Written By Strive Masiyiwa
“For the times they are a-changing…” [Bob Dylan]
Twenty-five years ago, the idea that a black African could start a company which would grow big enough to operate outside the national borders of the founders was dismissed as crazy! Those of us who believed it was possible spoke about it in whispered tones.
If you went to a village in many parts of Africa and told people that you were an entrepreneur [“businessman or businesswoman”], they would either hide their children, or chase you out. Certainly, they would not have welcomed you!
The idea of a black person actually “investing” in something was considered a bad joke.
I remember arriving at the airport in an African country a few decades ago and being asked why I had come. I answered: “I want to invest.” Within minutes I was bundled off for more intense interrogation!
As far as they were concerned, I was a criminal or worse—a terrorist! I told the leader of that country recently what happened, and we both laughed loudly, before he said, “Seriously, I need you to invest, and help me mobilize investors.”
And, of course, I agreed!
One of the biggest challenges we also faced back in those days, was we were often seen as representing white people—“fronts”—because they believed only white people had the brains to do anything of significance! That is totally gone, except amongst those for whom the trauma of colonial dominance lives on!
Now being sixty, I sometimes chill out with friends from across Africa sharing “war stories” from the early days of Continental Entrepreneurs: Those who dared imagine that they could set up businesses in other African countries.
Today there are now scores of successful companies started by Africans that operate continentally, and many that operate even outside Africa! Africans are now investing well earned money throughout their own home countries, across Africa, and the world.
__People in our countries see entrepreneurs as creators of jobs, and wealth!
“For the times they have changed”… [and are still a-changing!]
Now I want YOU to become “Continental Entrepreneurs, in your thinking, and in your actions” [if you aren’t already].
This starts by being welcoming to entrepreneurs from other regions and countries. If you feel resentful towards other Africans for setting up businesses in your country, then why should they ever have to accept you and your own?!
Building Africa’s century, together, is already in progress. While there have been a few delays because of the pandemic the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, for example, was created for people like you on his platform, entrepreneurs and investors looking for markets of… 1.3 billion people, with a combined GDP of 3.4+ trillion!
We owe it to people like “The Arch” who prayed and cried tears and spoke out courageously for decades to see Africans break the chains of oppression and stand tall in the world. Now it’s your turn to break lingering chains in your MINDS about how high you can fly and how far Africa can go.
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind [#Mindset] of the oppressed,” wrote the late Steve Biko decades ago.
What is your own dream?
Shout it Out!
“It is the appointed hour of the vision…”
Image credit: Chris van Rooyen, Lower Sabi, Kruger National Park, South Africa.