal is Sufi Muslim, with more than 95% of Senegalese being followers. Among the Sufi brotherhoods, the most powerful one is the Mourides, founded by Cheikh Amadou Bamba, a charismatic mystic who is beloved for resisting the French colonial powers in the late 19th and early 20th century. Bamba preached a principled non-violence, decades before Ghandi, and hard work as the path to holiness, and one of his first disciples was a highly successful entrepreneur who added entrepreneurship as one of the paths through which work became holy. As a consequence, the Mourides diaspora around the world tend to be successful entrepreneurs wherever they go. Moreover, because Mouridism is ethical first and foremost, Bamba, in his own way, launched the first generation of Conscious Capitalists(R). Thus in a world in which a common prejudice towards Muslims is the belief that they are terrorists, and a common prejudice towards Africans is that they are lazy, passive, and unethical the Mourides are globally distinguished for being especially peaceful Muslims and especially hard working, ethical, entrepreneurial Africans. I don't want to exaggerate; decades of dependence on NGOs and government have undermined the work ethic in Senegal. But if Wade is able to complete his project of releasing his people from decades of socialism, the future looks bright for Senegal.

Unlike many African leaders, Wade is moving in the right direction. But always and everywhere, economic freedom only results in economic growth if entrepreneurs build successful companies, and African entrepreneurs can only build successful companies if they receive investment capital and if consumers purchase their products and services. But if Senegal's beautiful beaches are over-run by the drunken spring break party crowd from the U.S., and if all of the investment comes from the most short-sighted and calloused businessmen from France, the U.S., China, and the Arab world, Senegal may become wealthier but a land destroyed by drunkenness, corruption, pollution, and prostitution. But if the best and most caring people come to Senegal as tourists and investors, and learn to love and respect the music, the people, and the culture, then perhaps Senegal can develop as the first wealthy nation in black sub-Saharan Africa while also providing a model of how to modernize in a culturally respectful manner.

Peace,

Michael Strong  CEO & Chief Visionary Officer FLOW

P.S.: Be the Solution!