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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About the Author: Oren Garnes

100 Comments

  1. Welcome to the world of business. Perhaps you should focus on local jobs and banks first instead of whyining about what a victim you are.

  2. The best step Africa can take is to abandon African culture in favour of modern culture. No one would think it was a good idea for medieval Europeans to have held on to their primitive culture and not advance, why is it acceptable to tell Africans to hold on to their primitive cultures, let alone hearing it from Africans themselves?

  3. To change laws vote in a democracy. Petition in other types of governments. Duterte took care of corruption in the Philippines. Most westerners don't realize how much tied into bribery/corruption and drug money from was involved with political over there. One senetor bought off the western press making Duterte look real bad. It wasn't true according to my Filipina wife. Now her relatives feel safe walking down the street. Plus thanks to Duterte divorce is now legal in the Philippines as of January 2018.
    i wish you good luck in your fight against corruption. it won't be easy. corruption fights dirty with very unfair tactics with misinformation such as with the mother whose kid was killed by the Philippine police it wasn't mentioned in western media but the kid was armed and on meth. So the kid shot first. And came to a tragic end. A corrupt Philippine senetor who was wracking up 3,000,000 Philippine pesos a month in bribes for get out of prison pardon from the corrupt senetor was paid by Chinese Drug Lords paid off the international media to smear Duterte back in the the first few months of his presidency. He was elected to fight against corruption. And he did. The Philippines is no longer the recreational drug haven it used to be. Just say No to meth. lt causes serious neurological damage.
    Peace and understanding go only so far. Good luck in fighting the bad laws. look who benefits from the bad laws and follow the trail of money. it stinks like greed. Stay safe.

  4. You need to import cardboard??????? WTF….

    Why not source it locally. If not, practise what you preach and create a cardboard buiseness. Create more jobs. Which is obviously what Africa needs based on your speech or should I say rant………….

    I would imagine tariffs isn't there due to corruption but is their to encourage local economy. (whether it effective is another topic)

  5. I understand she is getting emotional with the topic as is something attached to her. However, no need to be yelling, though. You can still deliver your message being firm and controlling your tone.
    Maybe need to practice speech delivering….

  6. you don’t have any guide that libyans sell slaves
    why you are lying to people like that ?
    The libyan likes the africans people
    Now i can’t believe any thing for you !!

  7. Use the resources available. If there is something that’s too difficult or expensive to import then that’s a gap in the market for someone to fill. There should be a natural evolution of competitiveness that arises as societies grow, but the African people have generally never managed to coordinate between themselves & organize economic systems in which businesses can flourish. They’ve got the population growth part down no problem, lol.
    But seriously, if 55 nations can’t between them figure out how to run a society properly, it’s time to stop blaming the rest of the world & start considering that perhaps the problem lies within.

  8. She seems plausable about the cause of poverty in africa. But all i could think is :

    Why do i have this idea of black people screaming and gesticulating in a so specifc tone and way when they are angry ?

    I think its just an atribution i made between they and the rebel-behaviour of opressed people. I've meet a lot of angry persons all my life, and i related their angry to what their are, but not as a hole : Its a conection to an not-general trait, like they're clothes.
    Its like the specifc angry on the speach of some lgbt people.

    But still, looks like we have a fingerprint-way-of-speak for each human race, instead of just a social-way-of-speak.

    I dont know, im bored.

  9. My god stop yelling and being mad. You are speaking sense but you are annoying to listen to if you scream all the time, and people will be turned off a message that sounds antagonizing.

  10. for those who comment about her loud voice instead of the heart shattering topic she discussed : i just want you to see the difference between a first world problem and a third world problem 🙁

  11. I would advise you to listen to what she has to say instead of focusing on her ways of communication. She doesn't come from first world countries that have proper resources and information on public speaking.

  12. People keep missing the point. The problem is that those tariffs do not work as expected. They were designed for societies that are vastly different from ours with a different set of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges; Little was done to adapt them to our own environment.
    TLDR: Something that works in France may not work in Japan and or Dubai etc.

    For instance: I wanted to build a music studio here in Kenya. I would create work and wealth for myself, my living standards would improve and as the business grows, I would hire producers, singers and engineers, who would in turn earn a living and enjoy improved living standards and also go on to start their own businesses and the effect cascades.
    Unfortunately, the cost of acquiring equipment is literally double that of developed countries like the US, Canada, Germany thanks to tariffs. So how am I to compete effectively with my peers in UAE if they have access to necessary gear and I do not? I'm probably poorer than they are; doubling the cost of acquiring gear will not improve my situation.
    I hear you; tariffs are meant to protect local businesses from excessive competition from established foreign businesses. And tariffs should encourage us to start our own equipment manufacturing company. True.
    But do you honestly think that it worked? I started no such company because it is prohibitively expensive. Even if I wanted to start such a business I would still need to import at least some components which also end up costing double because of…tariffs. And the effect cascades.
    So where did I end up 4 years later? I have no business and no job. I have created no jobs and we are all poor with low living standards, but hey…at least the government can make a fortune off of tariffs on equipment…that no one buys…
    and protect businesses…that were never started…
    because we are poor with low standards of living…
    because we have no jobs and no businesses…
    because there are barriers to starting businesses…
    because the government wants to earn from tariffs while protecting local businesses that were never started because we are unable to afford the necessary equipment and raw materials…
    because we are all poor with low standards of living…
    because we have no jobs and no businesses…
    because there are barriers to starting businesses…
    because the government wants to earn from tariffs while protecting local businesses that were never started because we are unable to acquire necessary equipment and raw materials…
    because we are all poor with low standards of living…
    because we have no jobs and no businesses…

  13. It's hard to start anything New anywhere.

    Not necessarily in Africa. But anywhere in the world.

    Africa is undergoing political revolution. Corruption rejuvenation and neo-colonial tiedown.

    Fighting corruption starts with you…

  14. but why do you have to import card board? is the tariffs from other African countries so high? your leaders need to promote cluster businesses

  15. i'm actually shocked that they sell black people as slaves in libya ….
    how in the world a freacking muslim contry cando it ?? we learn from our yongeste ages that there is not defirence between a black and a white men in islam ….

  16. Those poor helpless POC need our help. Without us they can't even make a job, we need to take care of them, it's our duty as the western world.

  17. This isn't a talk, it's a rant about Africans attempting to migrate to the United States. Not our problem that African citizens cannot establish a sustainable government and lifestyle. Go rant and migrate somewhere else.

  18. she could have presented it much better than she did.. ( not yelling) just calmly and directly with passion of the facts.

  19. I think she believes that all African countries have the same problem. I have lived in four different countries and it's true that doing business in Senegal is almost impossible. But it's not the case in East Africa. I currently live in Kenya and it's relatively easy to open a business here.

  20. Great talk.
    Politicians may be corrupt but they are not stupid. I believe this taxation is for a reason, and is one of the faces of neocolonialism.

  21. It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting. (Paulo Cualho)
    Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. (Robert F. Kennedy)
    The world has the habit of making room for the man whose words and actions show that he knows where he is going.
    Your life is in your hands, to make of it what you choose.
    Circumstance does not maket he man; ıt reveals him to himself.
    Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands but not you.
    Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.
    The colonial states will suffer the consequences of cruelty, massacres and unscrupulous acts to date.

    "And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as accountant. (The Noble Qur'an. Surah Al-Anbya. Verse:47)"

    Prophet Muhammad’s Last Sermon: A Fınal Admonıtıon:
    “All mankind is from Adam and Eve.  An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVY8pwx9B74

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omh4oG8T_Fw

  22. We are not born experts, but
    we can be experts in anything that we love, and as long as someone achieved
    what we are aspiring, then we can!

  23. This is bullshit the reason why most africa is poor is bc they will rather take a black person that didnt even finish highs school then a white person that worked for hes title we are poor bc there is nothing but racism in the african countrys not the whites but the black then always remembers the past and still want revenge.

  24. I would suggest you and everyone else around the world to fight leftism /socialism. Because They are the biggest obstacle against poverty, destruction and misery. And of course promote capitalism, its ideas and principals as wel as small goverment.

  25. Bless you Magatte Wade. I prayed to the Virgin of Guadalupe for Africa. Your people deserve change, and I believe it is a long time coming.

  26. Her manner for listeners in her speeching is terrible. She fingers at people, she yells at people, she complains people about what she doesn’t like about.
    I have never seen unpleasant speech like this in Ted.
    It wows me ;0

  27. Couldn't finish this thing but John Stossel did a story 10 or more years ago contrasting starting a business in Africa versus starting a business in Singapore or Hong Kong, I don't remember which one. His point was both were similarly impoverished after World War II and one is a jewel and the other is, well…

  28. I understand how she feels after being exposed by this truth. Africa has been divided up by every belief religion culture and tradition from all over this world, so its not even possible for the people to find themselves. [she was 1 of the lucky ones] Africans can only conform to the very world that wants to have influence on them or some sore of control over the resources. but what speaks volume to her concerns is this, she found evident of sabotage, though the banking practice set in place all over the world that affect people of color all over the world as a whole.

  29. Now that Britain is about to leave Europe you could ask them to recolonise the continent as they ran things far better when they were in charge. Rhodesia was a rich country where there was no shortage of work, now it is a poor country with no work. Ask them to come back and be better to them this time.

  30. I was really focused to listen.The way she keep shouting make her look she is not right smt.The way you trying to give message to others as important as the message itself.
    Had to stop listening unfortunately.

  31. she is mostly right but poverty is universal issue, not just an African issue. A lot of so called developing countries have huge poverty issues. the USA has around 20 million people living on the streets yet that are labeled the richest country in the world.

  32. FOR ALL THOSE TURNED OFF BY YELLING: Imagine if your child froze to death in the landing gear of a plane trying to illegally travel to another country to find work to feed his family. That horrible fate, along with drowning at sea trying to find the same is happening to people close to her (you know the story already) and the yelling is a reflection of the pain. Imagine losing your child that way, their frozen body sliding out unceremoniously from a set of wheels being mangled as it falls, finally slamming into some unforgiving dirt or something. That will hurt and anger you when that fate is the result of something preventable. That's what she's thinking about when she is speaking with so much passion. Also keep in mind people attending TED talks are usually monied, and monied people have the ears of lawmakers.

    I hope you will listen to find out why lawmakers are so integral in her story.

  33. Yet there are successful businesses in Africa…
    I feel like successful people like you should be the ones to solve the issue…if for example its too costly to import ply wood, why not start a ply wood production unit after wood is not lacking in africa…simply expand ur tasks. I know it doesn't come cheap in the short run but it will eventually pay big n solve the issue as well…

  34. Instead of dying en-route to Europe, why not try to fix the problem in your own country? By "leaving the mess behind" you are just letting the mess get bigger and perpetuating the problem.

  35. Timestamp ~6:12. Yes, muting the rant and using closed-captions made it possible to process her message. If tariffs are lowered, then corruption (bribes) becomes unnecessary. ?!

  36. Businesses need investment to get started… small and large. Laws need to be made and enforced to protect and encourage investment. Corruption is a huge problem, that needs to be addressed.

  37. Good intentions, but I feel bad for her she sounds on the verge of tears the whole time and it is painful to watch. It felt a bit uncoordinated but I see something special in her and her speech.

  38. I dont think one comment can change mindset of sheepy people here but I will try..
    You are poor because you are trying to reach "Western world". But is "western world" really rich? In Europe, well you can find job, have money, career. But yet it doesnt make you happy. You have money to buy food, clothes, home.. yet you are not happy. You have money for travelling, cars, phones, yet you are not happy. If you tell me you have everything and satisfied with that, you are lying to yourself. You are just feeding your ego. But you will never be trully happy.

    And here comes question for Africa. Why are you trying to reach Europe etc? We already found that money doesnt make you happy. We are demolishing our countryside, our minds for vision of easy money… Dont be as stupid and blind as we are. Dont listen to shittalk government and system is trying to say. That you need to be rich to be happy. Actually you will never be happy if you are searching for happiness external world. (This is for everyone)

    // I am 24. And the more money I earn the more I realize it's not what is life about. For me it's easy to earn money. If you are not so "lucky" it doesnt matter. You can find true happiness without it.. Just dont be sheep guys.. Thanks for attention

  39. This has nothing to do with outside intervention, and everything to do with internal incompetence. Most African government structures are flawed and inefficient, and the culture promotes laziness, unaccountability, and selfishness. That needs to be changed first. This should be a TED talk directed at African citizens and government, they are the only ones who can fix the current situation.

  40. My grandmother would say give a man a fish and you feed him for a day but teach him to fish and you feed him for life. It is just easy for people to give fish because it it's easier and doesn't require much effort on our part. We have been giving aid to Africa since I was a child and it has not help. However look at China who went through famine and look at them now after they embraced capitalism. It is not a perfect system but it is better than the rest.

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