Why it’s too hard to start a business in Africa — and how to change it | Magatte Wade

Why it’s too hard to start a business in Africa — and how to change it | Magatte Wade


Today, what I want to share with you
is something that happened to me, actually, around four
weeks ago, it happened. Words were said to me that I never thought
I would ever hear it said to my face by another human being. And those words, they shattered my heart. And at the same time,
they filled it with so much hope. And the whole experience
renewed my commitment to the idea that I came
to share with you today. You see, I tell everyone
that I am a haunted person. What haunts me is the impossible stories, story after story after story after story of young people, my people, people like me dying out there on the ocean, right now,
laying at the bottom of the ocean, serving as fish food. Do you really think
that’s the best we can do? To serve as fish food? And for those of them
who are trying to migrate to Europe — because that’s what it is all about, they are trying to migrate
to Europe to find a job. Going through Libya. Do you know what happens to us
when we’re trying to cross through Libya and we’re trapped over there? Well, we’re being sold as slaves. For 300 dollars,
maybe sometimes 500 dollars. Sometimes I hear stories
of bodies that fall off an airplane. Somebody hid in
the landing gear of a plane or in the cargo section of a plane, and then you find them frozen to death. Wouldn’t you be haunted if, like me,
from the moment you were a little girl, you hear these stories
and they keep repeating themselves, over and over and over? Wouldn’t you be haunted? That’s my case. And at the same time, you know,
as my people are dying, my culture is also dying. There, I said it. Because, you know,
we have this culture inferiority, which means that anything
that comes from us is not good enough. But you know, in my situation, and because I was raised to criticize
by creating, it’s Michelangelos. My father said, “Do not
come to me with problems unless you thought
of a couple alternatives. They don’t have to be right, but I just want to know
that you thought of something.” So, I have this attitude in life —
something is wrong, find a way to fix it. And that’s why I start
the businesses that I start, that’s usually consumer brands, that have embedded in them
the very best of my African culture. And what I do is it’s all packaged,
21st century, world-class tendered, and I bring that to one of the most
sophisticated markets in the world, which is the US. First company was a beverage company, second one is a skin care company,
third one is launching next month, and they all have that in common. So, why are these people leaving? They’re leaving because they have no jobs. They’re leaving because
where they are, there’s no jobs. So … But poverty, that’s really striking them,
is the root cause of why they’re leaving. Now, why are people poor? People are poor
because they have no money. You have no money
because you have no source of income. And for most of us,
what is a source of income? For most of us, what is our
source of income, what is it, tell me? Jobs, thank you. Where do jobs come from? Come from where? Businesses, thank you. Now, if jobs is what fixes poverty, and jobs come from businesses, don’t you think — especially, they come from small
and medium size enterprises, SMEs — then don’t you think, maybe for a second, that we should focus on making it easy
for a small-business person to start and run their business? Don’t you think that it makes sense? Why is it that when I look
at the Doing Business index ranking of the World Bank, that ranks every country in the world in terms of how easy or hard
it is to start a company, you tell me why African countries, all 50 of them, are basically at the bottom of that list? That’s why we’re poor. We’re poor because
it is literally impossible to do businesses
in these countries of ours. But I’m going to tell you exactly
what it means on the ground for someone like me. I have a manufacturing
facility in Senegal. Did you know that for all my raw material
that I can’t find in the country, I have to pay a 45 percent tariff
on everything that comes in? Forty-five percent tariff. Do you know that,
even to look for fine cardboard to ship my finished products to the US, I can’t find new, finished cardboard? Impossible. Because the distributors
are not going to come here to start their business, because it makes no sense, either. So right now, I have to mobilize
3000 dollars’ worth of cardboard in my warehouse,
so that I can have cardboard, and they won’t arrive
for another five weeks. The fact that we are stifled
with the most nonsensical laws out there. That’s why we can’t run businesses. It’s like swimming through molasses. So, what can you do about that? I told you today that someone
said to me words that marked me, because I explained the same thing
to my employees in Senegal. And one of them started crying —
her name is Yahara. She started crying. I said, “Why are you crying?” She said, “I’m crying
because I had come to believe — always seeing us
represented as poor people — I had come to believe that maybe,
yes, maybe we are inferior. Because, otherwise, how do you explain that we’re always
in the begging situation?” That’s what broke my heart. But at the same time that she said that, because of how I explained
just what I explained to you, she said, “But now, I know
that I am not the problem. It is my environment in which I live,
that’s my problem.” I said, “Yes.” And that’s what gave me hope — that once people get it,
they now change their outlook on life. Here, what are some
of our solutions, then? If jobs is a solution, don’t you think, then,
that we should be simplifying the business environment
of all of these countries? Don’t you think? And along with you, I would like for all of your friends
from the other 50 countries that are on the bottom of that list
to do the same thing. You do that, we do the rest of the job. I’m doing my part of the game,
what are you doing? (Applause) What are you doing? (Applause) What are you doing? (Applause) And as for you,
everybody here in this room, I leave you with two marching orders. Get in the game, and the way you get in it
is educate yourself, build awareness around yourself, and then also advocate
for e-government solutions. He said, “Oh, corruption,
how do we fight corruption?” Well, as a matter of fact,
I’m here to tell you that yes, you can do it
by the stroke of a pen. You do not need anyone to tell you
when and how to do that. It is one thing, actually, that you don’t need to wait
for anyone to do, so do it. Otherwise, don’t come and tell me
that you want to fix corruption. You and your other 50 friends
from the other 50 countries that are at the bottom of that list. That’s how you fight corruption. If you were only charging me 5 percent
to get my stuff in the country, my raw material, instead of the 45 percent, do you really think
that I would have to go a pay a bribe? That’s what breeds corruption. Bad laws, sets of horrible, nonsense laws. (Applause) (Cheers) Right? (Applause) You want to fight corruption? That’s what you do. And again, remember,
you don’t need to wait for anyone. You can do that by yourself. Unless you’re telling me
that maybe you have no sovereignty, and that’s a whole other problem. OK, so, from here on,
I have simple words for our “leaders.” This can go two ways. It can go the nasty way, because we have hundreds
of millions of young people coming to life right now, here, and if they don’t have an outlook in life, they are going to go for a revolution. They’re going to go for violence. And none of us wants that. None, none of us. That’s the one way it can go. Or the second way it can go is, all this happens peacefully, productively,
and everything is good, and you do what you need to do,
you get out of my way, you let people like me do our job,
we create all these jobs we need, and then Africa becomes
this very prosperous country that it’s designed to be,
it should have been for a long time. It happens like that, everybody’s happy,
we move on with our lives. It can happen in two ways — pick violence or you pick
the calm, productive way. I want the calm, productive way. None of us should ever,
ever even try to think about what else could happen
if we don’t go there. So, please. And the time has come. This type of picture — prosperity,
happiness, human flourishing — that’s what I see if we do our job. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheering) Thank you. (Applause)

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