you have to have the free markets
in order to build prosperity.
And prosperity means economic power.
If you have economic power, no one messes with you.
Or if they’re gonna do it, they’re gonna have to think twice
and when they do, they’re gonna have to pay consequences.
The following is a conversation with Magat Wade,
an entrepreneur who’s passionate
about creating positive change in Africa
through economic empowerment.
This is the Lex Friedman Podcast.
To support it, please check out our sponsors
in the description.
And now, dear friends, here’s Magat Wade.
You were born in Senegal.
You have lived and traveled across the world.
So let me ask you, what is the soul of Senegal?
Like, its people, its culture, its history.
Can you try to sneak up on telling us
what is the spirit of its people?
Taranga, it’s a Wolof word.
Wolof is the main indigenous language of Senegal
and it means hospitality.
That is what us, the people of Senegal, are known for.
And it transpires in everything that we do,
everything that we say.
It’s a place where, I guess with hospitality,
goes this concept of warmth.
So we are a very warm people.
So in a nutshell, that’s us.
That’s us, the place where you come
and everybody will just embrace you,
make you feel very comfortable,
make you feel like you’re the only person in the world
and that we’ve been waiting for you our whole life, right?
So that’s my country.
So that’s for people in Senegal, people in Africa,
or also people across the world,
weird strangers from all walks of life.
So hospitality towards everyone.
For everyone, for everyone.
Especially towards the foreigner
because it’s very ingrained in us,
this understanding that especially the foreigner,
the foreigner is called foreigner
because the foreigner is coming from somewhere else.
So if someone has taken the time and the energy,
whether in a forced manner or because it’s a choice
to travel so far to come to a place that’s not theirs,
to start where that’s where the foreigners again,
then it is your duty to welcome them,
to be uber welcoming to them.
So there’s not a fear of the foreigner.
There’s not a suspicion of the foreigner.
No, no, no.
And I think this goes with the other way around.
Maybe it has to do with just,
you know, when you feel good about yourself,
when you’re very grounded yourself,
it’s very easy to open yourself to others.
And I’m wondering if that’s not, you know,
the other side of the equation in a way.
So no, we don’t have a fear towards a foreigner.
That’s just no.
When you have a pride of your culture,
pride of your own people, it’s easier to sort of embrace.
I mean, it’s interesting how these kind of cultures emerge
because, you know, the Slavic countries
are sometimes colder.
They’re slower to trust others.
We’re now here in Austin, Texas.
One of the reasons I fell in love with this place
when I showed up is there’s that same hospitality
as compared to other cities I’ve lived in,
sort of Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco.
There’s a hesitation to open up, to be fragile,
to be caring before understanding
what I can gain from you kind of calculation.
It’s really interesting.
And I wonder how those kinds of dynamics emerge
because they’re certainly parts of the world.
Like Austin is one of them
where you just feel the kindness,
just radiate without knowing kindness from strangers.
You know, if I were to advance one thing,
and I had the same experience
after having lived in San Francisco first,
then we went to New York, then we came to Austin.
And when we came to Austin, I felt,
it took me a while to put my finger on it,
but what I found in Austin, people just hang.
And like what you were saying, I feel like
in these other places, people are,
it’s a destination for people who want to come and perform.
I think maybe the early San Francisco people,
it was different for them.
But later as prosperity starts to come in
and success comes in, then you attract a different breed.
At first, we’re the people who made it,
who made this place be what it is.
And then it attracts all the bling followers
and the bling attracted people.
And when those people show up,
it’s time for all of us to get out.
And that’s one of my worries about Austin too.
And I guess I’m one of, I count myself in it,
but you know, because we’re also new arrivees,
always been furious now.
But how are we gonna protect this place?
Yeah, these are, you know, the best possible version
of the Austin history.
This is the early days of Silicon Valley in Austin.
And so you get a chance to build
on top of this culture that’s already been here
of the weirdos, the artists, the sort of the characters,
but also the general kindness and love
that just permeates the whole place,
build on top of that entrepreneurial spirit.
So like the tech companies, new startups,
all that kind of stuff.
And then you get a chance to build totally new ideas,
totally revolutionary ideas and make them a reality
and dream big and build it here.
I think Elon represents that with all the people
that kind of try to do the cutting edge stuff
they’re doing at Tesla and SpaceX.
But there’s a bunch of other companies,
they’re just like coming up.
I get to talk to a bunch of tech people
and they’re just incredible.
Versus San Francisco, there’s a cynicism a bit.
And also some of the interaction with strangers,
there’s always a bit of a calculation,
like how good is this going to be for my career?
Or how can, yeah.
How can hanging out with this person can advance me?
You go to a party, they’re seizing up.
It’s like, I’m not gonna talk to so and so
because that’s not gonna advance me.
Who’s gonna advance me next?
And so this is what I would not wanna see here in Austin.
And I think maybe there’s one way to try to,
I really would like to see Austin
not go the way San Francisco did
and other towns before.
I like how you pronounce San Francisco with a French accent.
Yeah, that’s great.
That’s the one word you go with a French accent.
You have to.
It sounds beautiful.
But you know, so now that you find that cute,
you’re gonna have to forgive me when I mess up my English
because English is not my first language.
So I always try to make sure people know that.
But you know Lex, this is why I am very interested
in what some folks here are working on.
And I’m just gonna be very selfish here
because I wanna help her with what she’s doing.
It’s someone like, you know, Nicole Nodzak and her project,
you know, with the housing project that they have right now,
making sure that Austin remains a town
that’s affordable for people of all walks of lives.
If we can accomplish making sure that all walks of lives,
doesn’t matter how little or big you’re making money wise,
that you can stay in this town
so the diversity at that level can remain,
then I think Austin stands a chance to really show the world
how to do things differently.
And what I love about, you know, her initiative
is just how they’re really trying, you know,
to again work on keeping affordability down for most people.
I think it’s important to,
because it seems like it matters to you,
I know that it matters to me.
I absolutely would not wanna see Austin go away
that San Francisco did.
And I think the key to that is making sure
that true diversity,
not like the fluff, fluff crap diversity we’re hearing over there.
And that’s another thing by the way,
because San Francisco likes to pride itself in,
oh, you know, we are so into diversity,
but I’m like, if diversity for you means gender,
difference of gender, skin color, you know,
maybe the different accents we have,
and you think check, check, check, check, check,
I’m like, it’s not enough.
Can we also add diversity of thoughts?
And that’s the other problem I have with that place,
And I know some folks who are scared of saying much
around people, that’s also another thing.
So not only they’re sizing you up,
but everybody’s also, there is this invisible,
this invisible, how should I say this?
There’s this invisible agreement
that they all seem to have to stay on script.
Yeah, there’s a feeling like you’re following
a certain kind of script that’s very kind of shallow.
And there is a bit of a categorization going on,
which category do you belong to?
And let’s put this into a simple math equation,
what comes out, as opposed to just the free, open embrace
of people, the weirdos, the characters, the interesting,
the full, deep sense of diversity.
Not just ideas, but backgrounds, and rich and poor.
High school dropouts, PhDs, all of this.
Yes, yes, that’s what makes for a rich society
if it’s gonna get ahead.
I’m glad you mentioned Nicole’s efforts,
I know she really is passionate about.
I don’t know how complicated that work is,
because there’s probably a big force trying to increase
how much it costs to live in Austin.
I don’t know how you resist that.
Whenever I go to New York City,
just the fact that there’s a giant park in the middle of it,
I wonder, how did they pull this off?
This is amazing.
It’s like to resist the force of the increasing price
of the land, and still to protect this idea
of having a park.
And then in the same way, protecting the ability
for people from all walks of life to live
in the center of the city, to live around the city,
to chase a dream when they don’t get any money
in their pocket.
I don’t know how you do that.
It’s partly political, probably, regulation,
all that kind of stuff.
A lot of it has to do with regulations.
And this is where her and I also very much see eye to eye
in terms of the free markets and also prosperity building,
because it’s always the same problems most of the time,
Here, what you have is some people in the name of,
we gotta stand for, and I don’t like to use this word,
but maybe you help me find a better one,
but at least that’s a word that people can understand.
We gotta stand for the lesser fortunate among us.
Some people would call them, maybe oftentimes use the word,
maybe the underdogs, whatever it is.
I will just say maybe the lesser fortunate among us, right?
In the name of standing up for them,
you’re promoting policies that are actually gonna backfire
and where they end up being the first ones
to suffer from it.
So let’s take this whole housing issue
that Nicole and her team are working on.
We find that oftentimes the cost at the end of the day,
it’s the good old supply and demand equation.
If you’re gonna make it so hard
that the supply level of housing remains
below a certain threshold,
remains lower than the demand of people who need,
especially affordable housing, housing altogether,
what’s gonna happen is scarcity, prices go up,
and who gets kicked out first?
The lesser fortunate among us.
And so, but I find that oftentimes people
in the name of We Care don’t engage their mind.
And a friend of mine said this, and he said it so well.
He said, having a heart for the poor, that’s easy.
Having a mind for the poor, that’s the challenge.
And oftentimes we all have a heart for the poor.
But when it comes then to, then what do we do
to have a real impact on making sure
that people get a chance at going up,
then that’s where everything starts falling apart.
And then you have people who,
then they start pushing for policies, housing policies,
making it super hard for you to even renovate
or add one more store to your home or anything like that.
By doing that, you’re messing up with the supply,
with the supply of housing.
And therefore the people who can’t afford,
people get priced out of the market.
And so what people like Nicole are doing
are going back to where all of this is taking place
and they’re going back to the regulation side.
And just like, I’m sure we’ll talk about it here,
but people wonder today, why is Africa
the poorest region in the world?
We go back to the same culprit.
Bad laws and tons of senseless regulations.
If you make it so hard that in Berkeley,
for someone to build one more store to their home,
which means maybe one more unit
that could be rented out to someone.
And if many more people do that,
then you have a much bigger supply,
which means the prices will go down,
which means more people have access and among them,
especially the lesser fortunate among us,
then we’re starting to see a winning proposal, aren’t we?
But instead, if you go the other way around,
then all of a sudden you’re pricing them out of the market.
Same thing was done with us.
So oftentimes when I see problems of this nature,
you can betcha that regulations and census laws
are the heart of it.
And that’s what they’re tackling.
It’s not popular, it’s not fun.
And people tend to not even understand
where you’re coming from.
But this is a problem we have
with people not understanding economic econ 101.
Well, so it’s the regulation and the laws
and the system that props them up
and increases the span of those laws.
And we’ll talk about that,
the fascinating way those kinds of things develop
when it works, when it doesn’t.
Let me sort of step back
and ask you a question about Africa.
In the West, in many places in the world,
Africa is almost talked about like it’s one country,
like it’s one place.
So in what ways is Africa one community?
And in what ways is it many, many, many communities?
Just from your perspective from in Senegal and beyond.
So at the most basic of what makes us one
goes back to even what makes you African.
You are African, I’m African.
We’re one big family.
Africa is very much at the end of the day,
the foundation and the birth of the human race.
So from that standpoint, at the most basic level,
we’re all Africans.
Where this whole thing started.
Where this whole thing started
and how at some point humanity was hanging
by its fingernails.
Only 2000 of us were left on this earth.
And eventually we started, we went for survival.
And that’s how we started to spread around
and some going up north, some going this way, that way.
And as you’re traveling to different places
then features start to change to adapt
to where you are, right?
So hair gets lighter for some people,
eyes get different shape for others to adjust
to our new natural habitat.
You know, the genomics program,
I think at the National Geographic did that so well
for people who are interested in going back
to that work with Spencer Wells and such.
But yeah, so at the very basic, most basic level,
that’s what unites us all first of all.
And then I would say that the continent, especially here
I will group it into black Africa, you know, black Africa.
Unfortunately our common stories, you know,
of having gone through this terrible, horrible period
of around the same time the whole continent being,
you know, enslaved and colonized.
So that in a way forms, not that we were ever
the first people or only people ever, you know,
enslaved in this world.
As a matter of fact, I mean, the word slaves comes
from esclav, you know, esclav, slave, slavs, les slavs,
right, from the Eastern block.
So the first slaves were actually people looking
more like you than looking like me, right?
So, but we don’t necessarily remember all of that
because in our human psyche, the closest to us in history
of a big mass of people being enslaved is African people.
We were the last, you know, group like that.
You know, the pain of World War I and World War II
permeates Europe, but it certainly does
for the former Soviet Union, the countries
that made up the former Soviet Union.
Does in the same way, the pain of slavery
and empires using Africa, does that permeate the culture?
Is there still echoes of that?
In a way, yes, especially the fact that, you know,
in many different places, whether it’s Ghana
or my country or Benin, where you have these places
that we call the door of no return or the places
of no return, which this was the last place
where the slaves were standing or, you know,
this is in Senegal, we call it the door of no return.
There is this one door, you’re there in the slave house.
And once they go, they go, that’s it.
That’s gonna be the last time they see back home.
So, you know, those, of course, of course,
it creates for a common lived experience,
which becomes a common lived history.
And of course, it’s gonna tire us up.
Is there a resentment, because you mentioned hospitality,
is there a kind of a resentment of the foreigner
that there’s a rich, vibrant land?
There’s many resources, there’s powerful cultures.
Are they just going to show up and use us?
That’s a way to see geopolitics in this modern world.
This is, okay, so where it plays very differently is,
so if you came to Senegal today,
there is not really a problem at that level.
Where people’s resentment start to come from is,
of course, when bad behavior shows up,
meaning like you have so many white people who can show up
and just in the attitude,
they have an entitlement attitude, right?
And they think that in a way, we’re all still servants.
Some people in your face, some people more,
but that can cause some little resentment,
but where really the resentment is.
And that can, the entitlement can take different forms,
like even pity.
Yes, don’t even get me going on that one.
I was trying to be polite today.
So just don’t, Lex, do not.
You know, sometimes I tell myself,
my God, today you’re going to be all composed.
You know, Lex is all composed.
So don’t go there and make a fool of yourself.
But if you get me on some grounds,
that’s when it’s all going to go to hell.
So yeah, let’s move beyond that too.
So resentment, there’s a dance
between hospitality and resentment.
So when you come in, you’re you, you live your life.
You’re just a normal human being
and you treat me decently
like you would treat a friend, normal people.
I have no problem with you.
I’m not going to come back and be like,
well, you and your ancestors have enslaved me.
You, you’re not going to see that stuff.
Sometimes I’m in this country where I feel like that’s,
you know, it might look like that,
but we in Africa don’t do that.
Now, if you come, you have this nasty attitude.
You think you’re still serving servants around.
Well, you can have a problem with someone like me.
I might even grab you by the back of your neck
and, you know, take you back to the airport.
That’s when you’re lucky.
I’ll be you very quickly.
But where things come up is,
especially nowadays with the African youth,
when we have to be reminded of the World Bank,
when we have to be reminded of even the world,
places like the World Economic Forum,
you know, like all of these places that seem to constitute,
they would, the way they describe them,
when I say they, it’s primarily my Pan African friends.
So here maybe terms are worth describing.
So the Pan African movement goes way back when,
we’re talking about, you know, way back when,
started in the thirties going on all the way from there.
So what you have there is people
who have started coming together
and dreaming up an emancipated Africa
away from the colonies,
because at that point there were still colonies
and dreaming up all of that.
So we’re talking about people like Kwame Kuma of Ghana,
we’re talking about Julius Nyerere of Tanzania,
talking about Blaise Diagne of Senegal
and other people like that, Bandi of Malawi.
So anyway, so, and the African youth of today,
we’re still hanging on to those,
onto some of these ideas of,
and on some of these dreams of a reunited Africa.
So when you were talking about what seems to unite you,
there is that, you know, also,
meaning like we all feel like we’re part of the same family.
Is it only in our heads?
Is it in reality?
Many, for many different reasons,
there is definitely what we call a Pan African movement.
And I very much myself, consider myself one of them.
I don’t agree all the time with our,
where we want to go and how we want to go there,
but not where we want to go.
Where we want to go is we would love to see
a united Africa for sure.
But how to get that accomplished,
that’s where oftentimes we have issues.
So on something like that,
so this Pan African, especially the Pan African youth,
but it’s beyond the Pan African youth,
it’s the youth in general in Africa,
World Bank, UN, all of these organizations
that they tend to qualify as imperialist organizations.
And it’s not always a correct way to describe them,
but I’m sure you get the sentiment.
And from that place, there is tons of resentment
because for the longest time,
these groups, organizations,
and some that preceded them,
have proceeded to actually decide
what even our new frontiers would be.
You see, when you go to a place like Senegal,
Mali, all of that, different countries,
but we were one people,
one group, one kingdom.
And then at some point they decided just,
when you look at Africa,
have you looked at how straight some of these borders are?
You’re like, did a robot just draw these?
No offense to robots.
No offense to robot, especially this one,
he looks so cute.
But you know what I mean?
So they have continued deciding
what it would be to be us,
to live on our land,
and how do we even progress?
And it just keeps on going.
They get to decide how are we gonna,
which type of even economic development path
are we gonna choose or not?
So it’s very, so from that standpoint,
yes, there’s a lot of resentment,
including even from people like me.
Yeah, and it’s interesting that the invader
and the oppressor and the empires
have actually created a force for unity.
I’ve seen that in Ukraine and the invasion of Ukraine,
where it was a pretty divided,
not a pretty, a very divided country with many factions.
But the invasion really forced everyone to think
about the identity of this nation together,
beyond factions, beyond all of that.
It allowed it to look at its history and its future.
Like they all say that all great nations
have had to have a war of independence.
And this is our war to find our own identity.
And so in that sense, Africa as one place,
as one continent had to find multiple times its identity
through the resistance of the oppressor.
Especially subterranean Africa,
especially subterranean Africa, yes.
And there’s an interesting aspect to this
because the president of Senegal is also
the head of the African Union.
So we’ll talk about the fascinating geopolitics
of that whole situation.
But let me ask in general,
you talk about this question, this fascinating question,
what does it take for a country to prosper?
What does it take for a country to prosper?
You see many countries in the world that really struggle
and many that flourish.
And it’s not always obvious why
because some have natural resources, some don’t.
Some have wars, some don’t.
Some have sort of authoritarian regimes, some don’t.
And some have democracies and all that kind of stuff.
So the dynamics aren’t exactly obvious.
Is there commonalities?
Is there fundamental ideas that result
in a prosperity of a nation?
Today, I can confidently say yes,
despite all the differences that you talked about.
And I think then this is where it becomes very important
that we are very clear about the question you asked me.
You said, what does it take to make a country prosperous?
So I’m just gonna stick to prosperity
because prosperity doesn’t necessarily mean,
sometimes it has nothing to do with maybe how
you conduct yourself otherwise, socially speaking, right?
So you can be prosperous.
And still when it comes to your family laws,
all the way you approach the other aspects of your life,
maybe you’re running a very communist lifestyle
or you’re in a very liberal society.
So for me, when we talk about prosperity,
I just want to make sure that we’re clear on that
because some people might say that,
might be somewhere and be like,
well, because I know what I’m gonna talk to you about next.
And some people are gonna sit there and be like,
well, China is not like that.
Or even Dubai is not like that.
No, so what I’m talking about is this thing.
And that’s what I love about this.
If we just stick to the word prosperity.
To me, I see prosperity as this.
It’s like, economically speaking,
what are we gonna be to be a prosperous nation?
Meaning we are a middle to high income nation.
I’m not talking about what are the rights of your women
to vote or can people live like this?
Or I’m not talking about any of that.
Economic, fundamentally economic prosperity.
Because I think that distinction is very important
because over the years,
I’ve seen people push back on all types of things
and it occurred to me
that that’s what the misunderstanding was there.
So if we’re gonna talk about prosperity,
making sure that the country can make money
so that it can take care of its needs
and the needs of its citizens,
then what I have come to find is that at the root of that
is gonna be what we call economic freedom
and what I call the toolkit of the entrepreneur.
In that you can put the rule of law,
you can put the concept of clear
and transferable property rights.
Economic freedom is at all the levels
that which will allow entrepreneurs
and business people to create value
and create value entrepreneurially.
We’re not talking about rent seeking or anything like that.
It’s like you found a pie to be this big
and you make it this big.
So that’s what we’re talking about.
Create value, yes.
So when it comes to that,
we have found that whether you’re looking at two countries
that start out the same,
we’re talking the same people,
East Germany, West Germany,
South Korea, North Korea,
very similar people to start with, right?
But yet radical outcomes.
I know that today Germany is united,
but we’re talking about back in the days
when you had East and Western block.
Same people, very different outcomes.
Like I said, South Korea, North Korea,
and so on and so forth.
And at the same time, very different nations.
Dubai compared to Singapore or to England,
very different yet the same outcome.
So it seems to me like whenever we’re looking at prosperity,
if a nation is prosperous,
regardless of whatever other shenanigan
they might be running,
whatever other operating software
they might be running for anything
that’s not related to business,
if on the business side,
they are proponents of a free markets
or at least a base level of free markets,
we know that such countries will create prosperity.
So what are the aspects of the operating systems
that lead to Singapore and to South Korea
and all that kind of stuff?
So can you speak to different elements
that enable the toolkit for entrepreneurs?
And maybe here,
let me just maybe illustrate it with my own story
and then I can take you back to…
Yeah, what’s your…
Oh my God, tell us your story.
Who are you?
It’s just because it started with me coming here.
You showed me the robot and everything
and now it looks like we know each other for too long.
And then you’re like, tell people.
No, no, no.
But so this is where this question,
even when you asked me,
how do some countries become prosperous?
That question, Lex, I had it when I was seven or so.
That’s when my family moved me to South Korea
to from Senegal for the first time of my life,
I left my country, I left my continent
and I was headed to Europe to go join my people,
my family, my parents who were there as economic migrants.
My parents had migrated for a better life
as so many people have to,
so many people have to coming from poorer places,
coming from low income countries.
You saw the difference?
Between the two places.
How else would you call it?
Here you are in Senegal,
minding your own business,
causing tons of trouble everywhere,
just being a happy free wrench kid that I was.
Yeah, so you were always a troublemaker, not just now.
Life wouldn’t be fun without it.
Yeah, of course, I agree.
So, because even you,
and you’re all put together front,
I know there’s a lot of troublemaking behind you.
Desperately trying to keep it together.
I know you are, but with me,
I’m gonna totally bring it out.
So just, yeah.
So you saw the difference.
Right, I saw the difference.
I’m walking in here, back home,
and I tell people this story
because to me it’s a defining story.
Back home, to take a shower, it takes time.
Grandma has to make the charcoal catch
on a little stove like you use when you go camping.
And then she puts a pot of water on it, it boils.
She takes it, puts it in a bigger bucket,
mixes it with some colder water.
Then we put a little pot in it,
and a stronger member of the family
has to drag it to the shower.
And then there, finally, I can proceed to take my shower.
Here I’m in Germany in the middle of the winter,
and my mom’s like,
my god, time for your shower.
I’m like, I’m not getting naked.
Where is the bottle?
Where is the bucket of hot water?
She’s like, oh, you silly, come on, just jump in.
And I jump in the shower, turn the buttons,
the water is coming down temperature.
I’m like playing with.
It’s like, are you kidding me?
I’ve been cheated out of life my whole life.
So that’s what happened.
And then I’m like, oh, and all of these roads,
they’re paved roads.
And like back home, everything is like sandy,
and my feet are always ash.
I always have to wash off when I go back home,
and your shoes get ruined most of the time.
And it started, and I had this question,
and it was just like, wow, how come they have this?
And we don’t.
So I was not being like, oh, you know,
how come they have all of this money?
I was not, it was just like, how come?
And I think what I was alluding to was,
how come life is so easy here, and back home it’s not?
And easy, not in a negative sense, in a beautiful sense.
Sometimes I get, you know, just having traveled
through the war zone, just to come back,
traveling through Europe, back to America,
it just, I’ll just get emotional just looking
at the efficiency of things, like how easy it is,
how we can, first of all, in Ukraine,
you currently can’t fly, right?
It’s a war zone.
Just even the transportation, you said roads.
Yeah, the quality of roads in the United States is amazing.
Just not, you know, many of the places
that drive in Ukraine, you’re talking about,
I mean, really bad conditions of roads.
And I’m sure in many parts of Africa
and many parts of the world, the roads are even worse.
And outdoor, you know, having an indoor toilet
is a fascinatingly awesome luxury to have.
It is, it is.
And don’t take me wrong, Lex.
Do we have some great roads now in many parts of Africa?
Yes, main arteries, great roads,
you’re like, whoa, this is moving.
Yes, we do.
But definitely more today than in my time growing up.
Do we have, you know, a country like Nigeria
that just birthed six unicorns last year alone?
Do we have the African youth out there
being so amazing and, you know, living their lives?
Yes, we have all of that.
But it is still, unfortunately,
just like we’re scratching the surface.
And those people still are getting all of that accomplished
literally swimming through molasses.
This is some of the most gross,
immoral, unfair waste of human capital.
And so that is the, started with you as a seven year old
asking, wait a minute,
how do amazing people in Europe do this
and the amazing people in Africa don’t?
Yeah, and that’s a key word, amazing.
Because that’s what I realized later
because it was not always like that for me,
amazing and amazing, right?
I knew instinctively that of course we are amazing too.
But so eventually the question became how,
so I went from how come they have this and we don’t
to the country as I’m growing up and researching
because it stayed with me.
When I tell you I’m obsessed, I’m haunted.
I am haunted.
So you can laugh all you want, but it’s,
so the question became, the question became,
how come some countries like the United States,
Singapore are rich and some others like mine
and many others in Africa are poor?
That became the question.
And along the line, like along the road,
I continued on living my life, wondering about this question.
And I’ve heard all types of reasons
as to supposedly why that might be the case.
Some people with a very straight face
are still peddling the IQ fury, according to which,
come on, darling, it’s not your fault.
You know, your skin color goes with a gene sequence
that just doesn’t allow you to be as smart
as white people are.
And it’s not your fault, but just accept it.
That stuff is still out there.
It’s very real.
I and I have to hear it.
And others would say to me, oh, it’s just because,
you know, you guys don’t have adequate level of education.
And I say, you know, maybe you gotta go say that
to most of the street sellers you go see in Senegal.
You go up to any of these,
to many of these street sellers in Senegal,
they are wading through cars and moving cars
under the hot sun, fumes thrown at their face,
trying to sell you anything that you think
you might be able to use.
Whether we’re talking about an ironing board
to an umbrella, to Q tips,
to, you know, toothpicks,
selling you whatever you need from your car,
these are street sellers.
And you ask them, dear, do you have any degree?
Yeah, I have this great degree in math
or in literature or whatever.
Some very, very educated people.
Yet they’re right there, this is what they’re doing.
So that’s just at scale wasted human potential.
So that has to do, the wasted human potential
has to do now with the system,
with something about the laws.
Which is, yeah.
Something about sort of the things that limit
or enable the entrepreneur.
Yes, because at that point I’ve heard this,
you know, I heard people say,
yeah, your IQ is no good.
Yeah, you don’t have enough degrees
or you’re not educated.
Yeah, some people would even say,
it’s because you guys are malnourished,
you’re malnourished, you need to be fed.
Others, oh, well, maybe I’ll give you some shoes
and maybe something is gonna change, whatever.
And then, so I heard all of this nonsense, Lex,
but you guess what, but guess what?
None of them made sense.
You know why it didn’t make sense?
Because if any of that crap was true,
why, oh, why is it that my parents
or any other people from these places,
and oh, and by the way,
some people call those places God forsaken land.
That’s also the type of cred you always have to hear
when it’s not just flat out,
SHIT whole countries from, you know,
one person a few years ago, president of this country.
That sentiment is sometimes there.
It is, it is.
As I go on with my life,
trying to find the answer to why are some countries
like mine poor while others are rich,
I’m hearing all of these reasons thrown at me.
And then they make no sense because then how come then
if my parents move as it is usually anyone else
who moves from a poorer nation
to a nation that supposedly is rich,
all of a sudden they get to manifest the greatest potential.
So I’m starting to think this has nothing to do
with a person per se,
because we’re talking about the same person,
same background, same name, features, everything.
Now I’m starting to think
maybe it doesn’t have to do with a person.
Maybe we’re talking about something that has to do
with a place that they came from
or the place that they’re going to.
So this little thing is starting to be in my mind.
Again, remember, this is not something
that I woke up to overnight.
I’m like, voila, I got my question.
It took me for a long time.
And I had to face off
to have many different ideologies face each other.
I had to really have a reckoning
literally in my heart and in my mind.
And so then that’s what I’m thinking.
It cannot be, no, no, no, it’s the same people.
It has to be about the place.
It has to be about the place, but then what about this place?
But then even about the place, you’re thinking,
again, two countries, different backgrounds, same outcome,
same background, different outcome.
What is this?
And then I go on.
I start, I am in Silicon Valley
in the late 90s, early 2000s,
that come boom, all of that.
And I’m starting to discover this concept
of this thing called entrepreneurship.
You know, I’m in Silicon Valley
and just getting to experience what seems so cliche by now,
but you know, people getting together
in the back of a napkin, talking about an idea,
putting it out, and then they go out
and they talk to some of these investors
who’s gonna invest in it.
Then they have the lawyers
who get to put all of this stuff together.
And then they have the big four CPA firms,
this whole ecosystem of what they call entrepreneurship.
And then eventually this concept of entrepreneurship
being this idea of creating something out of nothing.
So there I am.
And at some point I become an entrepreneur myself.
And the way I became an entrepreneur was not like,
I woke up and I’m like,
I wanna make money, so I’m gonna become an entrepreneur.
No, and this is also another problem I have with people
who have a problem with entrepreneurs or business people.
Most entrepreneurs do not start a business to become rich.
Most entrepreneurs start a business
because they have found, identified a problem
that bothered them enough,
that they said, enough is enough.
I’m gonna do something about it.
What entrepreneurs are are people who criticize by creating.
Do they always get it right?
No, as a matter of fact,
the failure in entrepreneurship is humongous.
It’s kamikaze path to take the entrepreneurship path.
We lose our spouses.
My first husband passed away
as soon as I was about to sign my first term sheet.
And yet I had to keep going.
What force can keep you going
after you just lost the love of your life?
What force keeps you going?
The force of, oh, I just wanna be rich, really?
When your whole world is upside down,
your whole world is upside down and you just want to quit.
You just want to go meet him and join him in death.
I stayed, why?
Because of the same reason why I started my company.
I stayed because of the women
whom I had put back to work by then.
We’re talking about some of the most vulnerable women
in my country.
These are women who grow the hibiscus,
which we need to make the bisap,
which is the juice of taranga, remember?
This is our national identity drink.
And for the longest time, women grow this hibiscus
that we use for the national drink, for this drink.
And now that Coca Cola, Pepsi, and all that
had made it through the marketing
that it is more cool to drink those beverages,
now there is no more market for the hibiscus.
And with that goes the livelihoods of these women.
And for me, that bothered me enough
because in that force, I saw two things.
One was a part of my culture.
We’re talking about, I mean,
part of my cultural identity, for Christ’s sake,
the juice of taranga.
You asked me, what defines you?
I said, taranga, there’s a juice for it.
So my culture is disappearing.
And at the same time, these women
are sliding into abject poverty
because what they used to make no one needs anymore.
So that is what got me to start a company.
And the company was created just because of that.
I wanted to build a company that would allow me
to not only preserve this very important aspect
of my cultural identity,
and at the same time, put these women back to work.
And maybe it’s more difficult to put into words,
but there’s a kind of, it’s a basic human spirit
where you see the place where you came from
breaking apart in some kind of way,
and you have the entrepreneurial fire
that dreams of helping.
And that, sometimes it’s hard to convert that into words.
You have to tell nice stories and so on,
but it’s the basic human desire to help.
And like I said, criticized by creating.
Especially when you’ve been,
especially when, and let’s face it,
do we all, are we all a bundle of circumstances,
some happy, some worse?
Yes, we are.
And oftentimes I ask myself, my God, why you?
Why did you get to have the opportunities that you have?
What makes you different from, let’s say,
even your cousin that couldn’t, that is still home, trapped?
Because we call ourselves trapped citizens.
When you’re trapped in these countries that go nowhere,
we’re like a bunch of trapped citizens.
So you see, Lex, when my husband passed away
and I wanted nothing more to do than to quit
and to send, investors had already said,
we understand if you want to stop.
Whatever you decide to do, we’ll do that.
And I wanted to quit and I was actually on my way.
I was in Senegal for a month,
trying to really get a bearing over myself.
And by the end of the month, I had decided I’m letting go.
There’s no way.
The pain was too great, nothing made sense anymore.
It was too much.
So I went to see this woman and I talked to the one who,
you know, we’re talking back then,
there were 400 of them, later on we grew to 9,000.
And I told the representative of all of them,
and I told her, this is very, this is her old lady.
And just looking at her,
I knew I was going through some pain,
but this woman has probably gone through 10 times,
not that pain is, you know, like measurable,
but you could tell this woman probably lost a child
as oftentimes happen in places, you know,
that are lower income countries.
Probably lost a husband also, probably who knows,
so many people, loss is part of our lives.
You can see the pain.
You can see the pain, yet she’s so, so dignified.
She’s so dignified.
And that already kind of made me like,
my God, stop crying.
But, and I told her that I was quitting.
I could not look her in the eyes.
And she said, look at me.
I could not look her in the eyes.
She said, look at me, child.
And I looked at her and she said,
you know, I know you’re in pain,
but where your husband is, where your beloved is,
is absolutely nothing that you can do for him.
But for us, you can change everything.
And I went back.
So that’s what entrepreneurs are at their best.
Did she help you find your strength?
Yes, and I was weak still,
but I said, you put that aside.
There’s a job to do here.
And I went back and I fought with everything that I had.
And this company that I started in my kitchen
became this company that had the who’s who
of the beverage world,
with at some point, Roger Enrico, the chairman of PepsiCo
sitting on my board.
And yeah, I went back because of that.
So the reason why I tell this story for me is important
because the world needs to understand
that there is a viable way of caring
and of being part of a solution
for the lesser fortunate
in terms of not keeping them where they are
and we’re like the saviors coming
and giving them food and all that.
No, no, no, no, no.
But it’s just like the leg up I got in my life.
Give somebody else a leg up.
What are the things you’re fighting against in Africa
when you try to build a business like that?
So then we’re building this company.
And back then, this was in 2004
that was when I built my first company.
We had to have two sister companies, one there, one here.
So the one in Africa was about the whole supply chain.
And the one in America was research and development,
sales and marketing, all of that good stuff.
And then at some point I look around,
I’m like, wait a second.
Here, back in the days before we had the,
they would talk, they would say, oh, we have this one stop shop
for business registration.
But the truth is very quickly
you can set up an LLC in the US.
We’re talking about less than, even then less than,
today it’s super fast, 20 minutes online, done.
Back then it was less than few hours to get it done,
cost you almost nothing.
We’re talking about a few hundred dollars,
three, two to 350 depending which state you are.
So LLC, starting a basic company takes almost no time.
No time, no time, no money, almost.
You don’t have to know a guy that knows a guy
that slipped some money to the politician and so on.
No, none of that stuff, none of that stuff.
And so at the same time, also things like,
and this I can take you even to today’s day.
Okay, Lex, I don’t know if you have employees
on payroll or anything like that,
but do you have to go every month
or anybody listening to us right now,
do they have to go every single month
to three different type of agencies,
like governmental agencies to do one step?
This one is basically you’re gonna go
and give them your retirement money,
like the pension part of the salary
that you took out from your employee.
You have to go to this agency
and put that application through.
So you leave that money behind,
then you go to another agency.
This one is for the health, care, whatever.
You have three of those places
where you have to literally go to in person,
three times, three places every single month
to drop off these paperwork.
Do you have to do that anywhere in the US?
I mean, do we have that situation
anywhere that you know of right now?
And do you think that’s a business friendly
or do you think it’s cumbersome in business?
And that’s not just cumbersome sort of physically,
it’s cumbersome psychologically,
that there’s a feeling like the system around you,
yeah, there’s a feeling like you’re trapped.
It’s a feeling like the system doesn’t want you to succeed
versus a system that does want you to succeed.
You’re in a country like we’re in Texas.
If you make less than a million bucks in revenues a year,
all you do, five minutes it takes you,
you’re filing your franchise tax, that’s it.
It’s below that number, tell them what it is,
then you have nothing to give them
or anything like that, you move on.
Us, even if I make this much,
there is a minimum tax that you have to pay,
which is $1,000 in Senegal right now.
For the listener, my guy was holding up a zero.
You make no money.
You still have to pay.
And then, oh, let me walk you through what happened to me
when we had to try to get the electricity hooked up
on our first office.
So we go, they say, oh, first you have to apply,
you know, like you normally you have to apply.
Then we apply, we pay the money.
Remember again, here you have to also go,
this was like, you know, you go to the office and you pay.
And then we wait, and we wait, and we wait.
And when I say we wait, I’m not talking about
we waited 24 hours, we waited 48 hours.
A month, two months, three months, four months,
five months, you go, you send your assistant,
she goes, she comes back.
Well, they say we send it to wait.
At some point I’m like, I gotta go there.
So I go there and I asked to speak
to the head of the district for, you know,
and I’m just like going on and on and on and on
about how we’ve been delayed.
This is gonna be a problem.
We have to produce, everything is delayed.
And I risk losing my business.
We already presold some of these products to our customers.
I gotta, something needs to happen.
So at some point the gentleman looks at me,
he’s like, lady, look over there.
I look over there, I see a pile of paper this high.
We’re talking about maybe hundreds of applications.
Each one of them is a single sheet.
Each single sheet is an application
for getting the electricity.
And he says, do you see that?
I said, yeah.
And he said, look over there.
I look over there to the other side.
I see two meters.
He’s like, each of these applications needs one of those.
How many do you see?
I said, two.
Then I knew I was in trouble.
And then I said, what do I do?
And he said, lady, it’s not at our level.
And I agreed with him.
It was not on his level.
But eventually, by now you can tell
that I pretty much get what I need because,
and at that point what I did was not threaten him
or anything like that.
I didn’t even pay a bribe or anything,
but you could see why people pay bribes.
Because when you have a pile like that,
then the only way to advance your file,
and that by the way happens even at the passport office.
You come, you apply for your passport, which is your right.
They forced us to have passports.
It’s your right as a citizen to have a passport.
And even there, if you want yours
to keep going through the process,
you have to bribe somebody so it can go
even the pace it’s supposed to go, let alone faster.
So here, I’m thinking I have a problem.
And at that point, I did what I do.
I talked to him about all the things I was trying to do.
I explained to him why I’m here, why I’m trying to do this.
And even him said, lady, someone like you,
you have no reason to even be here.
You could be back in America, living your life,
la vida loca, you don’t have to be here.
So that I think gained a lot of his respect.
And I said, if you don’t do, if you don’t help me with this,
I understand I shouldn’t be of a priority
or anything like that, but I beg you, I beg of you.
I need for this to go on this week.
And he said, okay, that’s how I got my meter.
One of those two meters became mine.
So then he said, but we have a problem.
And I said, what?
He said, well, the truck, we need a truck to be here
to do it because of where you are from the poll,
we need long cable lines to get it all done.
But the truck is, I don’t know,
I don’t know where the truck was
because they had this one truck
for I don’t know how many customers.
So I go to the mayor of a town
with whom I’m quite friends, but you see, I know people,
but it shouldn’t be this way.
So I go to the mayor of a town and I said, mayor,
he happens to have the same name as me,
first, last name, same, but except he’s the ugly one,
I’m the pretty one because, you know, he’s, you know.
That’s so people can tell you apart, she’s the pretty one.
Exactly, I’m the pretty one and he’s the whatever.
So I got to the mayor and I’m like, mayor,
I need your help, you need to help me with this.
He’s like, now what?
And I explained to him and he’s like, okay,
you can take the truck from the city hall.
I’ll tell the guys that they can allow you to have it.
And then they come and then you guys can do this.
And then we arrived there.
I thought I was done, Lex, but I was not done.
Because now the electricity company, by the way,
whom we paid, everything was there.
They’ve been sitting on our money for nine months by now.
Well, we need a ladder long enough to, you know,
like one of the super, super professional ladders
that normally the electricity companies have.
Theirs was in some other village and they didn’t know
if it was going to be back for another three days
or four days.
I said, are you kidding me?
He’s like, no.
So I call mayor again.
I’m just like, mayor, do you have a ladder?
And I explained and he said,
and that’s how I got my electricity hooked up.
Otherwise I probably would still be waiting.
So Lex, you add all of these things together.
And also the fact that in my country, by the way,
the labor laws are so stringent.
Basically you are married to employees for good or for bad.
And some people say, oh no,
you’re not married for good or for bad,
except that it will just cost you a lot of time and money
to get rid of any of them.
It doesn’t matter the circumstances.
Do you think I really, an entrepreneur really need
to hear something like that?
You know, the head of the ILO,
I had an argument with him at the UN.
And I said to him, listen, and you listened to me very well.
The reason, if you want to protect employees,
as you claim, everything you’re doing is to protect employees.
A, you know better of a human being than I am
in terms of wanting to make sure
that people are treated right and fairly.
But last time I checked, Google, for example,
is not offering their employees chef cooked meals,
super healthy, anything they want,
feeding them from morning till evening,
having some babysitters, having childcare on site,
all of these perks that come on top of really cozy salaries.
It did not happen because you, the ILO, told them,
you have to do this.
It happened because there are enough jobs created around
that now you’re in an employee’s market
and employers have to fall all over themselves
to attract the best talent among us.
That’s how it’s done.
And not with your nonsense that you’re imposing me right now,
which the only results you’re gonna get,
like in my country, do you know what we have to show
for all of these, the fact that the Senegalese employees,
the most protected employee on paper in the world?
Well, we’re one of the 25 poorest countries in the world.
That’s what it got us.
So let’s try to just untangle this.
So there’s a system in place.
There’s a momentum with that system.
Like you said, ladies, it’s not my level,
which is for somebody who grew up in the Soviet Union,
at least echoes some of the same sounds I heard
from people I knew there.
It’s kind of this helpless feeling like,
well, this is just part of the system,
this gigantic bureaucracy.
And the corruption that happens is just like the only way
to get around, to get anything done.
And so the corruption grows.
Maybe could you speak to the corruption?
Is there, to what degree is there corruption
in Senegal and Africa, and how do we fix it?
So when you said to which degrees there is corruption,
I will respond to you the same I respond to people.
I say, yeah, we have corruption,
and it’s almost as bad as in Chicago, right?
So now what I want people to understand
when it comes to corruption,
it’s because we are misguided with corruption.
We think corruption is the root cause of problems.
When corruption is simply a symptom
of the deeper root problem.
In this case, if you make the laws so senseless,
meaning, let me give you an example of senseless laws.
Every time I have to import something in my country,
I have a business, we’re making lip balms in this case
and all those skincare products.
Some ingredients I’m able to find in the country
at the standard that I need in order to remain competitive.
Because for example, our products are sold
at Whole Foods Market.
You can understand it’s a pretty sophisticated
and really, they don’t just put anybody on the shelves.
But the thing is, it means that on the other end,
my inputs has to be right.
So out of those, some, we have seven ingredients,
seven items that need to come from abroad
to go into the making of this product.
Some packaging and some raw material.
But guess what, Lex, for five of them,
I am paying a 40% tariff
and for the other two, almost 70% tariff.
That I call senseless laws.
These tariffs are senseless.
Yeah, corruption is just a symptom.
They reveal that something was broken about the laws.
And the laws are, so taxation,
this kind of restricting laws,
like laws that slow down the entrepreneurial momentum.
They do, they do.
Because in this case, when my product comes,
what do people have to do?
Because every time, if you add 40%,
you’re basically on the other end.
So every time you add,
if let’s say my product normally costs a dollar
and with your 40%, by the time I’m done,
I had to pay, now it’s costing me 140.
By the time it arrives in my warehouse,
in my manufacturing facility, it’s now at 140
because of a tariff I left behind.
That 40% you added to it,
do you know how much it’s gonna add to my final cost
that once the product is finished,
I have to sell it to the customer?
I have to sell it for $1.60 more because of that 40 cents
extra you took from me.
In order for me at the end of the day
to have some type of profits,
because profits at the end of the day
is the blood of a business.
There are two people are misguided.
They say, oh, you dirty, greedy business people.
And it’s all about profit, profit, profit, profit.
You know, I belong to this organization called,
I’m a board member on the conscious capitalism.
It is the largest organization of purpose driven
businesses and entrepreneurs.
The type of people I told you about,
we’ve started our businesses because we see something
that needs to be taken care of in society.
Whole Foods Market is one of them.
The Container Store, you know,
all of these companies that are beloved in the US
that you can hear of.
We believe that the end goal of business is purpose.
But in order to do purpose,
you have to have profits to stay alive.
And the best way for people to think of profits
so that they’re not all twisted about it.
Lex, if I asked you, what’s your goal in the world?
You’re probably gonna tell me your dream.
You’re gonna talk to me about what you’re doing right now
and how you want to be uniting,
or you want a more harmonious world.
You want human flourishing.
That’s what you’re working towards.
That’s what you say to me.
You’re not gonna say, well, my biggest goal in the world
is to produce as many red blood cells as I can.
Except you need to produce those, otherwise no Lex.
And if no Lex, no one working.
You know what I mean?
So that’s how people need to stop
with this whole profit, non profit.
Do we have some psychopaths among us?
Yeah, one person of us in this world are psychopaths
in every field, anywhere you look.
And surely you’ll find that in the entrepreneurial field.
Entrepreneurs world as well.
So we have one person of us who are psychopath for sure.
But do they define the rest of us?
And thankfully not.
So let’s just be clear on that.
So here, you know, you charge me 40% tariff,
which is outrageous.
Then you’re forcing me to sell it for $1.60 more
than my competitor who does not have to go
through that nonsense because she’s an American woman
who is operating in America.
And she doesn’t have that nonsense put on her.
So now I’m on this market competing against this woman
eye to eye.
So if we’re selling the same value product,
mine costs $1.60 more simply because of some stupid rules
from back home, then guess who is going to stay in business
and who doesn’t?
See, they want to talk about equality.
That’s the type of equality I want to see.
The playing field has to be leveled.
Told you English is my fourth language.
It was two people talking between us.
Maybe we’ll have this English thing figured out.
We’ll have it figured out.
So the idea of capitalism,
the idea of conscious capitalism is the thing
that in large part enables this level playing field.
That’s what we want.
So what you’re trying to say, so here,
so when I talked about census laws, that’s an example.
So when you make the tariff so high
that you’re going to render me, you know, noncompetitive,
then that’s where, for people who might make sense,
when the product arrives at port, they say,
hey, I give you this.
What I give you, maybe it’s 10% of the price or 5%.
It’s surely not 40%, but you are happy with it.
You’re the government official.
That’s what we call a bribe.
And me, I’m like, hey, I saved myself money.
And also I saved myself time.
But you see, if the laws where you pay 5%
or even the 10% that I just left behind or nothing,
you come, you pay it, you move on.
Because who has a business of fooling around
and staying behind?
And no, you do that when it’s actually makes sense to do that.
So I’m not sitting here telling people
I engage in unlawful practices in my case,
because I’m around saying the things I’m saying right now.
So I’m a target.
You have to do things cleanly.
And I believe in doing things that way.
So what I had to do was go to the ask again mayor.
We have a problem.
Mayors, whenever he sees me, he’s like, now what?
So I’m like, we’ve got a problem.
You’re best friends now.
So I say, now it’s the customs.
And he’s like, what do you want me to do?
I said, do you know anybody at customs?
I need to hire up at customs,
because I got to explain to them what’s going on here.
They all know, of course,
but I think they’re not always maybe understanding
or maybe they understand.
And in this case, he understood.
So we went and he’s like, yeah, I know this is not,
this is not very, yeah, this.
And I said, what do we do now?
And I saw him going through binders and binders
in his office, because he’s going to try to go and look
where in the law can we find something
that can help me escape these rules.
And you know, the best he found Lex was,
oh, well here, see this one.
If you’ve been in business for two years,
then we can allow you, there’s a special term for it.
It’s French, it’s technical.
We can allow you to bring your raw material,
but you have to tell us exactly how much you’re bringing.
And it has to match your formulation because, you know,
they don’t want you to bring in more that we need
and maybe sell some of that to the rest of the market
and they didn’t make their money on it.
So there, it means I have to give them my recipe.
Imagine Coca Cola being asked to give their secret sauce
to government officials in a country
that you can’t even know what might happen,
let alone even in business, you don’t do that.
I mean, trade secrets are trade secrets,
but here you’re asked to be putting it in front
of some people you don’t know
where it’s going to go after that.
Because there they get to see, okay,
her recipe calls for X amount of Candelilla Wax,
X amount of coconut oil.
Okay, and on top of that,
we have to think about how much foliage might there be or not
because again, we don’t want her to buffer it over there.
So you have to get naked in front of them
in terms of your recipe,
which might end up only God knows where tomorrow,
maybe competition or maybe even them,
they start a business and they compete with you
because we’ve seen that.
So you have to do that.
And then each time fill out a paperwork,
get the approval, then it can come in.
So when it can come in, you don’t have to pay the tax.
Oh, and by the way, you have one year,
one year to make this product and get it out.
And all of it needs to be back out
because if any of it stays here,
you’re going to pay the taxes that we held up.
So you’re basically forced by these census laws
to be dishonest if you want to succeed.
All of this is so cumbersome
because it means more paperwork, paperwork everywhere,
maybe having to disclose your things.
So me, in my case, what I did is this person said,
okay, we’re going to see how we can work with you.
But for the first two years,
we were more or less in the gray area.
Yeah, so even gray area is good.
Yeah, but what does it mean?
In a situation like that,
whenever they want to mess with you,
it means they can come and they will look
and they will find something.
So it means that every day I’m trying to do business,
I’m running the risk of being harassed
and or maybe even put in jail, depending on what it is.
I mean, you’re an incredible person
because it seems like there’s two ways to change this.
One is to become president or gain power in the country
and to try to change the laws,
which seems really difficult to do.
And the other way is fight through the laws
and create the business anyway,
build the business community and through that method,
create a huge amount of pressure to change the laws.
You’re totally getting it with your last part
because this is the other thing.
And this is where I get so upset sometimes
with my fellow Africans
because they get so disgusted by what they’re seeing, right?
And they think the answer is to go for politics.
Let’s go be president.
Let’s go be this.
Let’s go be that.
And we’re gonna change everything.
I see that in the US too.
People thinking that presidents have all this power.
Do you know who has the least power in government?
I mean, people don’t get that.
Your best bet, if you insist on going into politics,
stick to the local level.
That’s where all the skeletons are buried and hidden.
And that’s where you can make the most impact, local level.
I know it’s not shiny.
I know it’s not exciting, but that’s where it’s at.
So if you must go into politics, but there’s another way.
So in my case, what I do is two things.
I preach and I practice.
I preach, when I’m here talking to you about this,
I am sharing with people that is which I found.
And by the way, the answer was there.
I was doing these two businesses,
realizing the difference in treatment
of the doing business environment
of the US compared to the doing business environment
And at first I was like, of course, us,
everything is messed up.
It’s because we’re a poor country.
But when I started to put two and two together,
I’m like, you’re poor because you have no money,
at least not enough money to take care of your basic needs.
You have no money because you have no source of income.
Where does a source of income come from for most of us?
It comes from a job, doesn’t it?
And then some people, sometimes at my UC Berkeley class,
they say, oh no, it comes from government too.
I’m like, I would like to think that even if you work
for government, you’re going to be paid something, right?
And they’re like, yeah.
And then even before I can say something, they’re like,
yeah, because that money we use to pay our public officials
comes from taxes, you know, employers, employees,
we go back to the private sector for most of it,
from where this whole thing is created.
So it’s clear, you’re poor because you have no money,
no money because no source of income,
source of income for most of us is a job.
We’re talking about, so where do jobs come from?
The private sector, primarily small
and medium sized enterprises.
Then don’t you think that we should make it easy,
that we should have a friendly doing business environment.
And also a lot of it comes not just from the small
and medium sized businesses, but I think a lot
of the values created from new ones being launched, right?
It’s not just like me, like saving somehow
through regulation, the ones that are already there.
It’s like letting the market,
letting the new better ideas flourish.
It’s about what I mean by doing business environment
is all the things that you and I talked about earlier.
Even the access of electricity is part
of a doing business, but doing business.
So basically when I discovered all of that,
when I put all of those dots together,
then I’m like, well, I guess the business,
and it makes sense, Lex.
If you want to grow tomatoes,
you’re gonna have to have two things.
One is a good seed, right, that has good attributes.
And then you’re gonna have to have a good environment
Is the soil the right one?
What’s your pH level?
All of those good nutrients that you’re gonna put in it.
Is it in a place that has tons of sun?
How much sun exposure or not?
The climate in general, is it gonna be cold?
You can have some beautiful tomatoes
in the middle of Siberia, last time I checked.
So same thing here.
You know, Mohammed Yunus, the Nobel Laureate for Peace,
said, poor people are bonsai people.
They’re the same people.
If you put them in the normal, natural, friendly habitat
where they can thrive, they become the tallest tree
in the forest.
Poor people are bonsai people.
So you see that tiny pot you put around the bonsai tree?
That’s the tiny pot that’s created
by giving me such a hostile business environment
that basically we’re put together by the set of laws
that you have put, that basically I have to jump through
as a business person, practicing business in my country.
If you turn that environment into a friendly environment
where I am not married to my employees,
I have flexibility of the labor laws
are simple, straightforward, clean,
where the tax code is very simple.
It’s not worth truckloads of laws like in my country.
It’s so complicated.
You have to hire a CPA, which costs more money.
And even them tell them, girl, we’re gonna make some mistakes.
They don’t talk to me like that.
They don’t tell me, girl, they shouldn’t, they better not.
But they say, whatever they say.
You know, they’re like, we’re gonna,
but bottom line is we’re gonna make mistakes.
This thing is so complicated, we’re gonna make mistakes.
So, which means my ass is on the line.
So anyway, so if the tax code was so simple,
straightforward, like it is maybe in Texas,
where up till a threshold, you owe me nothing,
go online, five minutes, fill out your taxes,
you’re compliant, keep building your business
because that’s what we need from you.
If you made it so easy and straightforward,
then you know what?
That’s when you get all of these people,
Lex, that you’re talking about saying, you know what?
My name is Aminata,
and I live in the middle of nowhere, Senegal.
But you know what?
I’ve got this great idea for this really hot,
nice hot sauce that I know the Americans are gonna love.
I’m hearing that hot sauce is a big thing.
Let me bring it to them.
But everything is there for you to jump
into the ring of entrepreneurship.
You don’t have to know someone like my God.
You don’t have to even have the ability
to sell yourself maybe like I can sometimes.
You are someone with a great idea.
You’re willing to work hard for it
and pour everything you got into it.
You can get into the race.
You can be a dreamer,
and you can be a dreamer in a rural little village.
And then that has ripple effects
throughout the entire country.
Young kids growing up, you know,
I wanna be the next X, whatever.
And it doesn’t have to be the next Steve Jobs.
That seems really far, far away.
It’s at all levels.
You create local heroes because representation matters.
So, and we are so badly in need of that.
And so that’s what all the things
that have been stolen from us
as long as things remain the same.
So Lex, once I found out that basically at the end of the day
the answer is economic freedom.
And that when it comes to that,
the indexes, economic indexes that measure that,
whether it’s the doing business index ranking
of the World Bank,
or the Fraser Economic Freedom Index
of the Heritage Foundation.
When you look at all of those indexes and others,
what do they have in common?
One after another they show you
that it is harder to do business
in almost anywhere in Sub Saharan Africa
than it is per se anywhere in Scandinavia.
So it is telling you that Scandinavian nations,
that socialist Americans tend to love so much
and take as an example,
although there too they’re showing you
that they don’t understand
what’s going on really in Scandinavia,
that Scandinavia is more capitalist.
Scandinavian nations are more capitalist
than almost any Sub Saharan African nations.
Ultimately, the political systems
actually don’t even matter nearly as much
as the private sector being able
to operate the machinery of capitalism.
There you go, there you go, there you go.
And it’s almost like, like I said,
it’s almost like its own little widget within it.
You can have whatever type of society
you want to practice,
you want to exercise at whatever level you want to.
But if you’re serious about becoming a capitalist,
becoming a middle to high income nation,
there is no other pathway that we know of at this point.
And you know what made me super excited about that
beyond having finally found my answer.
I have to tell you when I found that answer,
I literally fell to my knees.
It was the type of feeling that,
you know, if something is not well with you,
whether it’s physical or mental,
something is not well, you’re not well.
And you go around and you go to the so called specialists,
some of them, you know,
but you’re going around for years,
going around trying to get help for your ailment.
And here they don’t know.
Here they tell you things that you can’t tell why,
but you just know it’s not true.
They’re this, they’re that.
And it’s going on for years after year after year.
And finally you meet this one person
and boom, it’s there.
Not only the liberation,
but also this whole new world that comes with it.
You know, I’m still ill, but guess what?
There’s a path forward.
We know that.
I’m going to have a lot of work to do, but there’s hope.
Yeah, and you’re the beacon of hope actually,
for a lot of people in that part of the world.
And those beacons are actually really necessary.
So not only is there hope, but you can become,
I mean, the beacon for your people, your home,
this power that you see that you feel all around
to become, to escape the feeling of being trapped.
Is there a device you can give to people that,
to young girls and boys dreaming somewhere in Africa
of how to change the world?
And by the way, I want to say there are bigger beacons.
There are better beacons than me.
I just happen to be someone who has the chance
of talking to you right now.
And one of my goals is to open the same doors
that were opened for me, because together, our voice,
there’s such amazing stories out there.
And so bigger beacons, better beacons out there.
One thing here for me, the reason why I do
what I’m doing right now, and it’s almost to a point
of self destructing my own health.
I feel invested with such the mission of,
I have been afforded the truth.
So it is my moral duty to try to take it around.
I know I sound, people sometimes say,
when I listen to you, I feel like I’m talking to a priest.
And I’m like, because the gospel, I receive the gospel.
So anyway, but the thing is, Lex,
who tells you these things to this day?
When they talk about the poverty of Africa,
what do they talk about?
They sit in front telling you,
oh yeah, it’s because of colonialism.
It’s because of racism.
It’s because of imperialism.
It’s because they’re stealing raw material, blah, blah, blah.
Is any of those guilty to some level of where we are today?
Maybe part of the reason where we are today?
Is that the only reason or the overwhelming reasons?
Is that insurmountable?
So for me, don’t stay in that place
that steals and robs you of your agency.
So I think it’s important for people to A,
get the right diagnosis as to why we are where we are.
Because what you and I just talked about,
the mainstream does not talk about this
when they even talk about Africa
in terms that are not the usual suspect of,
oh, famine is building over there.
War is building over here.
Oh, we’re having Ebola is coming.
All of that stuff.
Even when they were talking about the monkeypox,
which at first, in this wave,
it started with white people in Europe.
Well, even in the many newspapers you pull out,
it’s black people with monkeypox on their skin.
I’m like, wait a second.
This time around, it did not start with us.
So why are you always showing us
when it’s right now happening to white people?
So all of that is happening.
So for me, the thing is,
we, the world simply right now,
does not have the right diagnosis
as to why this continent right now,
despite all of its riches,
because Lord knows it’s got riches
starting it with its young population.
75% of the population in my country
is below the age of 25 years old.
So when we’re talking, I know we’re talking about,
repopulation, it’s an important,
we’re gonna have to go for that.
Maybe you’ll get me going about comments,
I don’t know, but anyway.
So here, my point is,
A, we need the right diagnosis
as to why this continent is the poorest continent
in the world, despite its riches
starting with its young people,
all the natural resources, diversity in land,
people, cultures, languages,
everything that make for great ingredient for awesomeness.
Despite all of that,
we are the poorest region in the world.
People need to know that the reason why that is,
it’s because we also happen to be
the most overregulated region in the world.
At the end of the day, what Africa,
and I dare to say Africa here,
and treated as one,
we are 54 countries, 55 depending on how you count,
yet we almost for a tiny minority of these countries,
we almost all lack one of the most crucial freedoms
that there are.
If you’re serious about prosperity building,
we lack economic freedom.
And economic freedom is the thing
that unlocks that human potential of the young people just.
Yes, for them to run,
to run with their ideas, to start businesses,
or to start initiative.
It doesn’t have to be for profit all the time, right?
But it is this thing that gets you to get up
and go and do something, criticize by creating.
Young people are naturally wired
to wanna criticize by creating.
They’re not sitting around waiting or complaining usually,
unless you put them in a tiny box
and they have no other way to go.
And in this situation, what they do,
let’s talk about precolonial Africa,
of four favors before slavery ever happened.
There were black people on the continent.
You see, when we talk about the story of black people
and Africans, black people in Africa,
for most of us, even me,
I noticed that unconsciously it starts with slavery.
But you’re like, no, we were there before,
before white men ever set foot.
Who were we?
What were we doing in our diversity?
What economic systems were we running on?
And then you realize that for most of them,
they were free marketeers
and they were very much on the free trade,
on the free enterprise side.
So even that is a reinforcement.
This is a place where we do not understand our history.
So proper diagnosis, Africa is a poorest region in the world
because it happens to be
the most overregulated region in the world,
lacks economic freedom.
Number two, what do we do about that?
We gotta become serious about reforms, economic reforms,
so that we can become beacons of free markets.
Just like the Asian tigers,
that’s what the Asian tigers did.
They had to become serious.
Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea,
those guys had to become serious about the free markets.
Lee Kuan Woo, he’s just like, we gotta do something.
And he looked around and he realized at some point,
we gotta make these reforms.
And he went onto that journey of reforms,
making his country one of the most free market countries
in the world, and voila, the magic happened.
Back in the 30s, the stock market crash
and the Great Depression and everything,
the world and with all the lies that were told
to the world coming from the Soviet Union, Stalin,
while they were starving and dying over there,
but oh no, I mean, Durante was telling the world that,
oh no, no, everything is going well,
nobody’s dying when we know now
and getting political prices based on this stuff.
But then the world went on believing that,
oh no, capitalism failed.
This crash that you had in the stock market
is proof this is what late stage capitalism produces.
You guys always have your big ups and downs.
And by that time, it was so hard on people
that they’re like, we’re done with this.
And at the same time, we were told the lies
coming out of the Soviet Union,
that supposedly the communism was doing just fine.
And you’re at the point where the free market concept
almost died and it’s the Asian tigers
who kind of helped bring that idea back to life, right?
Their success having used the free markets.
And so for me, we gotta make a new commitment
to the free markets on this continent
if we wanna go anywhere, if we wanna go anywhere.
And the timing is perfect because the young people,
there is a kind of freedom
for the revolutionary free markets in this whole space.
Exactly, and you said something, oh, say that again,
because I wanna tell you what I’m hearing in that,
because something’s really cool.
Say it again, come on, Lex.
I don’t know which part, English is my second language too.
No, you said there’s something revolutionary in that.
Because you know how young people are attached
to the revolution and how, I understand,
look Lex, I understand and I am willing
to give the benefits of a doubt
to some of these socialists who came to it
because they had to witness
some of the horrors of their times.
There’s a revolutionary spirit behind that.
It’s ultimately criticized by creating.
Exactly, exactly, but violent revolution
is never the answer.
But that’s what they went for in 1789 in France,
the French Revolution, and Marx and Engels,
they’re promoting these ideas that usually,
for them, justifies violent revolution.
Then in all of these people,
I am with them when they say that they want
to see equal rights for people.
Of course, I don’t agree with their,
therefore, we need to push for equal outcomes.
Equal rights is right, but equal outcomes is not right.
But I am with them for all the way to equal rights,
but this is where the two paths go this way.
And also, the fact that they have no issue
with violent revolution, people get killed.
People get put in gulags and people get, that’s not right.
So what you just said here, just give me goosebumps,
because there is revolution in the free markets,
but that’s the type of revolution we want.
The revolution that comes from people creating,
criticizing by creating, it’s one of the best forms
If you ask me, that’s the most sexy way of revolution.
Criticize by creating, but what,
you’re gonna go shoot people or be like,
what’s his name, Che Guevara, who tells you,
I love, it’s in writing, I love nothing more
than to fry the brain of a man with his gun, really?
Well, in terms of sexy, there is power in that message
of the oppressor, the abuser, the enemy that has abused
their power, they need to be destroyed,
and there’s power in the message of that violence.
Unfortunately, the lessons of history show
that the violence, one, doesn’t work,
but it does the following.
There is something about human nature,
as the old cliche goes, that power corrupts
and absolute power corrupts absolutely,
is the people who are in charge of committing that violence
it does something to their head.
The first person you kill, the second person you kill,
for some reason, you lose your ability,
the compassion for other humans.
Even if you began as a revolutionary,
as the Soviets did, fighting for the worker,
for the rights and the basic humanity of the people
that really do the work, you lose the plot somehow
because of the violence.
So in that way, it seems like the lesson,
at least of this part of the human history,
until the robots take over, is that the economic freedom,
free markets, and protecting those,
and allowing anyone from your country to dream
and to make that dream a reality by creating it
with as few sort of roadblocks as possible.
Exactly, so that’s why for me, the message is very clear,
is what we talked about today.
The reason why Africa is the poorest region in the world
is because it happens to be the most overregulated region
in the world, and for some people who might be put off by it
because they’re like, oh, she’s talking about laissez faire!
No, let me put it maybe in a way that you can understand.
Do you think that it should be as easy
for any person in Africa, for any entrepreneur in Africa
to enterprise than it is for any person in Scandinavia
If your answer is yes, which I would hope it is,
then you have a moral obligation to work with me
to make my country, and as a whole, my continent,
more free markets.
It’s that simple.
At that point, there’s no like, yes,
but on the other hand, uh uh, no.
And for me, on that question,
and I yet have to find somebody who claims to say no.
If you say no, then we have a whole nother problem
that I’m not even talking to at that point anymore.
So just to clarify, there’s a perception in some reality
that the Scandinavian countries have elements of socialism
in their politics, in their society,
even in their economics.
So at the very least, Africa should have,
in terms of economic indices, should be as free
as the Scandinavian countries.
You’re just giving that example.
As economically free, yes.
Because see, the Scandinavian, they do have
a subsidized, you know, like a welfare system,
that’s what, a more socialized welfare system,
but the way they make their money
is very much the way of the free markets.
So there is how you make your money,
and then there’s how you maybe decide
as a country to redistribute it, right?
And so even there, even in Scandinavia,
again, yes, they have more economic freedom.
So then from there, Lex, where we go is my job
and my goal is for every single African, young and old,
to know what I have come to learn.
We are not doomed.
It’s not over for us.
We will never catch up.
The time for catch up is gone, but guess what?
We’ve got a strong, strong possibility
and chance to leapfrog, and leapfrog we will.
It is still time, but for that to happen,
like I said, we need to know
what we just talked about today
because that is not what the mainstream
keeps us abreast with.
When you go to the World Bank,
they don’t necessarily work along these lines.
They’re still, it’s not, when you go to universities,
I will ask you, MIT, the MIT Econ Department,
or even some, most of the professors,
are they free market oriented?
We find that oftentimes in academia,
there is a strong anti capitalist bias.
There is a strong anti free market bias.
So this is a problem.
This is a problem.
Nobody cares about the economists anyway.
Yeah, so we move forward.
In MIT, the spirit of the entrepreneur burns bright,
not in the economics department
because they just write op ed articles,
but in the dreamers, the young undergrads
that actually build something.
No, I get that.
But then we cannot be stifling their efforts
by putting these artificially made regulations and laws
that stand in the way and clip their wings.
So that’s why when you were saying,
what advice do you give to them?
The advice I give to them is each one of them,
they have to pay attention to this discourse we just had.
I don’t ask anybody to agree with me on face value.
Go back, do like I had to do.
I come very much from the left of the left,
if you can believe that.
But I had to have my own intellectual journey.
And in this case, my intellectual journey
was very much complimented by my own life.
Having to build these companies on two separate continents
and having to, I had front row seat of the differences.
At first, I thought it was this way just because we’re poor
and therefore we must stop and therefore it’s like this.
But eventually I learned that no,
we’re poor because we lack academic freedom.
And if a country allows its citizens
the academic freedom to enterprise, then they become rich.
So yeah, I had it upside down, you see.
And so it’s important for people to know that.
So number one, know your facts
because your facts will empower you.
In this case, I like to use that word,
facts will empower you and they will even furthermore,
they will power you, empower and power you.
Because empower is like inside
and power is like I push you forward and up.
So that’s what it does to know the facts.
And then go on and look around you.
Where are the best practices of this?
Who is at the cutting edge of a free markets?
Where it’s done in a way there,
people don’t necessarily be left behind
or anything like that.
We’re in 2022 for Christ’s sake.
We don’t have to do entrepreneurship
the same way maybe it was done 50 years ago,
100 years ago when as a community, as a people,
we were maybe less enlightened because of our times, right?
We can update this thing and move forward,
but update is definitely not build back,
what do they call it?
Build back new or whatever they’re calling it at the WF,
whatever nonsense and stuff they’re smoking over there.
It’s not that.
There are some principles that are universal
and that stand the test of time.
Those we have to keep and on top add the new things
we learned from our times and from life.
So that’s what I want them to know.
Learn your facts, be empowered and powered,
and then look around, think about it
and look to see where the best practices are
around the world because the world is yours.
You might be African, but the world is yours.
So stop this nonsense of, oh, well,
it’s done by white people, so we’re not gonna do it.
Get the best that exists in humanity
for what you’re trying to solve.
And on top of that, put your own twist, right?
Bitcoin is all of ours to take.
Bitcoin is not the white man’s thing,
so therefore, oh, come on, you know,
because we have a misguided pride,
we’re not gonna use Bitcoin because it’s white man’s time.
Bitcoin is math, you idiot.
Math is universal, so it belongs to all of us.
There’s no color.
In the space of economics, in the space of ideas.
And there’s a chance to leapfrog too,
which is really, really powerful.
Exactly, because here we will leapfrog,
and let’s, I’m not crazy, this is gonna happen.
You mark my words, but it’s gonna happen
if as many people hear what we’re talking about today,
because at some point, the solution is not gonna come.
It’s not me, it’s not,
it’s gonna come from the wisdom of a crowd.
This is why I love the crowd.
There’s no better wisdom than the crowd,
and that’s also why I believe in the free markets.
This concept of emergent order, there’s no way,
there’s no central planning that is smart enough,
that has the level of intel that street level people have,
trying to create something.
It’s just, we just have to be humble.
There’s just something at the bottom of a pyramid
that just bubbles up and happens.
They’re the best.
I think the cynicism, the idea that people are dumb
is at the core of a lot of things
that prevent the flourishing of society.
You know, this kind of anecdotally,
people are like, ah, everyone is stupid,
and people say that jokingly.
But the reality is, people are incredible.
They have the capacity for kindness, for love,
for innovation, for brilliance, in all kinds of dimensions.
You might suck at math,
but you might be amazing at carpentry.
You have to find that thing,
and there’s something about,
when there’s a freedom to find that thing,
and people interact, they get excited about shit together,
and then they build.
If you look at authoritarian,
at places that limit that freedom,
at the core, I think, is the idea that people are dumb.
Let us take care of everything.
We’ll come up with the rules and the regulations,
because people are too dumb to manage things themselves.
And then that idea builds on top of itself,
where you think that the entire populace
is much lesser than the wise sages sitting at the top.
Then you add violence on top of that,
and that leads to corruption,
to corrupting of just the human mind of the leaders,
and the whole thing becomes a giant mess.
The antidote to that is economic freedom.
For people to have a freedom to enterprise.
And look, Lex, when we allow for that to happen,
have you looked around lately
and looked at the level of niche
that has happened in this country?
I mean, you have clubs where, you have places
where people are into guitar strings,
you know, like some of the,
like it’s all about guitar strings.
And others, it’s all about these best cupcakes.
And others, it’s all about this new crypto thing over here.
And others, like hair, best, you know, weight.
It’s, when you allow us, because seven billion geniuses,
each one of us, I believe,
came to this world with something,
something that only he or her possesses.
And that is the genius,
and it is their contribution to the human problem.
When you think about your identity today,
so it all started in Africa,
just like it did for the entirety of the human species.
There’s a bit of European flavor in there,
a little French, Silicon Valley.
You’re now, in part, a Texan.
There’s, you really are an American,
but you’re also an African.
Who are you, when you look in the mirror,
when you think about yourself,
when you listen, when everything gets quiet
and you listen to your heart, who are you?
Can you figure out that puzzle?
That’s a very interesting question,
because it’s been a long time I haven’t asked myself.
I have before.
What I have found is,
I think who I am today has been, for sure,
shaped by, I call it Dakar, Paris, San Francisco.
Dakar is Senegal, Paris, France,
and San Francisco, primarily.
And now, yeah, I think I might want to ask,
there’s a little bit of Texan in there.
How do you say Texas in French?
Not quite as good as San Francisco.
you, I was formed by those three.
I have to say that what I enjoy from my Senegalese roots
are our commitment to peace, love, and tolerance very much.
And Taranga, obviously.
And I like that it’s a culture
that’s very much about reverence.
It’s, we’re big on reverence.
I don’t think you could ever hear me tell an older person,
especially not my parents or my grandma or anybody like that,
for us to be able to tell an older person that’s not true
or you’re lying would never cross my mind
because that’s the most disrespectful thing
you can think of,
the most irreverent thing you can think of.
It doesn’t mean that you have to agree
with everything that’s said,
but there is a way to disagree.
There is a way to push back
that doesn’t have to rob this person
who happens to be older than you,
especially from the dignity that older age normally provides.
And there’s wisdom to their words
that you yourself may not see.
So the reverence is for the idea of wisdom, of tradition.
And again, so that is something that I really enjoy,
especially, and something I’m very attached to,
to this day, and then from France,
what I really came to enjoy, of course,
is all the fineness that one can find
within French culture.
Yeah, the fineness.
You mean like the intricacies, like the very…
Yeah, the soft sophistication in there.
I mean, French lingerie, for example.
I mean, la dentelle, the laces, all of that,
it’s super, it’s exquisite.
The fashion, the food.
I mean, there’s something to be said about all of that,
and it’s very beautiful.
And I love also, even when I talk about fineness,
it’s like a meal is not about this big thing
they put in front of you,
but smaller portions, enjoy what you’re eating
and spend time at a table.
Like the eating time is not necessarily
just this function of feeding yourself,
which I understand it,
but this is something that they share
with Senegalese culture,
is eating is a moment of communion.
It’s a moment of friendship, family.
It’s a precious moment.
To this day, and my husband is American,
we eat our meals together all the time.
I would not have it any other way.
And there’s a prep time, all of that stuff.
It doesn’t matter how busy I am, but we’re doing it.
Actually, to push back a little bit,
it’s interesting, because yeah,
the camaraderie over a meal is a beautiful thing.
I got, I mean, I was in a pretty dark place
because on the way to Ukraine,
I traveled to Paris, I stayed in Paris,
and I wasn’t able to enjoy the fineness
because it was almost a distraction
from the humanity for some reason to me,
because there’s such a focus on the art of it all
that you lose the basic connection to humanity.
Now, that said.
Depends what you’re talking about.
I think some of the lack of connection over humanity
was the fact that while I did know how to speak French
for a long time, I forgot most of the language.
And so part of it, there is a barrier.
You said hospitality.
There is a bit of a barrier in French culture
to where in order to be welcomed in,
you have to hear the music
and be able to play the music of the people.
And if you don’t, there’s a bit of a barrier.
I must admit on that end that it is true.
You would feel less that
if you were with a group of Senegalese people per se,
or I would even say if a group of Spanish people.
And I think this is maybe the other side
of it for the French people.
They can be a little bit uppity up there.
And I think maybe that’s what you’re sensing there.
If you don’t have the codes,
which is what you call if you don’t sing the music,
then it’s hard for you to be part of it.
But I was speaking here from the standpoint of your inn.
Yeah, from the inside.
Also, come on, coming from Texas and also Ukraine,
Ukraine, I should say some of the best steak and meat
I’ve ever had, cheap.
Texas, some of the greatest.
And the size of the meals in France,
it’s like, what are we doing here?
I mean, I get it’s art.
I’d like to look at my art on the wall
and then eat my damn steak.
I just wanna cut the shit.
Did you go, so maybe, okay, no, no, no, no.
Okay, now here I have to defend them,
although sometimes I’m the worst.
Now, did you go to some Michelin star restaurant?
Maybe that’s why.
Yeah, a little bit, a little bit.
That’s why, because next time you go to France,
I’ll take you to the countryside or any French home.
They will serve you multiple times.
I mean, by the time you’re done,
even if the portions are smaller,
they’re smaller if you want to,
but because that way you get a chance
to really feel what you’re eating and then have more
and then all of that stuff, but not be like, ah, like this.
And then, but no, you’ll eat plenty,
but it’s because you went to the Michelin places
where they were like.
I’m sure the warmth of the people is there.
It almost makes me sad that sometimes,
I think to properly be in a place,
you really should spend a long time there.
And also be emotionally ready.
Again, I was emotionally unavailable.
I was just like.
Well, I would imagine on the way to the Ukraine,
I’m like, who can think about food?
But in your identity, a bit of Texas,
a bit of San Francisco, a bit of Africa.
Yeah, San Francisco.
And I guess from the America,
the defining thing for me for America is,
it’s the freedom and the entrepreneurial mindset.
See, very quickly when I moved from France
to the United States,
and I started becoming successful in the United States,
I found myself, me and my husband,
he was French and my first husband who passed away.
We found ourselves at some point,
we stopped talking to our friends in France
who stayed in France,
because we were talking to them about things
that were so outside of their comprehension.
What do you mean you’re in your twenties
and you just raised, I don’t know,
a million dollars or $2 million,
especially from back in those days.
Today, it’s easy here and there.
So even in France,
that entrepreneurial spirit didn’t burn quite as bright.
I mean, don’t take me wrong.
Do you have some entrepreneurial people in France?
Yeah, but to the level that you have it in the US,
It’s just, I mean, in France, it’s still very much,
you’re born in this area,
you go to school in that area,
your parents live around,
eventually you’ll marry and be where your parents are
or maybe go to where your spouse’s parents are
and you buy your house and you buy it once
and you’re not gonna do like the Americans,
two years later, I sell my house, I go somewhere else.
You don’t have any of anything.
What do you mean, just stopping from nowhere,
you’re gonna do what?
Start a business and you have nothing to back you up
Oh, and even this idea of going and fundraising,
this venture cap, especially back in the days,
venture cap, all of that, it’s very American.
We take it for granted, but it’s very American.
Who would have made a bet on me in France?
The same person.
I would not have found the same people.
I would never in France have been able to raise,
at some point it was $32 million for my first business,
never would have been able to do that in France.
And it doesn’t mean that French people are bad people
or anything like that.
It’s just something that’s just not so in the culture.
Just like this whole concept of philanthropy,
it’s not that the French people don’t do philanthropy,
but philanthropy in America is very different
from the level and also the magnitude
of maybe what the French people do.
And also they have this always like,
oh, let’s do it behind the scene.
Money is suspicious, success is suspicious.
So at some point my husband and I just felt like
our friends actually were maybe thinking
that we’re maybe some drug dealers or something.
So we just stopped because it just was not flowing anymore.
And so yes, in America I found this entrepreneurial spirit,
but then I was able to link it with something
that I’m very familiar with in my country.
See, back home in Senegal, I’m part of this,
you have what we call the Mourid, I’m a Mourid.
So what it is is one of the four brotherhoods in Senegal,
Mouridism is the most influential of them
and the biggest one.
And us, it’s all about entrepreneurship as well.
I mean, of course there’s the whole religious part,
but our mantra is,
pray as if you will die tomorrow
and work as if you will never die.
And the way we say,
the way somebody will say that somebody passed away,
we say, somebody has retired.
Somebody has retired from their work.
So, I think it’s funny because in that community,
we’re very much entrepreneurial,
left to our own devices, we’re entrepreneurial.
But then what happens is the minute that we die,
then what happens is the minute people start going to,
they’re being educated through the education system,
you know, like the French, especially the system,
but tend to breed more like, you know,
the French bureaucrat mindset,
then you can see all the entrepreneurial mindset
kind of starting to dwindle down.
So it’s kind of very interesting.
So in a way, America helped me reunite
with that side of my roots,
where America tells me, reinforces that side of my roots
and also gives me more tools to practice
that side of my roots, if that makes any sense.
Through all of that, that’s what brings out
the heart of a cheetah, which I think is a beautiful,
beautiful thing that encapsulates that whole trajectory,
which I think is the best possible answer
anyone could give.
It makes me want to really think about who I am,
because you really have brought together
so many cultures within yourself
that just talking to you makes you feel like
we are just all one people.
Because at the end we are, at the end we are.
And, you know, when you come from,
at the end we are, and also I think for me,
if people can take anything from my story,
it’s at the end of the day, I am very clear about it.
And I’m all for harmony among people
and among us peoples.
If we can accept that we’re all,
I know this sounds so cliche, but for me it’s so true,
that we’re all humans.
You know, when I left Senegal,
when I was about to leave Senegal for the first time
and to go to Europe to be reunited with my parents,
because now they had emigrated
and things were going to be fine.
And I was going to be, things were stable for them.
Now they’re like, it’s time to be reunited with her.
They brought me over, but before I left Senegal,
my grandma sat me down.
She actually, she lowered herself down to my level
and she said, my god, you’re about to go to this place
where most people will not look like you.
And most people speak a language
that’s going to be different from yours.
And you’re going to realize that all the kids
are going to school and you’ve never been to school
because, you know, I was, like I said, a free range kid
and I was just living my life.
And she said, but I don’t want for any of that,
and she showed her words, she said,
I don’t want for any of that to intimidate you.
She said, you can be impressed by some of it if you want,
but no intimidation.
And she said, because the fact
that they might be different from you,
yeah, they’re going to have a different skin color from you,
but it is still human skin.
You’re human, they’re human.
And she said, this language you’re going to speak,
it’s a different language from yours,
but it is still a language that humans speak.
You’re human, they’re human.
Therefore, you’re going to speak it.
And lastly, they have gone to school.
Going to school is what little humans do.
You’re a little human, so you’ll be just fine.
And I went and grandma was right.
Right, she was right.
And that helped me.
And I think when you internalize that so early on,
it just makes you belong to the human family
that you’re part of.
I am part of a human family.
And I would have no problem going to Russia, for example,
let’s take, and be totally open.
Maybe don’t go right now, but.
No, not now.
Maybe not now, you’re right.
But what I just.
Or at least don’t bring weed if you go on the plane.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, yeah, right.
That girl, I don’t know what she was thinking, but.
No, so, but what I’m trying to say, Lex,
is I feel like I can go anywhere in the world,
including some of the most unfriendly places in the world
to someone like me, because there are places like that.
And yet I know, I know that somehow, somewhere,
someone will take care of me.
Someone will help me.
When I first came to this country,
I came as a tourist, but you had this amazing family
who had a business, a family business in Indiana,
Columbus, Indiana, the Wences, Carolyn Eldon Wence,
I owe them everything that I have in this country,
that I am in this country.
They are Americans in the mid America
from a place that most other Americans
would maybe look down on because,
and some people would be like, oh, you’re going to this place
where they have more churches and cows than people,
that type of behavior, because the elite coastal elites,
but it is in Midwest, in the Midwest that I found,
that I, black young women coming out of nowhere,
They all rallied around me.
I didn’t even come from the same faith as they are from,
yet their whole church rallied around me
to find me an apartment.
My host family found me, got me a job,
and it was not a pity job.
They were like, we need, we are in serious needs
of getting our accounting under control
and our marketing and all of that.
And I had to catch up years of accounting like to the cent
and come up with marketing, all of that.
And I did it way faster than they thought
I would ever be able to do that.
At some point they look at me and they’re like,
look, there is a future for you.
And we are too small for that future.
And now we could be selfish and keep you here with us.
And we would want nothing more than that
because really they’re like my parents to this day.
I just came back from seeing them.
And they said, but there’s so much more for you
and we don’t have it.
So we want you to go and find out what it is.
And that’s eventually when I,
because something was brewing up in San Francisco
when I say I left my heart in San Francisco
because the man who would become my husband,
we went to the same business school in France,
but then he was older than me.
So he had come to San Francisco and started a business there.
And it just looked like there was something there.
And Scarola was like, you gotta go to San Francisco
and find out with Emmanuel what’s going on.
So I went and I left my heart in San Francisco.
I came back and I’m like, okay, I’m leaving.
Here’s the keys to my apartment.
What, I don’t understand.
But I’m like, I’m out of here.
So no, but Carol, so this is it.
This is what I’m saying, especially in these times
when this country loves to dwell on,
you’re bad because you have this skin color.
Here are people with a completely different skin color
than mine, completely different faith than mine,
yet embraced me, protected me, paid for my visa,
you know, for my lawyer, for my H1B, everything,
and also played emotional support for me.
And no one, no one asked them to do that.
They didn’t have to do it.
So what I’m saying is,
and this has been the story of my life,
everywhere I go, regardless of the hostility around me,
you betcha that there’s always,
always gonna be somebody who shows up for you.
And somebody who’s at the extremes,
at the antipodes of where you are and who you are.
And that tells me something.
In the end, we are good people.
Most people are good people.
And there’s so much power to that,
the internalizing of this idea that we’re all just human
and there’s human kindness all around us.
I’ve seen it a lot where people internalize that
and they’re able to walk lightly amidst hate
and walk past it and it doesn’t stick to them
in a way that they build resentment and it paralyzes them.
If they internalize the world as human,
they can be in the, just like you said,
in the worst places in the world for them.
And someone, somewhere that human magic and touch is there.
Yeah, it will find them.
It will find, yeah, yeah.
And you know, the other thing too, Lex is,
especially in these times we’re walking in,
it is to remind yourself,
I think this is where we all are called
to practice more courage.
I call it courage.
It’s the courage to show up with curiosity,
with empathy and with love.
To me, those three are the antidote to pretty much anything.
Curiosity and love.
In the face of fear, can you show up with curiosity?
In the face of hate, can you say,
I’m gonna engage with love?
Even if I’m scared to death
and even if I’m pissed off to death by this,
but can you do that?
In the face of just like, you know, judgment or whatever,
can you show up with empathy?
And I had just found that when you try to do that,
you engage very different parts of your brain.
That’s proven by the way, by the brain scientists,
but you also can feel it in your body
that you’re engaging very different parts of your soul.
And so I try myself, I’m not always good at it,
but it’s a practice that I try to honor,
which is curiosity, empathy and love.
As I told you offline,
those, I agree with you 100% on that,
but there is, you know, when you go to Ukraine
and you can say, you can speak about the power of love,
but when you lose your family, when you lose your home,
all you have in your heart is hate.
Even if you know it, you’re not supposed to have it.
You still, all you have is hate.
So sometimes it’s a very human thing
to have resentment, to have hate.
But it is about trying not to stay there.
And it’s okay if it takes you years,
but it is about trying, and I mean the word trying,
it is about trying not to stay there.
Let me ask you about some of the things
you see in this country from your perspective
of everywhere you’ve been in the world.
What do you think about the Black Lives Matter movement
here in America that does struggle
with the role of skin color today
and throughout the history of this country,
maybe even throughout the history of the world?
Well, Black Lives Matter has been a very hard one for me,
because do Black Lives Matter,
those three words together in that order,
what they mean, they mean everything,
because Black Lives do matter,
as any other lives do matter.
But I know in this case why they say Black Lives Matter,
because some of the context we have had.
Now, while I agree with the principles
that Black Lives Matter,
I have a big problem with the organization.
With the organization and what it stands for.
When I have an organization that pretends
to want to stand for Black lives to matter,
yet you are self proclaimed Marxist socialists,
I pause and then I’m like, have we learned nothing?
Have we learned nothing?
And the reason why I say that, Lex,
is because 60 some years ago,
it started before even 60 some years ago,
Black people, in this case,
I’m talking about the African people,
I’m talking about the Black Africans
who would go on to really cement
this concept of African emancipation
and African liberation.
And here I’m taking us back to 1945.
They had four of them before that.
But in 1945, in Manchester, UK,
happened something that would become major
for Africa and its future,
especially subterranean Africa.
In Manchester, UK,
people like Blaise Diagne of my country,
Nyerere, Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana,
and others and others from different parts of the continent
got together with Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Dubois.
And I say Dubois because that’s how we say it in French.
He has a French name, French sounding name at least.
And Americans would say, so for Americans listening,
I know you say Duboy, but it’s Dubois.
No, because just in case they’re like,
who is he talking about?
That’s who I’m talking about.
So all of those people got together in the UK
and with W.E.B. Dubois and Marcus Garvey,
big top African American intellectuals of their times.
W.E.B. Dubois had so many things happen to him,
starting from the North,
being more or more or less a liberal type guy.
You know, came to the South just to see at this time,
you know, people, black people being lynched
and some of the body parts been shown in store windows.
I mean, just for a second, we put ourselves in his shoes.
I put myself in his shoes.
And that’s when he started to become radicalized, right?
Because at first it was like, oh, reforms,
and I was like, God darn it.
And I mean, these people, we don’t talk to them.
We force, you know.
And eventually, little by little, things going through.
Yeah, you have these people,
they’re very much on the Marxist socialist train.
So do you think the sort of,
it’s the political movements that are just using?
Yeah, because what happened back in those days, it is true.
But to their credit, communist socialists
were fighting for equal rights.
They were fighting for equal rights.
They were fighting for the rights of black people
to have equal rights.
So of course, I could see why one could say,
especially in this times, you’ve been lynched,
bodies burnt, body parts showcased at window stores.
Meanwhile, in Africa, under colonization,
in your own country, in your own land.
And you have this group that’s saying,
your fight is part of what we fight.
And you have this group that’s saying,
your fight is part of what we fight.
Of course, you’re gonna say I side with you,
especially if this is all happening at a time
where, you know, so 1945, these guys who would be
the liberators of various African nations,
they’re meeting with Garvey, with W. E. B. Du Bois.
And that’s where this meeting is very important.
It’s the fifth Pan African Congress meeting.
It’s very important.
It’s gonna be the last one, but it’s the most important one
because that’s when they formed their plans
and really rallied around this concept
of African emancipation and African liberation.
We’re gonna liberate our countries.
Then later, so that’s how all of these movements
started to happen.
And from there, Gandhi was already making some progress
with India, you know, getting them out of British rule
and all of that.
So all of this was happening and it really like,
this whole thing was bubbling, bubbling, bubbling,
you know, like there’s like a new force going on.
And then we arrive in the late fifties
and, you know, Kuma with, you know,
them with the British as well,
they might manage to become their colonization is over.
They’re the first one to go in, 57.
Then from there, it’s what we call the independences.
That’s what most of Sub Saharan African nation
are getting their independence is different dates.
Mine, April 4th, 1960.
So all over, so this is happening.
And now think about it.
You’re talking 57, you’re talking 60.
We’re like at this time now with the middle of a Cold War.
Because we have to put things in context
if we wanna understand what’s going on.
Because people today ask me, why do you think,
because even now when they understand,
oh, you’re right, it makes sense.
If you have no economic freedom, you’re gonna be poor.
But why, why, why did they go for this?
Why did they go for this?
And then they don’t understand.
So that’s what happened.
So beginning of day of times, pre colonial Africans
were free marketeers, free enterprise.
It’s pretty well recorded by someone like George Aite.
That’s where I got the cheat I think from
and Ghanaian economist.
And then slavery happened, colonialism happened.
And then the independences, late fifties, early sixties
for most sub Saharan African countries.
So there what you have is,
but then what happened there?
So I told you in 45, fifth Pan African Congress in the UK
with the liberators of Africa under the leadership
because he was the wise, you know, eldest man.
Dubois was, he was in his seventies back in the day.
So he’s older than them, you know,
and he’s coming with all of his ideas and everything.
So they’re like, ooh.
So there they are.
Now we’re in the late fifties, early sixties.
We’re starting to make progress with the independences.
You know, India has gone there before.
So all of that is starting to happen.
And at that time, remember,
they already were being introduced
to the concept of socialism, Marxism,
all of that way before by some of these, you know,
black African American intellectuals of their time
who were very socialist Marxist by that time.
So now they’re becoming independent
because I do independent like this
because I reckon that there’s still neocolonism going on.
So now this is happening, they’re becoming free.
But then you look around, what do you see?
That now most of these liberators of their nations
become the president of the nations.
But remember what I told you?
Most of them have dranken the Marxist socialism Koolaid.
So as these African nations become independent
with their first independent governments
and, you know, presidents, most of them,
most of them are socialist,
various forms of statist type of government.
And this is because at that point,
we had made a fatal mistake of going,
of saying we are Marxist socialist
because you guys fight for equal rights.
So in this case, there should be no colonialism
or anything like that.
So not only you have that going on and the people,
so right now you had this battle of ideology going on
because on one end represented by freedom
and the economic, what do you call it?
The economic system they were using is capitalism.
And these are represented by the Western nations
facing off with Eastern block,
practicing various forms of statism,
socialism, communism, various forms of statism.
And these two are fighting for influence.
So, and we also have, it’s also not, so two things there.
One is we’re at a time where,
remember the free market concept was almost dead,
So almost every intellectual at that time
was social Marxist or Marxist socialist,
I put the name, that’s what you were.
So you’re in a world where it was a normal thing,
it was just mainstream acceptance.
So not only you have that force,
but at the same time,
if these two forces are fighting one another,
it turns out that the one representing capitalism
and freedom, well, sorry,
but isn’t it you who enslaved us and colonized us?
And you’re fighting with the people who represent,
supposedly people who are saying that
who had been fighting for equal rights for us,
with us for the longest time, these are our friends.
And that’s when we made a fatal mistake
because while yes, there were maybe good things
to agree on with Marxist socialist of the times,
especially equal rights for all people and all of that,
that’s the only thing we should have,
among the only things we should have agreed upon.
There are violent revolution tendencies, no way.
When it comes to the economic nonsense, no way.
We should not have thrown the baby out with the bathwater,
but that’s what we did.
And that’s when we made a fatal mistake.
So then we became free, all of these nations,
and most of them started with socialist or communist leaders.
My country, socialist, Léopold Sédar Senghor,
he was a socialist.
And they stayed in power for 40 years,
the first 40 years of our freedom years.
And all over the continent, more or less,
that’s what you had.
And on top of that,
something else that the French don’t know,
the people don’t know is France with its colonies said,
you cannot, not do,
you have to keep the French civil law.
So we’re talking about the Napoleonic civil code.
Are you kidding me?
So that’s what happened.
So the reason why I go back to BLM is while I have
all the respect in the world
and all the compassion in the world
for people like Krummer, for people like Nyerere,
for people, all of us people of those times,
the liberators of Africa,
while I have so much love, compassion for them,
I am also able to say,
because I got the benefit of 60 some years time,
and where you get to do a debrief
and see what worked, what didn’t work, what happened.
We have had the 60 years to look back and to reflect.
So yes, I can understand why they did what they did.
I can understand why they sided with these people
who on the surface, or at least some part of a fight
was the same fight as them when it came to equal rights.
I can excuse them,
but I will not excuse the BLM founders
because that mistake was tolerable 60 some years ago.
The blacks of today cannot be serious
about black lives mattering and saying in the same sentence,
and we’re going to be socialist Marx, Marxist socialist.
It just doesn’t work.
So the BLM movement is too deeply integrated
with the ideas of Marxism.
Yeah, they’re anti free market, anti capitalist.
And we do know that you have to have the free markets
in order to build prosperity.
And prosperity means economic power.
If you have economic power, no one messes with you,
or if they’re gonna do it, they’re gonna have to think twice.
And when they do, they’re gonna have to pay consequences.
So if you want for blacks to be respected
anywhere in the world,
you’re gonna have to be serious about black prosperity,
all mass, not just a few people,
Oprah over here and somebody over there, no.
We as a group have to be critical mass of prosperity
across the board.
And because we’re talking critical mass of prosperity
across the board,
it means black people everywhere in the world.
But guess what?
We in Africa happen to represent 90% of our representatives
of a black race.
So you’re gonna be serious about black lives mattering
without being serious for Africa,
the 1 billion people in Africa that are black
and for them to have access to the free markets
and yes, fossil fuels,
so that they can rocket up prosperity wise.
And the resources of the young people, the young minds.
So that all of these young people, young minds
can finally manifest their greatness that I know they have
and that they’re showing us every day
despite the obstacles.
That’s what we need.
Senegal becomes rich and Senegal can become
and will be richer than France.
Singapore did it, we can do it.
Mali rich, Nigeria rich, functioning as well.
Malawi rich, Tanzania rich, Uganda rich,
Zimbabwe rich, Niger rich, everywhere rich prosperous
as prosperous, if not more prosperous than Switzerland
or Singapore or the U.S.
I don’t know, or the Lichtenstein or Luxembourg,
places that have no natural resources.
We become rich and you watch the world
having a very different relationship with us.
That’s the only time we will commend any type of respect.
That’s when people, even our common psyche will change
even about black people.
All of the stereotypes that they have of us
is gonna melt away.
And you may still not like us, but you will still respect us
because we are a force to be dealt with.
And only economic power does that.
It would be nice, of course, for us to respect people
because they’re people.
It would be nice, but let us not kid ourselves.
This is earth.
And someone said, nice people will make it to heaven,
but not to Harvard necessarily.
It’s interesting that pity does not ever turn into respect.
It would be nice if it did.
It would be nice, but it doesn’t.
Prosperity is the only thing.
And the way we do that, there is no,
just like all of us humans have to inhale oxygen
and exhale carbon dioxide.
That’s a human way of breathing.
You bring me on, but you wanna be foolish
and be like, oh, well, sorry.
That’s how white people breathe.
So as black people,
we’re gonna have to do something different.
Well, good luck with that.
So this is here why I’m saying,
I have no patience for Black Lives Matter.
They’re making a mistake that was made 60 some plus 60.
Years ago, even more than that.
Maybe even a hundred, you know,
when we were siding with the Marxist socialists
because they’re the ones who’ve been fighting
for equal rights.
Let me ask you though, about racism.
Do you, as you travel through this world,
as you travel through America,
feel the burn of hatred?
You’ve spoken about the revolutions
that have been fought throughout the 20th century
But today, as people talk about educating,
reminding the world with the,
even with more philosophical ideas
of critical race theory, for example,
do you think this is still a battle
that needs to be fought
at the forefront of culture in the United States?
Um, does racism exist?
Yes, it does.
But all forms of isms exist.
Some people, it’s about various forms of ableism.
Others, it’s about size.
And racism, yes, is one of them.
Does it exist?
Yes, it does.
But is it what’s gonna stop anyone
from manifesting their greatest potential?
I say no.
Many people in this country have showed it.
Whether they’re African Americans
or African immigrant, I’m an African immigrant.
You have African Americans like Oprah and others,
and other people even before her,
who despite the nastiness around them,
were able to make it.
So we do know, especially as black people,
but I think it’s humanity as a whole.
And that’s what I love about the human spirit.
But resiliency only can happen
if you don’t allow yourself to be beaten down
and to lose yourself of agency.
It’s, of course, easier said than done.
And some among us need a little bit more help
to not succumb for it than others do.
And I’ve seen it.
It might be harder for you
if you’re somewhere in inner city,
inner city black America.
Maybe the environment might be a little bit tougher
for you to try and get your act together
and all of that stuff.
And it’s okay.
But even in that situation,
we need to, I think it’s important
that we still do not rob you of your agency.
And this is where I am mad as heck
against those who supposedly care
and their idea of how to make sure
that I don’t become or stay a victim of racism
is through all the things we talked about,
the CRT, the anti racism crap of, you know,
Ibrahim X. Kendi and what’s her name, Robin DiAngelo.
I mean her, I’m shocked.
The woman is making all of this money
supposedly fighting a war on our behalf.
I’m like, lady, I hear you loud and clear
that you are a true racist.
I know, but you told me you are.
And for you to think that your anti racism
makes you less racist and it’s, that happens too.
She comes from a racist background.
Fine, she’s saying it, it’s true.
But this idea that every walking person on earth
belongs to one category or the other,
depending on what, you know, which skin color you came with,
it’s problematic at its root.
So my point is, does racism exist?
Do you think it’s gonna stop me
from doing anything I have to do?
Might it make it harder, longer?
Maybe, but it will not stop me from doing anything.
But it will not stop me.
But for it not to stop me,
I can’t engage in victimhood mentality.
I can’t lose myself as self.
I got to use all the agency that I have
to fight back and fight beyond.
See, it’s just a bit of fight back.
You fight back and you fight beyond.
Cause at some point, yeah and.
It’s this concept of yes and.
So this is why I have loved the job.
So when I have somebody who is like,
oh, anti racism is a way.
We’re gonna go and tell all the white kids
that, you know, because they will happen to be white,
that they’re really the oppressors and blah, blah, blah.
And the black kids, because they’re black, you know,
you’re not changing anything when you’re doing that.
Nothing except that you’re causing,
you’re putting problems
where there were no problems to start with.
All we had to do was maybe
go for a different route from there.
Kids are kids.
Kids are born kids.
And this, I’m not sure if you want to get me going
onto the whole science of bias,
because that’s something I spent years of my life on.
And my journey on the science of bias
started with the days of Philando Castile,
Eric Garner, that whole summer of 2016,
when we had this horrendous, horrendous situation
of black people being killed by the police,
where they shot before asking,
and people left to die in the most inhumane way
for the rest of us to watch from the social media.
That’s when my George Floyd moment happened.
Not later than four years ago,
and the whole world is like, you know.
So that sent me on a journey
of understanding what discrimination is and bias is.
And in a way, that’s the reason why I started this company
that I even called Skinny Skin.
That’s where it came from.
Again, criticized by creating.
I needed to understand what discrimination was.
How does it work?
Is it true what Kendi is saying?
Is it true what DAngelo is saying?
Is it true that it could be that your race
is just because of the skin color you happen to be born in?
Is it true?
I needed to know, because I was at a time of my life
where at some point, you know,
when those killings were happening,
it was so hard for me being a black person in this country.
I mean, what is this?
And what do we do with this?
Yeah, is it true?
How much discrimination am I operating under in the system?
All of that.
You need to understand the full characteristics of,
if you’re dreaming of making a big change
by building companies, you have to kind of intuit,
how much, what am I up against?
What am I up against, right?
And so this is why, you know,
spend all of this time on some of the work.
And then eventually I understood that discrimination,
if you wanted to understand it beyond,
it’s, you know, beyond the big lines of,
especially the clickbait lines
would make it very black and white.
Then I had to really take a moment and I spent time,
you know, with a world of brain scientists,
with behavioral psychologists,
with evolutionary biologists.
We have all of this ecosystem, but together form
what one might call the science of bias.
And especially I came across the work
of this team of scientists at the University of,
I think it’s Wisconsin,
and they’re the only ones who made sense
in this sea of nonsense back then.
And this article was in Politico,
and it was saying something that I could relate to it.
And eventually what I learned was,
and this part comes from the evolutionary biologist people,
they in a way tell you that right around age three,
can happen sooner or later,
because you know, we’re all different,
but you go from this person who has to rely
on these other people, usually your parents, to stay alive,
to be fed, to be housed, to be in your diaper change,
all of that stuff, right?
To now, something is kicking in.
Where you have to, in order for you to survive,
and this is all wired in,
so you don’t even understand it consciously,
as I’m saying it now,
where in order for you to survive,
in order for you to go from this state of dependency
to the next stage and more and more and more,
you’re gonna have to develop this ability
to make sense of the world.
And what’s making sense of a world
at its most basic level means is,
can you determine if a situation
or a person is good or bad for you?
Failure, and you need to be able to do so ever so quickly,
because failure to be able to do that
means that you might not be alive the next second.
See, it’s so wired in.
So this process is starting to kick in.
And at that point,
your brain is gonna be your best ally for that.
And what the brain is gonna do is it’s gonna help you,
and the way the brain works is through,
it works with, it’s all wired for efficiency.
And the way it goes for efficiency is through automation,
meaning that every time it has computed,
and you probably know these things way better than me,
every time it has computed one algorithm,
it doesn’t want to do it again.
It’s almost like this, okay, got it, stored, stored, right?
And then it adds maybe some little levels of complexity to it,
but it has to be something new,
meaning the new level of complexity
for it to even be willing to reconsider.
Otherwise you have, so then all of a sudden
what you have is these neurons in the back of your head,
and they have created pathways, right?
So, and every time neurons have created pathway
among themselves, because basically they’re attached,
and here is the pathway,
well, this pathway in the world of,
in the world of science of bias, it’s a habit.
In general, it’s a habit when they form two pathways,
when they form a pathway, it’s a habit.
So if we’re willing to talk about unconscious bias,
because of course it’s very different
from somebody who tells me to my face,
there’s no world in which you or I could ever be equal,
because you’re black and I’m white,
you’re a woman, I’m a man, this, this and that,
that people like that, again, 1% of psychopaths in our world,
they’re out there, unfortunately,
by the time they do nasty things, it’s pretty horrible,
and that’s what all we hear about,
but I’m talking mostly about the rest of us.
Remember when I told you that most of us are good people,
bumbling along, making it up as we’re going,
and that’s why I have compassion for human nature.
So, but really, in the morning when I wake up,
do you really think that I’m waking up and thinking,
how am I gonna go kill?
How am I gonna kill?
And I wake up and thinking, how am I gonna go kill?
How am I gonna go kill Lex?
That Lex guy needs to go down, he’s a man, he’s a,
don’t take me wrong, I’m sure there are some women
who feel like that, but I’m not one of them,
and I do think a majority of us are not, whatever.
But you know, in the morning I’m waking up,
I’m just like, gee, can I get my tea?
Oh, my dog is not looking okay today.
You know, we’ve got, right?
It’s a lot going on, and so you’re using these kind of,
just like you said, brilliantly,
it has a bunch of simplifications that’s built up,
and it uses those simplifications to get through the day.
To get through the day, exactly.
So then here you are, needing to make sense of a world,
and then the brain is your best ally in that.
The way it’s gonna do it is through efficiency,
efficiency done through automation.
So every time it thinks it’s figured something out,
it’s never gonna think about it again,
so that’s how you build all of these habits
of unconscious bias, because everything,
so it’s somewhere along the line,
you come up with the information
that black man walking around with a hoodie equals danger.
So later, what do you see?
Whether it’s Lex or my gut, I’m walking in the dark alley,
I see a black man with a hoodie,
maybe I’m gonna run away
because I’ve been given that information.
So the best way to think about it is the brain is a hardware,
and the software it runs on is, what do you call it?
Is a cultural imprint.
All of this information that we’re getting
from the Disney movies that you’re reading,
telling you that damsels are to be saved by the prince
and all of that stuff, and girls wear pink and all, whatever.
You watch the movies, and all the movies,
whenever you watch images about Africa,
they’re talking to you about the blood diamonds,
or they’re talking to you about slavery,
or they’re talking to you about this,
and then no wonder you walk away
thinking that all the ills of Africa are caused
because of resource extraction, the diamonds,
or they’re always fighting each other,
look at Idi Amin in the movie,
or slavery all the time, you walk away and this is it.
And we all programmed along the same lines,
see that’s the beauty of it.
All of us are, because even some black people
who are gonna claim that they didn’t visit up
when they registered, really?
So the truth, so then when I learned all of this,
I’m like, wow, this concept of if you’ve got the brain,
you’ve got biases, it comes with the territory,
that makes sense.
Now, it doesn’t mean we can’t transcend
that function of a brain and that we should transcend it.
But I think it’s very important
because once you understand that,
a little bit more peace is created among us
because this is not about a black and white,
or a yellow and green issue,
it’s about we are human issue.
And these are part of things we develop to stay around.
Just like we no longer have to rely on this fear of flight,
like ability of a brain because bears over there
start running and running fast, right?
Today, where are the bears?
Show me where they are.
But we have kept this tendency to go for fear of flight.
I don’t know how they say it.
And so we have this courtesan done by the stress,
stress triggers that back in the days,
we have a stress trigger, we run,
and it’s all expelled out.
But today we get triggers
and we don’t know what to do with it
because where do we run to?
What do we do?
The bear is not even here.
So same thing here with that.
And so then you realize there’s this whole thing
that is now what you understand
is that this problem is not about anti racism BS,
but it is about can each one of us
do the work where the work is needed,
which is we look inside.
Can we go for this work of deprogrammation?
This concept of a mindful practice
of undoing the habit of bias.
And that doesn’t necessarily have to do
with a simple categorization of black and white.
It’s all kinds of biases.
It’s about everything.
And when I started on that journey
and my friend back then built this practice
of undoing your habit of unconscious bias,
we had all types of people come and say,
wow, I discovered that my bias is against larger people.
And I’m more like, what do you mean?
Well, I think it seems to me like I felt
that larger people maybe are dumb.
No, we heard things and you don’t judge.
You don’t judge.
And you see it’s at every level.
I don’t know, like there’s even this one friend,
she was like, when I looked into the whole dating thing,
I absolutely didn’t want to date the Asian men
because her mind was into some stereotypes
about the size of whatever.
And she was like, no.
But you see, once you start,
because there’s this whole thing of,
it’s the five step thing, bias awareness.
This, basically at this level,
what you’re doing is you’re learning
to spot the biases in our culture,
because that’s where the cultural imprint comes from.
You’re watching this movie and you’re realizing,
just like I said, wow, gee, I realized once again,
the black person is portrayed like the fog of a movie.
Or, you know, the Latina lady,
this is how she’s been portrayed.
And you see it everywhere.
Even the NPR, NPR is happening,
like you’re listening to something like NPR.
It’s gotta be more liberal than that.
And this gentleman is asking these two candidates,
one of them is a woman, political candidates,
the other one is a man.
I’m hearing him asking the lady a question
that I know he’s not gonna ask the man and he didn’t ask her.
He said, how do you balance your race with a family?
Does a man not have a family?
Right there, you see, it’s very subtle.
But you see, but because now my mind is kind of trained
to see things, I’m like, interesting.
Or like when the media just says,
froze climate change issue on something
without even the choice of words.
So it’s pretty much everywhere.
You open a book everywhere.
The interesting thing though,
I mean, even that man, woman example,
is I think it’s really powerful
to bring that bias to the surface,
but not let that lead to kind of fear and paralysis.
You should almost, I mean, that’s where humor is,
make fun of it, bring it to the surface,
like acknowledge the fact that those things
are a part of the conversation.
And a lot of them are, it is, it’s a cultural imprint
because it’s part of culture.
And that might be, there could be,
I grew up in the Soviet Union
where the gender roles were stronger than in other places.
And that’s part of the culture.
We have to acknowledge that this is how,
this is affecting how I think.
We might like how that works, we might not,
but we have to acknowledge it and not get,
make it part of humor, make fun of yourself,
all that kind of stuff.
That’s the thing.
And so that’s why this first step is bias awareness.
So you get, you train yourself, oh yeah, okay,
that was one or it’s, you know, and it’s about,
it’s in you, we’re talking about you, we’re not.
And then from there, you’re like replace the bias,
like bias replacement.
Then it is where you practice the empathy.
You’re like, gee, wow, I wonder how I would feel
every day I walk into a store
and the guy thinks he should be following me
because maybe I might steal something because I’m black.
Because once you try that,
to put yourself in the other person’s shoes,
all of a sudden something else starts to click.
And then from there, you go on to making connection.
Then you’re making a connection
and then things start to change because now you know,
you’re making, then you make cultural immersion.
So this is where we had some people like this one woman,
she was very quite, very feminist oriented.
And she had an issue with women wearing the hijab.
And because for her it was like, how come you,
how come, how come you just lower, you know,
like how come you’re accepting this demeaning of yourself,
not understanding everything else that comes with it.
But through, as she understood that she even had that bias,
then she went on through all the different processes.
And then eventually when comes the next step,
cultural immersion, she started going to the mosque
during Ramadan when the Muslims are doing, you know,
they’re, it’s the holy month of, you know, fasting
and then we break at night.
And she started understanding very different things.
And eventually happens the last step that happens naturally,
making a true, real, genuine connection.
And this is where friendships happen.
This is where that’s it, your bias can go home now
because it has been challenged with reality
And so for me, that is what I was after.
And then, but then the world was just like,
we don’t want to be told we’re part of a problem.
So, but I still reckon that it is the type of mindfulness,
type of practice that’s going to need to happen.
And it’s one that’s very internal to you.
It is not, and it happens, everybody at their own pace.
So all of this, I take it back to the racism,
the question you were asking me.
Does racism exist?
Yes, it does.
Is it going to stop me from doing anything I want to do?
Is it going to make it harder?
But this is where, for anybody who is serious
about making sure, about fighting racism,
I think the only job you have to do is to make sure
that people keep their sense of self agency
and B, can you help provide people with the tools
to stand up?
So this is why I have so much respect for Van Jones.
People like Van Jones,
although I disagree with him on so many things,
but people like Ms. Alice Johnson,
she was pardoned by President Trump
through the work of people like Van Jones
and Kim Kardashian and others.
They all joined forces.
This is a case where people of,
and those folks then went on to combine forces furthermore,
no regard given to their political belongings.
They said, if the issue is criminal justice reform,
then anybody who stands for it has to come together.
And so what they did in this situation
with what they’re doing,
criminal justice reform in my mind
is a valid action to fight racism in my mind.
Because what are you doing there?
You’re trying to get people out of jail
who really have no business being there.
And also when you have people like Bishop Omar
and the people, he passed away, unfortunately,
but today we have Anton Lucky,
who was in jail for having killed his cousin.
He had started,
I think he started the gang in South Dallas.
So we’re talking really tough guy
who was reading the wrong side of the equation.
And then in jail, literally he found Plato,
the cave and all that.
So today these people, I’m like,
why don’t we hear more about them?
The urban specialists.
Because these people,
it’s not about the anti racism crap of Candy O’Donoghue,
I’ll say it again, until the cows come home,
but it is about, we go where help is needed.
We go in urban, inner city,
inner city, black inner city neighborhoods
and block by block we change the culture.
And they say it like that, it’s their words.
These are African American people
who have as many rights as anybody else
to talk about their own culture.
And they will tell you, we have to change the culture.
I have some videos like that on my YouTube
with Bishop Omar.
What these people are doing is what we need to do.
Bishop will explain and say,
sometimes people are their feet and feet
deep down in the mud.
And what we have to do is to try to pull them up.
And you cannot say you didn’t pull them up
because we’re not seeing their head out yet,
but how much progress have they made from the bottom
to where they are now and keep going.
So what I see these people doing,
you see, I have so much,
I love and respect Glen Lowry and company,
and Ian Rove and all of those guys.
I love them.
I love a lot of the things that they say.
This whole concept of personal responsibility,
we don’t know that.
But I’m just like, at some point,
it also needs to be matched up with real actions.
And that’s what the people like Anton Lucky,
urban specialist, Alice Johnson are doing.
They’re going where it’s hard.
Alice Johnson is getting people out of jail
every single day, literally.
And then people like Anton Lucky and his team
are giving them the tools to live the gang life,
to be better people, to go for a life of redemption.
This is happening right now.
But what I find is they’re not getting
the bulk of the attention.
But anybody who’s serious about this is why,
how I would love to see people do anti racism
is help lift people up for real.
Support school choice.
Support school choice.
Black mamas, they know what’s going on.
And when they tell you we want school choice,
they know what to talk about.
They’re not idiots.
Especially at the local level.
Helping them at the local level.
So help them make sure that they can take their kids
out of these public schools that are doing
horrendous things to them.
You know, Miss Virginia, watch that movie.
How could you not support black moms in this country
to take the kids to safety when it comes to education?
How come not?
That’s what I want to see happen.
And not like some, yeah, let’s go to some classrooms
and everybody’s white.
You go over here.
Everybody’s a next date.
You go over here.
And kids, let us tell you about this.
No, no, no, no.
As a black person, I don’t want you to do any of that crap.
Let me grow my wings.
If you want, help put some fuel behind them
and let me take my flight.
That’s all I’m asking for.
That’s the only way for you to be part of a racism battle
if that’s what you think is the most important battle
of our life.
That’s what I have to say about that.
And so for me, I’m keeping my head very straight.
It’s about what enables black people to thrive.
I don’t need for you to be an activist on my behalf.
No, because when you’re doing that,
you’re doing exactly what you’ve been doing to us
black people in Africa our whole life.
I don’t need your white savior complex
because that’s what anti racism is.
White savior complex.
That stuff doesn’t work.
It only works to make you feel better
about how superior you are to me.
But it does nothing, absolutely nothing
to change my everyday life.
If it is not, if it is at least in the African side
to actually even change my,
turn me into somebody who’s waiting for handouts.
So I would encourage people to really,
those people who are really serious
about wanting to be part of a solution.
And I know there are many out there
for the love of God and everything that’s out there
and we care about, stop.
It’s about, think about what’s gonna enable people.
Maybe the word is wrongly chosen,
but know what I’m talking about.
Give them the freedom to spread their wings.
Yes, give a person, teach a person how to fish
and don’t give them a fish.
When you’re putting your stupid signs on the lawn
with Black Lives Matter and all that crap,
you’re not helping.
And when you’re buying one more anti racism book
or as a company, financing one more DEI,
if it done along those lines, I think we’ve got a problem.
So you do think that the efforts of diversity,
equity and inclusion are often not effective.
Not only are they not effective,
but they also backfire and there are reports on all of this.
And at the end of the day, it makes sense.
It makes sense.
So for me, I am very, very glad
that people have developed an enlightenment about this.
Very happy about that, very.
But let us not keep going
for the easy perceived solution to problems.
Again, they’ve done this to us, the poor people of Africa.
They thought the solution was to give.
It does not work.
And then they say, oh, we’re gonna do social entrepreneurship
on you, Tom shoes, buy one pair of shoes
and we give one pair of shoes
to some people in poor countries.
Then guess what happened to us?
You know, in the town where we operate in Senegal,
where I have my little manufacturing,
we have 2000 little mom and pop businesses.
And guess what they happen to be in Lex?
So every shoemakers, each one of them hires
at least five, 15 people.
Do the math, family businesses.
Guess what happens to them the day the Tom shoes truck
shows up with bunch of free shoes.
Who can compete against free?
Now, all of these people,
little by little gonna have to close their shops
because who can compete against free
because Tom shoes dumping all of his shoes on them.
And then they go out of business
and now instead of helping anybody,
you actually sent all the kids
who depended on these adults working in these places.
Now they have to join the rank of kids
who need to be given shoes
because you took their parents ability
to make money through their wages, buy them shoes.
So first they said, we just have to give.
So that was primarily, you know, the charity business.
And you still have foreign aid business going on.
So we just need to give.
And then the social entrepreneurs came in place,
but I’m like, the only person for this business is good
is for Blake McCarthy, you know, the founder of Tom shoes.
But other than that, I’m not sure really seeing
who else is winning from this.
And then they, and so today my whole thing is
we got a challenge to have a mind for the poor
or to have a mind for the lesser fortunate,
maybe in this country, it is easy.
And lesser fortunate, you know,
for anybody that you feel like is being trampled upon
because of something,
maybe it’s because of economic circumstances,
or maybe it’s race in this case, whatever.
To have a heart for the lesser fortunate among us,
for whatever reason, that’s easy.
But to have a mind for them, that’s the challenge.
Let me ask you a difficult question.
As if we were not already asking difficult questions.
The president of Senegal, Macky Saw,
is also now the chair of the African Union.
He met with the president of Vladimir Putin on June 3rd.
I think primarily was to discuss food security.
Africa seems to be split halfway on their perspective
in the war in Ukraine.
So broadly speaking, what do you think about this?
First of all, the geopolitics of Africa
and the geopolitical relationship of Africa
with the rest of the world and this current conflict
with the war in Ukraine.
What are your thoughts there?
Well, you’ve seen that many countries
when it was time to vote, some of them abstained,
which in a way says something.
I think for the Africans today,
especially as represented by the African Union,
because not all countries fall along the same lines,
I feel like, again, we’re back to way back.
For the longest time, the West tries to tell us what to do.
They decide for us.
And here, there’s trouble,
meaning there’s definitely a rift, major one,
between most of the Western world
as represented by Europe and America primarily,
and you have Australia and all that.
And then they’re saying,
I think this is more or less an attempt
to stand on their own as well.
It’s like, don’t tell us what to do as usual.
You always rope us in with, when it makes sense for you,
you try to rope us in,
and then we’re left hanging on our own.
So this goes back to the sentiment
you were talking about earlier.
It’s been challenging for me to watch this
because remember, I have one foot also,
because there’s what I get to see and hear
from being in the Western world,
but there’s also what I get to see and hear
from when I’m back home.
So I wear all hats.
And I think this is a situation
where the African Union and African nations in general
are saying, this is a case where almost like,
you guys are fighting, you guys are fighting.
Maybe for once, we have to watch out for ourselves.
Yeah, there’s a sense in which this is the embodiment
sort of abstaining from a vote on the war in Ukraine
is a political embodiment of a resistance
to the influence of the West.
It’s not about the war between,
whatever you guys are fighting.
It’s saying, we’re not going to let this particular empire
that seems to be at the top right now,
which is the United States empire in Europe,
to dominate our political discourse,
our geopolitical considerations.
It’s almost like, no, we’re not touching this.
Yeah, especially that given usually.
So when they need us, again, for influence,
which means more power,
oh, you guys vote the same way we do.
And when it’s all over and they go back to spreading,
they go back to, how do you say that?
They go back to exchanging and sharing between themselves
the goodies of their Halloween collection.
We’re no longer, we’re not there
when the goodies are being shared.
So I think it’s definitely one of those situations.
But for me, it still is hard
because I watch everything that’s going on
and it’s going to be complicated,
the ramifications of all of this.
I would like to see our African leaders also,
what they’re doing is clear,
but this is a place where I’m also tempted to say,
Yes to the reasons you’re advancing right now,
we don’t want to be always siding because we’re tired.
We’re tired of always being dragged around
and taken for granted and you vote our way.
Come on guys, when you need us,
we’re great and everything is good.
And then when it’s time to go and share the goodies,
we don’t exist anymore.
And you actually go for policies that go against us.
But in this situation though,
I would like to still see us do the right thing.
In my case, I was not very happy to see us going
and more or less begging for,
what do you call it?
Cereals, oh, please let the cereals make it.
So at least we get them and we don’t starve.
I can understand why a president would say something
like that or try to negotiate something like that.
But when it comes to an African president having to do that
with a non African president, I’m sorry,
but for me, it’s too close to begging.
Listen, it’s hard to be a leader,
it’s such a difficult dance because in some sense,
sort of the flip side of that is you’re creating a market,
a geopolitical market of saying,
we’re willing to sit down at the table with America,
with European leaders, with Russian leaders, with China,
and we’re gonna let you guys convince us
who we should collaborate with.
And that’s what sort of great nations
and groups of nations do.
Now, there’s a cynical, of course,
a dark perspective on that because what’s in that game
played by leaders, the people that hurt,
people of Ukraine hurt, people of Africa can hurt.
People of Russia.
People of Russia can hurt, people of China,
people of United States, but it is the way of the world.
And to earn, you have to earn respect
and sometimes earning respect leads to the suffering
Well, but except in this case, yes to all of that.
And the reason why I’m actually upset
with going and being like, oh, can you let at least
the boats that are supposed to come to Africa
full of cereals come over, the wheat and all that?
It’s just like, look, Africa has the highest land
that you can do agriculture on.
We have a larger surface, such surface in the world.
Why is this not a time for us to try
to win ourselves off of cereals that we don’t necessarily
have on the ground?
But no, let us go and plead.
Don’t beg, create instead.
Create instead, exactly.
This should have been, you know, just like how
the rest of the world when COVID happened
and China had to close off for different reasons
and since then has not, you know, completely reopened
and people have started to realize, wow,
we’ve got too much, we’re too dependent on China
for a lot of what we need.
So we’re gonna have to bring back some production
to the US, the Europeans are doing the same, all of that.
This should have been a time for African leaders
to be like, we need to be serious now
about, you know, food security.
And maybe the stuff that maybe don’t grow
under our climates necessarily,
can we work on coming up with different things?
Now I understand that it can take time,
but if I knew that that was happening at the same time
that we’re saying, oh, well, let the cereals come in,
maybe I would be a little bit easier with it.
But right now I’m just like,
is it gonna be the same business as usual?
And in this case, I’m just like, are we gonna go,
are we gonna keep going from one masa to another masa?
I mean, really?
The interesting aspect of all of this
is if we look at all of human history,
it’s possible that the 21st century is defined by Africa.
It will be.
And the young people, the huge number of young people,
it’s like the trajectory could be,
there’s so much possibility to define
the future of human civilization in Africa.
And I don’t mean sort of in the next 10 years,
I mean in the next 50 years.
So some people are concerned about overpopulation.
Some people are concerned about us dying out
as a human species.
And both of those people live in us.
Talk to me often about that.
I know, I know, I know, I know who they are.
What’s your, in Africa is at the center of this
because there is a vibrant, huge number,
probably over a billion people.
Yeah, we’re 1.3 billion people
and of those, one billion blacks.
I mean that, where do you land on that?
There is a reason why I say I’m haunted,
that I’m obsessed, that I’m monomaniacal
when it comes to the free markets
and that I have such a strong sense of urgency
to the point that literally it is affecting me.
And it has to do with the fact that yes,
you have the youngest region on earth
in terms of the age of its population
and the rate at which it’s growing demographic wise,
I am not willing to stay there and say,
it’s a curse for humanity,
but it will be a curse for humanity
if we don’t make sure that these people,
our youth gets to partake.
And what it takes to partake is not much.
So if the rest of the world thinks that
get to partake means you have to send more foreign aid,
you have to have more charity businesses,
I mean charity organizations sending stuff away,
of course, you’re almost thinking parasites.
I’m sorry to say it this way,
if this is what you’re thinking,
you’re seeing us as no more than parasites.
And if that’s what it’s gonna be,
I could see why some people might be worried about that.
Although humans should never be seen as parasites,
no matter, no matter, no matter.
But some people will go there.
Now, people are here.
What are we gonna do, dispose of them?
That’s not an option.
So the only option we have left
is to make sure that people partake.
And what partaking means is that
people get included in them
and are part of the systems that allow for human flourishing.
And it doesn’t, it’s not much.
In this case, it’s about,
can we be serious about the reforms?
So we have free market zones,
areas where people,
where the flourishing can start to take place.
The wealth that people will need to flourish,
they don’t need you to give it to them.
But it’s all about, can I let you fly?
And you will make it happen for you and also for me.
Every young African I see today,
I realize how stupid the rest of the world is
if they’re not supporting what I’m trying to talk about.
Cause even if you don’t wanna do it
because that’s the right thing to do,
which I think it is the right thing to do,
your selfishness, maybe engage your selfishness.
Cause this person right there,
remember I told you seven billion geniuses,
everybody came to this world
with a piece of solution to the human problem.
This person and that person and that person
hold something for me because I’m part of humanity.
This person might have a cure to a cancer
that might take my wife out, the wife I haven’t met yet.
But this kid right here has it inside.
And if I help this,
if I make sure that this kid gets a chance to flourish
and to manifest his genius or her genius,
that trickle down many years later,
comes straight back to serve me and the love of my life.
If we can’t see it any other way,
maybe let’s try to think about it that way.
Cause it becomes a very good proposition at that point.
So in this case, by 2050,
Lagos, Nigeria will be the largest city in the world.
The future is African, whether we want it or not.
But is it going to be an African future
where you have a youth being a ticking bomb?
Because they have not, there’s no hope.
They stay in poverty
because they belong to nations that don’t even understand
sometimes the importance of common law versus civil law.
Because they’re trapped in countries that don’t understand
that you need to make the legal framework
to provide for better economic freedom.
So you can unleash the genuineness, the awesomeness,
the ingenuity, the industrious side of your young people,
especially of your women,
so that they build all the wealth
that your nation is gonna need you to build.
And with it, the respect that comes from that.
See, we have a choice to make.
And this is why I feel so, so, so restless about this
at this point of my life.
We just lost George Hayite.
George Hayite is one of the few Africans that I knew
who put this out.
That’s who I learned from.
And I feel a strong sense of urgency
to not only bring back to the table
that which he has been working on,
but to also make sure that it gets seen.
That’s why being here talking with you today,
it’s, you have no idea.
It’s, people ask, if someone like you could say,
what can I do?
You did more than you could ever imagine
by just allowing me to take this message to one more person.
And because if we do this,
the change is gonna happen somewhere down the line.
Yeah, the ripple effects of all of that
on the unlocking the human potential.
All those people in Africa are building cool stuff,
Yes, yes, yes.
So some are gonna be built stuff,
others are gonna work on the reforms.
So we’re working on reforms, by the way.
I’m the head of the Africa Center for Prosperity
of the Atlas Network,
the largest organization in the world
working on taking down barriers of entry
for entrepreneurs around the world
in their respective countries.
So we’re doing great work there.
I basically, all the, obviously all the think tanks
we have in Africa right now, free market think tanks,
and we wanna promote more of them to come up.
And these are local solutions by local people
for their local problems, always.
That’s where we draw the line.
And so there, so we’re working on reforms primarily
and making people understand the free markets
and the importance of it.
But it is piecemeal legislation.
It takes time.
It is hard.
By the time you accomplish something here,
more crap has happened over here.
More laws have been pounded up
because you know how they fix a bad law most of the time.
Whether it’s in the US or somewhere else.
Put other laws to kind of undo the law from before,
but it keeps stacking up.
And before you know it,
where you should have one thing and it’s clear,
you have a hundred and they go against each other
and then it’s all, it’s worse.
So we have piecemeal legislation that’s happening.
Our teams are doing really amazing, fantastic work,
especially the team in Imani in Ghana.
We have a group in Burundi, in the Great Lakes.
I mean, people are doing amazing work, amazing work,
but we need to run faster.
So while we keep, we help them running faster,
we also have to unlock other things.
And right now I’m working
on one of my most craziest projects.
Something bold, radical, crazy for some people.
But I know we’re not crazy
because before us, Singapore has done it.
You know, Hong Kong has done it.
Latest, the most recent China with the SSEs,
the special economic zones,
some of the most radical free market zones in the world,
they’ve done it.
And oftentimes within a generation,
meaningful change start to happen, right?
So here, what I’m working on is this concept of,
some call it charter cities, Paul Romer,
others call it the free cities.
And I like to call it startup cities.
What these are is for us to think about,
okay, if piecemeal legislation takes forever,
while we have this demographic
that’s growing faster and faster in Africa,
there is a discrepancy here
between the progress we’re making
to set the right environment for business to prop up,
and how many more people are coming to life,
literally every day on the continent.
There’s a discrepancy here.
And so, the ticking bomb is going faster
than the progress we can make.
This is a problem.
So what some of us are working on
is this concept of a startup cities
and to say, piecemeal legislation takes too long.
How about we continue doing that work,
which is essential and critical,
but at the same time, can we think of zones,
and I like to call them also common law zones,
where we basically try to have within the country
an area where for business,
I’m not talking about family law or any of that stuff,
no one is touching your culture or anything like that,
but we’re just saying business wise,
an enclave where you have the best practices
from around the world, including yours,
in terms of what constitute a great business environment
and allow people in,
like you get in freely or nobody’s forcing you to go,
nobody’s forcing you to whatever.
So basically, you’re to think about
this rather unoccupied plot of land within a country,
think Dubai, on 110 acres of land,
Dubai is thinking that in their case,
they’re like, maybe they decided,
maybe Sharia law is not the best for business in their case.
And they said, they looked around and were like,
wow, but common law, especially British common law,
seems like a very good one.
So at that point, they decided for business only,
not family or anything like that,
which is gonna stand to Sharia or whatever.
And so they said, we are gonna bring in,
so they hired retired British common law judges
to educate the law and train the people under there.
And I’m oversimplifying, but at the end of the day,
within a generation,
Dubai became one of the top
international financial centers of the world.
It is what it is today.
And in the case of the African nations,
that zone can then spread.
Yes, it can not only spread, but maybe let’s say Senegal,
if Senegal was to go for this, here you have this one,
and then over there you have another zone.
And then what they start to do
is they’re not all modeled the same way,
because maybe this one is saying,
hey, we wanna attract more, I don’t know,
maybe we wanna attract more medical research, right?
This one is gonna be saying,
maybe we wanna attract more crypto,
or maybe it’s gonna be more like us,
we wanna be more about religious this or whatever.
You know what I mean?
So we wanted to fit more of this or that.
And just kind of give the basics, the grounds,
and then watch the magic happen on it, right?
And so this is what we’re working on.
And the hope there, because some people are like,
I know some people are like, you guys are crazy,
but hey, I’m like, no, it’s more or less the story
of the Asian tigers.
And most recently, most of China’s progress,
economically speaking, because some people might say,
well, you don’t want China, we’re developing, you see.
Even then I say, and it’s okay, you can always do better,
but we cannot deny what the magic
that they have accomplished, what they have accomplished
is nothing short of a miracle.
800 million people getting out of poverty
in such a short amount of time.
So it’s not, yeah, for the quality of life
and the majority of the Chinese population.
Does something like that happen without problems?
Of course not.
And so the next person to do something
just actually gets to learn from lessons,
from lessons, that’s all.
And leapfrog, and leapfrog, exactly.
So for me, this is a promise.
And the people are like, oh, but you guys are crazy.
But I’m like, just like with everything,
do you know how many attempts it took
before the first flight, the Wright brothers took off?
Do you know how many?
And that’s important.
You try, you crash, you try, you crash,
but each time you’re going up higher
and you want to get up for once, then you stay up longer.
And before you know it, you’re doing all types of things.
So here’s the same thing.
And I tell people, listen, all I need is one success story.
And then the sea change.
People don’t even wait for us.
But this is hard because it’s the first time.
But the good news is there are many groups
working on the continent.
There are some groups in Zambia.
There’s a zone there.
Folks are doing something like this in Nigeria.
We’re part of a project there in Nigeria.
The one that I’m most excited about,
I cannot disclose the name of the country yet.
But my god, I’m so excited by it.
And I just know, I just know, Lex,
it’s going to happen in our lifetime.
I hope so.
It’s a really powerful vision.
And it’s not being dramatic to say
that the future of humanity depends on your success,
that success in Africa.
It’s such an important continent.
In this century.
It’s the continent where everything started.
And I think it’s the continent where that continent has
to finally, finally, finally thrive.
We cannot, all of us, call ourselves an enlightened
society as a whole.
When you have such, when you have this,
it’s a humongous continent.
Have you seen the size of it?
It’s hard to fathom, actually.
And it has such ingenious people.
Sometimes I look at my people.
I have to tell you, I’m so proud of them,
and the young people, especially.
And you know, you would look at them.
And you know, somebody said sometimes one day,
and it was so true, they said, you know,
we’ve seen poverty other places.
But here, it is just, maybe somebody doesn’t have money,
but they have dignity.
And it’s true.
So everything else we can handle,
and we will handle.
You have to mark my word for this.
This is going to happen.
And our youth is amazing.
You should see them.
So full of creativity.
And it doesn’t matter.
You know, you were telling me, what makes you different?
Many things makes us all different.
You know, the Rwandans are very different from the West
Africans that we are.
Rwandans, for example, never dance with their hips.
They dance more like, you know, with this part of the body.
West Africans hips?
Us, it’s hips all over the place, all the time.
And it’s, you know, more jumping, stuff like that.
In Rwanda, you feel it’s more like, you know,
I mean, they remind me more of, you know, the ballet thing.
Rwandans have a sense where, you know,
they don’t eat, you know, so much in public.
It’s not very well.
It’s something you do.
Us, we are, the West Africans, we like to be loud.
We’re almost like the Italians of the continent.
And then the Rwandans are more like, you know, the Swiss stuff.
Actually, the country even looks like Switzerland.
I mean, we’re so different from one group to another.
Then you go to the Congo and you see these guys,
they’re so crazy.
We have a dress, I mean, les sapeurs.
So we are a very different bunch.
But you know what I love about us,
what I love about my people?
We are the manifestation of what resiliency means.
And so everything we need is there.
Everything we need is there.
I will say that there’s nothing wrong with the seed.
Everything that’s wrong with us
is that pot that we put around us.
So we’re tired of being bonsai people.
We need to be the tallest trees in the forest
that we were designed to be.
And that can be fixed.
And that’s the beauty of it.
And that’s why I am so, I’m almost dizzy with,
I get dizzy with hope.
I know my history.
I know my economics, my fellow humans and all of that.
And we know that there’s an unfailing recipe.
And when it comes to that recipe,
we have the hardest part of it.
The one missing ingredient, which is the free markets.
As we go around and talk and people start to understand
and each country tries to figure out,
okay, where do we go there from here?
I know that I will die with my continent
having taken the right shift for a turn.
I don’t have to see where it ends
because I cannot in my wildest dream
imagine where it’s gonna end.
But I know it’s gonna be, yeah.
So my only job is to get this message out
and then let my people do with it what they wanna do.
Yeah, the scale of impact is just boundless.
It’s kind of cool.
I mean, sometimes we think about individual problems
and how do we solve them?
We look up at certain individuals,
like the, I don’t know, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.
But it’s so much more powerful to just,
without knowing what they will do,
give the freedom to millions,
to hundreds of millions of people
to do whatever the hell they’re gonna do.
Can you imagine?
Can you just imagine?
It’s truly, truly exciting.
So in that sense, the work you’re doing,
it’s unimaginable the kind of impact it would have.
Now, going back to that hard moment,
this dark place you went in your mind
and your personal life story, you lost your husband.
What gave you strength during that time?
What were the places you went to your mind
in terms of personal struggle,
in terms of maybe even depression
or these kinds of struggles?
I think for me, when my person passed away,
I went to,
maybe my friends could see what was going on,
maybe they couldn’t, I don’t know.
But on the surface, I looked like I was fine.
But what happened is the only thing I think
that kept me around as I thought about it
was the job to be done.
These women relied on me and I was no longer free.
I did not own myself.
And they said it in those words,
you don’t own yourself anymore.
And it was true, but it helped me
because I was able to, you know,
sometimes whatever it takes to keep you around,
whatever it takes.
And that’s what I would tell people who feel like
they can’t just push one more push
and they think they need to end it.
At that point, whatever it takes,
just stick around for one more second
because the next second, you know.
So I stuck around because of duty.
I felt a very strong sense of duty.
My duty was in this case, I think,
stronger than my pain.
I don’t know how that was possible, but it was.
And I just pushed my grief under the rug for years.
For years, I worked like a mad lady.
I would travel, I would do three states in three days,
landing at two in the morning,
around five or six going right along with our distributors
because it was beverage and just keep going
and have all of this energy and look like everything is fine.
But what happened was just like,
I was focused on the job to be done.
And sometimes it is okay to do that.
At least for me, it was my safety.
You know, like when you’re in the water
and you’re about to sink and they throw you that,
that round thing, I don’t know how you call it.
You know, that, you know.
I think that keeps you afloat, you mean?
Yes, yes, the floater.
It’s the floater. Yeah, whatever.
Listen, between the two of us, we’re still terrible.
So I said, you, you, you.
I know exactly what you mean.
So you understand me.
So they send you that thing and you just,
I was just hanging onto it.
My life depended on this thing.
So these women, they carried me.
They carried me.
And with time, things are moving forward.
And at some point I went into really, really deep depression
and I went into a very dark place,
even darker than the one I think I came from.
Because by that time I had worked for years
on this company and now some other things was happening.
And around that time, it’s also when I was discovering
a lot of what we talked about today,
about what makes a country rich.
And for me to understand that my network,
I was very much into left oriented network.
And to just start to see all of this,
I tried to address it to realize that many of these people
would prefer go running for the hills
than accept for a moment that maybe capitalism
might be part of a solution,
when many of them were involved in capitalism.
So that was a hard time.
At some point I was, yeah,
so many things were happening around that time
that basically shook up everything for me.
One, it’s hard to talk about because it’s very personal
and the person that I was having a problem with
passed away last year.
And I’m one to always say, leave the dead alone.
So because of that, I won’t speak about it,
but there to having a major fallout
with somebody who was like a father figure for me,
somebody that I completely trusted.
And so at some point you just tell, ask yourself,
was my whole life built on a lie, right?
And then you’re confused and then you become confused.
And then at some point you lose 90% of your friends
because of, ideologically speaking, it doesn’t work anymore.
Then you just wonder, have I,
have I been asleep this whole time?
And then you start to wonder,
remember when you asked me, who am I?
At some point, Lex, I literally was like a candle
in the wind.
I felt like I was a candle in the wind.
And it was very hard to come back from that.
And people have a hard,
the few people I talk to about this,
they have a hardest time understanding
or even believing it because they’re like, you?
I’m like, yes, me.
I used to be a candle in the wind.
What got you out?
What made you overcome that?
My current husband.
See, when I tell you love is the answer.
But him, he came with love,
but he also came with really helping me
figure out the world.
So what Michael, because that’s him,
who we’re talking about, Michael Strong.
That must be special.
He’s so special.
So you have no idea how special he is.
But you know, Michael, the reason why I have such love,
respect and admiration for my husband,
I’ll never say it enough,
is because actually it’s one of those relationships
that got built based on intellect first.
You see, at some point I was in the position
where I could start a foundation
after having built my first business.
And all I wanted was an ability to power
as many, especially women,
African women entrepreneurs like me a few years ago,
before then, to do something like I was able to do.
Bring back to the world
some really cool aspects of our culture
built into a really cool brand, 21st century type.
That’s what I wanted to do.
Because the more I could promote women like that
and put steam behind them,
and the more my dream envisioned
for a respected Africa, prosperous Africa would happen,
back then that’s what I wanted.
And around me,
this was also part of a whole crisis
of ideologies I had back then.
Everybody was like, well, we should be just doing grants.
And I knew that my people didn’t need grants.
They didn’t need like a handout.
They don’t want your charity.
I didn’t want charity.
I wanted someone who could work with me on my accounting.
I wanted somebody who could help me brainstorm
I wanted somebody, or I needed to raise money
to pay my research and development guy
to help me take the juices from my grandma’s recipe
to something that can be shelf stable.
I needed coaching.
These are all the things that I needed
to make my dream happen.
I didn’t want you to give me some crap for free.
That’s not what I want.
I just want to be able to build my business
with all the things that business building needs.
And so that’s what I wanted to do
and it’s what it was needed.
And so Michael, somebody found out about what I was doing
because back in the days of San Francisco,
they would write a lot about me and everything.
And so Michael, along with John Mackey,
the founder of Whole Foods Market,
they had a nonprofit called Flow.
And it’s all about human flourishing.
They want for people, everybody to get this choice,
this ability to be able to get to a point in their life
where they’re in complete flow.
It’s, Michael, just make high.
Michael is the only one who could say that last name.
But you know, the whole concept of flow,
when you’re in a state of flow,
you’re basically doing what you’re supposed to do,
the way you’re supposed to do it
with the people you’re supposed to, this whole concept of flow.
It’s human flourishing at its highest.
So, you know, so I meet with this man.
Max, you’re so, okay, so we, he finds me, his people find me.
And then there was a program
where it was all about accelerating women entrepreneurs.
So it’s during this times
that I’m starting now to see things.
That’s when actually all of this stuff that I noticed,
how come here it takes me all of this time
to start my business, over there it’s 20 minutes,
here it’s free, over there it’s thousands of dollars,
all of this nonsense that I just took,
oh, maybe it’s just because we’re messed up,
we’re poor, that’s why everything is so messed up.
Whoa, these people are introducing me to concepts.
I’m like, first of all, I’m like, oh, really?
What did you call the doing business in the, what is that?
You know, all of this stuff.
And I’m starting to discover this whole other body of work.
That the free markets, like this thing that I was sensing,
this environment that I was sensing
that it was different around me.
And that they called it the free markets over here.
And over there, that.
And then I started to butt head those ideas
with the ideas that I was fed with before that.
And the evidence won.
And further more than the evidence,
the evidence combined with my lived experience,
it was so powerful.
So I basically started understanding these ideas
from the most visceral part of my body,
you know, of my being.
And it makes sense.
So Michael, Michael helped me find the solution,
the answer to my lifelong little girl’s question
of why do they have this and we don’t?
And how do some countries like mine be poor
while others are rich?
And with understanding all of that,
the greatest, biggest sense of liberation came upon me.
Like, I have no other word to describe that.
True liberation, the liberation that comes from a peer
to finally understand and be vindicated
in your own, you know,
understand in your own deep knowing
or feeling that they’re not,
what they’re saying is not true.
You’re not the problem.
It’s not you.
There’s something else.
And when I discovered that, my whole life changed.
So, and since then I have been very serious
about going deeper and deeper and deeper
into my understanding of all of this,
understanding the subtlety.
At some point I was very angry
about the liberators of Africa,
because I was like, yes, you helped liberate us,
but just to keep us in this mirrorism,
I was angry for longest time.
And then eventually you have to engage empathy and love
to put yourself in their shoes
and try to understand the time at which they were living.
And that got me onto a journey
of trying to understand history more.
That’s how I understood I was able to go beyond
just these liberators and try to understand
and rebuild the world around them
at the macro and also at the macro level.
Just really, you have to try to walk in their shoes.
And from there, finally separate the baby with the bathwater
that they were not able to do back then.
That’s why today, I’m sorry,
but I have no patience for the BLM organizers, founders,
especially the founders.
I don’t know what the organizers think,
but the founders told us what they stand for.
And I say, guys, don’t make that same mistake again.
If you’re serious about this,
you cannot make the same mistake.
The liberals of Africa, they have an excuse.
We didn’t know better.
It was so easy back then to conflate everything.
But today, you, me, anybody alive
cannot with a straight face
embrace Marxist socialist ideas,
especially, especially when they’re claiming
that they wanted people to thrive.
No, you can’t, I’m sorry.
And I will hold your feet up to the fire on that one.
I will, I will.
And that’s what I’m doing.
They will give me a lot of grief for this,
but guess what?
I could care less.
Do you know why I could care less?
Because we have an entire population
to help rise out of poverty into prosperity,
where they become co creators,
global co creators of innovation.
And those ideas give you hope for the place you love,
for Senegal, for Africa.
The world I live in,
the new centers of culture and fashion are in Dakar.
The new centers of tech and, you know,
crypto even is somewhere, maybe Nigeria.
So you see that future, you see that future clearly.
I do, I do, I do.
It’s a beautiful thing.
And it’s also beautiful to see that the space
of these really powerful ideas
is where you also found love.
So at the intersection.
At the intersection, Michael and I would spend hours
talking about all of these ideas.
And I would be like, but what about this?
No, it doesn’t make any sense.
No, no, no, oh no.
And then hours, every single day for months, Lex.
And then from there, our love was born.
Cause I tell people for us,
love is not about looking at each other in the eyes,
like, you know, they all think,
but it’s about, we look in one direction.
And in this case, it’s this vision,
what we know to be possible and true.
If only you liberate people.
What we know to be true and possible.
We, all of us are miracles walking around.
Every time I get on a plane,
it’s a miracle of engineering.
All the things we’re able to do, you know,
now when they do operation on your teeth,
how they’re able to put the pain down away.
All of this is us.
You’re working on these robots.
This, this, this inside here.
Humans are amazing.
So that’s why, and when it works in great tandem
with this guy, these two working together.
There’s nothing we can’t accomplish.
Well, God, you’re one of the most incredible people
I’ve ever talked to.
Oh, you say that.
You’ve met everybody.
Thank you so much.
This is truly an honor.
Thank you for everything you’re doing.
Thank you for the fire that burns within you.
And there’s just the passion you have
for a place that’s going to, I think,
define the future of humanity.
So thank you for everything you’re doing.
Thank you for talking to me.
Thank you to you.
And sometimes I hope this fire doesn’t consume me.
That’s how much it is.
But I am grateful to you for this.
And yeah, thank you for,
I know you don’t do a lot of these, you know,
I am, it’s this type of interviews.
Maybe I don’t know, but I’m so, so happy.
You mean fun, inspiring, powerful interviews.
Yes, I need to do more of that.
I don’t know, because at first I was like,
Lex Friedman, really?
How’s this going to go?
I’m like, yeah, I’m going to talk to Lex
and go all crazy.
I think you need to work on your unconscious bias.
All right, thank you, Magat.
You’re the best.
Thank you so much.
Thanks for listening to this conversation with Magat Wade.
To support this podcast,
please check out our sponsors in the description.
And now, let me leave you with some words
from Nelson Mandela.
Money won’t create success.
The freedom to make it will.
Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.