I was recently invited to Côte d’Ivoire to speak at a forum that consisted of representatives from different government institutions, great business men, upcoming entrepreneurs and University students. This visit came at a time when I was expected to go to America and speak to several students but I declined. East or West, home is best! I made the decision to go and inspire budding entrepreneurs who we were once like me when I was young.
It did not occur to me that this trip would take a turn for the better and include key Ministerial meetings and a Presidential meeting. I was very much overwhelmed by the generosity and warmth of the Ivorian people and more so those that I met. It was almost unbelievable that just the other day the same people were fighting each other; it’s as though someone hired other people to come and fight.
Côte d’Ivoire is a rich land full or resources and opportunities but it’s very sad that these resources do not enrich the lives of the local people.
While in Abidjan, I went around and saw some of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in Africa and I am seriously looking into purchasing some small piece of land to build a nice holiday home. The place is so ripe for agriculture but unfortunately a good portion of the population lives in poverty. As I interacted with the people I realized that many of them are indeed educated but they lack the inspiration to move forward and better their lives.
Friends, education alone is of no value if you do not use it to empower yourself. We need to stop being slaves of politics, corruption and underdevelopment. We all belong to Africa and we should not continue punishing each other because of politics. I believe this is the most devastating thing for the youth in Africa. You must believe in developing the nation, in peace and in opening your eyes. No one can do it for you; smell the resources you have, see how you can add value. Why should others who do not grow the produce you have, benefit much more from it than you do?
As a young person, you can be anything you want to be and that is the story of my life and of many others; from rags to ‘riches’. You are not the first to live in poverty but you must make a choice and refuse to live in poverty for the rest of your life. This is the mind set the young people of Africa need to adopt. Your parents struggled to bring you up, some may have even abandoned you but that is not a prerequisite for your future unless you allow it. It is not where you are coming from that matters, but where you are going. I really envy the times young people live in right now because there are so many opportunities as compared to when I was growing up. The question is, what are you going to do about the situation you are in right now? Are you going to keep wasting your time, are you going to work hard, are you going to have a vision in your mind on what you are going to do or are you just going to sit and watch life pass you by?
It is rather unfortunate that the country does not have a Ministry of Youth that specifically deals with youth issues and development. However, I made sure that I spoke to some of their leaders about the importance of creating one that consists of young energetic people who will push the youth agenda in government and not old clowns who will do nothing but grow their own bellies.
The youth in Africa need to be supported, they need programmes that can assist them to access credit or funds needed to assist them develop their businesses and better their lives. As a matter of fact, banks and all other financial institutions should be given a directive to ensure that they have a number of products and services that drive the youth agenda. Incubators need to be created across all universities; measures need to be taken to stiffen Intellectual Property Laws so that ideas are not stolen because this is one major problem we have in Africa.
Government, politicians, corporate institutions and great business men out there, please give young people a chance, you will be surprised at how much you can learn from them. I make sure that majority of those working for me are young and have the ability to grow themselves and better their lives. If we do this, we will empower them and eventually deal with the menace of youth unemployment in Africa.
Governments across the board must believe in the youth but young people on the other hand should also work together and combine their wealth and gain more. Africa was not born poor and designed by God to be poor; we are poor by choice. Stop sleeping on your talent, wake up and ask yourself what you as an individual are doing to change this.
Don’t waste your energy on drinking, entertainment and even chasing ladies (they are an expensive affair) and ladies, don’t focus too much on men, they are a big distraction. If you truly want to live the life then work hard, get the money and find the balance.
People of Africa, do not glorify foreigners and give them everything, partner with them and if they are not interested let them go. You cannot be an observer in your own country and economy. Contribute to it, even with the little you may have; it may not be much but it’s a start.
As I spoke to the people of Côte d’Ivoire, it was sad to note that majority only speak and understand French. Now I know that English may not be the most popular language since the Chinese are way ahead, but it is the common business language. The economy and business itself is not French speaking…what do I mean? You cannot want to develop and progress yet you limit yourself to one language. You must open your mind to the world of business and learn a little English because business nowadays is across borders. Even the Chinese are speaking a little English. I believe in a country such as this, English should be made mandatory in schools and I hope it will be.
The rest of the world has woken up and as a people; you definitely do not want to be left behind. Don’t kill the common language. Change your mindset and move along with the world.
It is my hope that I recruited many young upcoming entrepreneurs to think business and think, business across borders. I will definitely be going back to speak and advise entrepreneurs on how to do business and gain success in Africa and to tour more of the country. I am grateful to my friends who invited me and honored to have met the Minister of State, Hamed Bakayoko, key persons in Government and President Ouattara who called me while I was being driven in a Ferrari; but that is a story for another day.
For now, let us help each other grow and transform the continent of Africa. Only we can help ourselves.
With that said, I leave you to see some of the pictures I took of the beautiful city of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. Au revoir mes amis!