Transcript of EP 242 – Magatte Wade on a Vision for African Economic Development

The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Magatte Wade. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.

Jim: Today’s guest is Magatte Wade. Magatte is a Senegalese American entrepreneur and prosperity activist, known for her work in promoting economic freedom and entrepreneurship in Africa. She’s founded several businesses including Adina World Beat Beverages and Skin Is Skin, and is a prominent speaker and advocate for African economic development. Welcome, Magatte.

Magatte: Thanks for having me, Jim. Glad to be here.

Jim: Yeah. I’m really interested in our conversation today. I don’t know how I ended up picking up your book, but I did, and as I was reading it, I reached out to you and said, “Hey, I’d like to come on the podcast.” And you very graciously said yes. So today we are going to talk about her recent book, the Heart of a Cheetah, how we have been lied to about African poverty and what that means for human flourishing. She also has an interesting substack and she has a Twitter feed @magattew. And if you really want to see her let fly, check out her TED Talk. Quite passionate. I guess I will leave it at that. And as always, links to all the above will be available at the episode page at So let’s start out with where did the first part of the title the Heart of the Cheetah come from and what does that signify to you?

Magatte: Oh, yeah. So the Heart of a Cheetah, it’s in honor of George Ayittey. George Ayittey was a Ghanaian economist. The first time I met with him, we were at TEDGlobal. It was the first TEDGlobal that happened in Africa in Arusha in 2007. And TED had put together a group of fellows. So we were the first actually TED Fellows. And so they put together a hundred young Africans back in the days together, some of us still living on the continent, others in the diaspora, someone like me, I was half-half. And anyway, with this idea that or this vision that they felt like we would be among the builders of the future Africa, which I’m very honored if they thought of me that way. But that’s how I got in touch with George in the first place.

So anyway, so George was a speaker there … It was my first time in a place where I was hearing people reject the concept of aid because by the time I had gotten there where I was mentally in terms of aid versus trade was aid is good but trade is better. And so people who know me today laugh that there was ever a time when I could have said aid is good, but it’s really where I was just to tell you how much of an intellectual journey I have been on since those days. And prior to that, I was even to the left of a left borderline call me, in terms of my ideas and the way I looked at the world.

So in any case, so here was George and there was him, there were people like Andrew Mwenda, there was Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Iweala [inaudible 00:02:47] who today is the head of World Trade Organization, people like that. And what they all had in common was this issue with aid and rather wanting to promote trade and I guess the free markets because that’s what you mean when you were talking about trade. And so it was just rather fascinating for me to just have these people who looked like me came from the same continent they came from and having this attitude. And what is so interesting is, although I was still aid is good, trade is better, they were explaining and articulating things and concepts that just made so much sense to me.

I think they were articulating in ways that possibly if I had been a little bit more sophisticated back then, that’s probably what I would have put on the table in terms of how I felt about so many things. So many things that didn’t make sense up until then started to make sense. And it was for me, just such a turning moment in my life that I never went back from.

And so George, his talk was titled Hippos versus Cheetahs. And what he meant by that was he was comparing the hippos on one end, the hippos of Africa. And today I would like to even expand it to the development aid industry. Basically, it was saying and talking about how the cheetahs are these leaders of ours, and I use quotation marks, these leaders of ours who have been basically feeding off of a beast, the beast being this massive poverty that is in Africa.

And because of that the rest of the world having to send foreign aid and that foreign aid, most of it would be taken into the pockets of these leaders and the rest of a foreign aid goes straight back into the pocket of foreign nations that had provided it in the first place. Primarily, he was talking about the leaders of Africa, that’s who he saw as hippos and then he compared them and these people, how they’re so complacent in the current status quo because they benefit so much from it.

And then comparing that to cheetahs, he saw us as, it’s not so much about your age but more about your mindset and this mindset of we’re not going to sit there and wait for anybody to come change anything for us. We cheetahs are the fast runners of Africa and he has with all of … He George Ayittey had put all of these bets on us.

He said, “You cheetahs are the ones who are going to change Africa and because of your mentality, because of your mindset, and because you’re just ready.” And he always instilled in us this great sense that we could simply just leapfrog. And I really was very seduced by that idea because I think all of us could feel that the time for catch-up was just simply over. We have taken just so much delay that at this point we’re going to have a leapfrogging strategy rather than just a mere catching-up strategy.

And so that’s where the name cheetah comes from. George told me that I was definitely among one of his original cheetahs. I was very fortunate and honored that he was able to write the foreword for the book because we lost him shortly after that. But one of my goals truly is to make sure that through my work and the work of other cheetahs, that we keep George’s name alive and more than that, that his name enters history books, the history books of not only Africa but also the world because his ideas, his ideas and what he’s been promoting as an African was completely running against the vein at times when if you fought the way George fought, meaning the way he was thinking then you were just a pariah really.

His office was bombed once and so the man had to go through a lot, has a lot of arrows on his back, but we want to see those arrows as he was paving the road for us. So we can only honor him. And my goal is for his name to enter all the history books of Africa as the man whose ideas definitely laid down the blueprint for an African prosperity and a new age for Africa. And if you do that, you’re obviously also going to enter the history books of the world itself because if you realize that by 2015, one-quarter of every person walking this earth will be African, then you understand that the future is African right demographics speak. And so if we can turn this ship that Africa is this mother ship that Africa is, then you can imagine all the ways in which it’s just going to have profound ramifications for the rest of the world.

So one of my goals is that is for George to be never forgotten. If anything, again, I want his name out there as one of the greatest thinkers of our continent.

Jim: Very good. He did write an amazingly good introduction for your book. It was great. So let’s go back to the beginning of your story. You were born in what a relatively small village or town in Senegal, and your grandmother it sounded like was quite a matriarch. Tell me a little bit about what that was like.

Magatte: Yeah, so I was born in Senegal, west coast of Africa in this town called Mbour. Mbour is 80 kilometers south of Dakar on a coastal town. So right around age two, my parents decided to migrate to Europe in search of a better life. They left me behind to be raised by my grandmother since they didn’t know how the immigration journey would work. And we all know that kids need stability. There’s no need to drag them around if you don’t have to. So they left me behind and I was raised by my grandma. Like I said, if you ask me, those were among the best years of my life because grandma was just very much … It’s very interesting because I am a very big the Maria Montessori education model, this whole theme of urgency for the kids, building autonomy … helping them build the little autonomies by just this whole idea of following the child’s pace, the kids in all the time are deciding what activity they want to do, how long they want to do it for, if they want to go nap rather than do this or do that, it’s amazing. I don’t know if you’ve ever been into a Montessori classroom, but it’s rather fascinating.

So in any case, my grandma really very much was having a more or less Montessori-type education with me. Not that she learned anything from Maria Montessori, but something that I would argue often is I think traditional child-rearing in Africa was closer to Maria Montessori than to what we know today, education to be back home. So that’s a whole nother thing where again, just like with the free markets, our traditional Africans I think wear into free enterprise and free markets where today somehow we have bought the Kool-Aid that supposedly Africans are socialists. In any way, I’m sure something we can go into later.

But yeah, so grew up there with my grandma and all of that. And then eventually after the immigration journey worked, my parents called for me to be reunited with them. So I was called to Germany back then. That’s where they were. So went to Germany and there the first thing I realized is like, wait a second, how come these people have this and we don’t? And back then, and what I was talking about was just this shower situation where back home when my grandma is like, “Magatte, time for your shower.” I know, but I have time to go play a few more games and rounds with my friends before I actually had to go get my shower because grandma had to get the coal going into her little charcoal stove, literally shoving the stove in there and then fanning it for it to catch on and then put a pot of water on it, wait for it to boil. Once it boils, she transfers it to a bucket, then mixes it with some little bit of colder water and then drags this thing over to …

Somebody then drags this thing into the shower area where finally there 45 minutes to an hour later, I was able to finally take my shower, scooping out water from a bigger bucket using a small plastic cup. In any case, so that’s all I was saying because when then mom in Germany is like, “Oh, time for your shower.” I’m looking around, I’m like, “Where’s a bucket?” And she’s like, “Oh, come on, you silly, just jump in the shower.” And then there you jump in, you turn the knobs all around and the water is coming down at the temperature you want at the pressure you want. I was like, wait, what? That was rather just like an eye-opening moment for me. And I was just like, “How come they have this and we don’t?”

And it was like that also about the paved roads and these grocery stores that looked like they had all types of goodies in them. It was just like that about everything. But I think at its core, all I was talking about was this ease of life. All of a sudden, I was realizing that things that would take us hours back home to do here, just a few seconds, a few minutes, and it’s done. It was rather shocking. And I think it really struck me so hard that the question just stayed with me and I needed to know. It was just too, too big. It was just too much. And eventually, my question became, how come some countries like mine are poor while others are rich?

Jim: I did some business with some West Africans back in the nineties and they were a very jolly bunch. One was from Senegal, one was from Cameroon and one was from Nigeria. And they’d formed this logistics company together. And they were funny people. You know how, like a good sense of humor, stories and all stuff. And one of the things they always said to me when they came to the United States, the thing they found so astounding was even people who were really dumb and lazy were rich.

Back home, very few people were rich, but they were only the smartest and the hardest working. “Come to the United States, you’d be complete [inaudible 00:12:20] and still be rich.”

Magatte: That’s funny. Yeah, no, I really was obsessed with this thing, with this question and my whole journey was pretty much about I got to know, I got to find out the answer to this question. And of course, as you’re growing up and you’re keeping a close eye on what could be the answer to this question, you’re also finding that I guess I was not the only one. It seems like having this question because even today, even to this day, I think the world is obsessed with this question of why is Africa poor?

If you want to know how obsessed the world is with it, put that question over and you’ll see that everybody, Africans, non-Africans, everyone has something to say about it. Through the journey of finding out, I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard people with a very straight face. For them, it’s be IQ theory.

And to this day, people are moving around. People are always posting. Whenever you put something out there, you have people posting back to you, the IQ map of the world. There you go. It’s just flat out there for you. And then some others, oh, it’s malnutrition. Others, oh, it’s lack of access to clean water. Oh, because no, not enough education, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But then I’m thinking about it, by now with all the answers that I’ve heard, the so-called answers to my question. I literally could categorize it in this way. It’s almost as if you took on one side, and I just go with this number, you take a hundred Africans and their allies. So the allies are non-Africans, but they are sympathetic to Africans. So a hundred Africans and their allies, and here a hundred people who just, whatever, they’re non-Africans but nothing in particular towards Africa or whatever.

And you ask these two groups, when I took all the data, that’s the way I saw it. So what you have is this first group, Africans and non-Africans, all the answers that they come up with, you can also put them into little categories. And it’s going to usually fall into, oh, Africa is poor because of slavery or racism or colonialism or neocolonialism or the West is stealing their resources, things like that. When you put it all together, it’s a bunch of isms, right? Bunch of isms. It’s like somebody else’s fault.

Over here, the non-Africans who could care less. Them, it’s like IQ. The IQ is so low. Haven’t you seen the IQ map? And what do you see? Don’t you see it? So for them, it would be that. And yeah, they’re lazy, they’re always fighting each other and you name it. So there, it’s bunch of looking at Africans like, my God, you guys are not even people. And even when you’re people, you’re really deficient people for whatever reason. And both sides would also say the corruption and the leaders, but usually, it’s the same thing. Corrupt leaders.

So that’s all the answers that I got. You could pretty much organize them in this way, but two different sets of people, two different groups of people. And each group, this is what they seem to point to. They have one thing in common, corrupt leaders. Great.

All right. Except that none of that to me makes sense because if it’s all the people who think we’re deficient or various forms of deficiency, flat out things that are based on racism as well, I’m like, “Fine. But even if it was the low IQ thing, how come the same people, how come the same people … and we’re having this all the time, millions of people are migrating every single year from the continent to other parts of the world that are prosperous parts of the world. And the minute they do that, for the most part, you see them self-actualize. So if indeed it was about being just genetically inferior and or character deficiencies of sorts, then how come the same people in a different environment yield different outcome? And you over here who’s telling me it’s about colonialism, for example, how come then a country like Ethiopia that has never been colonized, still is poor?”

At some point, Ethiopia was the poster child for poverty in Africa. When you think of poverty in Africa, you’re thinking a poor [inaudible 00:16:36] Ethiopian kid. For the longest time, the joke among Africans was, oh, what’s a chubby Ethiopian? Oh, it’s an Ethiopian showing off. You know what I mean? So just to tell you, but this nation has never been colonized.

Conversely, you have nations like Botswana that had been colonized and you also have nations like Vietnam not only has been colonized but then bombed a couple times very severely by the French when they were on they out and still look at these nations climbing up to the top.

So my point is, none of these group’s stuff makes sense. So that’s when I started to … And that’s pretty much what I call the lies. The lies. When I say the subtitle of a book, How We Have Been Lied to about African Poverty, all of these reasons to me then are lies. It’s just lies. It’s just like this not true. And so that’s what I had noticed over the years as I was growing up living my life, going places and doing things and just taking a little inventory of all of these responses and listening very carefully to people and what books were saying and all of that stuff.

And as life had it, I eventually moved after business school in France. I moved to the US because I felt France would be too small for my ambitions. So I moved to the US. And in the US, I started out after a nine-month journey with my host family, American host family. I call them my first American family. They were in Columbus, Indiana. After nine months of doing really good work with them and being really well taken care of by them, it became very clear that I had outgrown my responsibilities. They thought it would take me a couple of years at least to catch up with everything. And within nine months, I was done with everything and whatever. Carol is the mom in the family. And Carol and Eldon [inaudible 00:18:30]. Wonderful, wonderful people. Wonderful family.

And they said … Carol said, clearly … I mean, she always felt that I had such a bigger destiny and future head. And she said, “We could be selfish and keep you here with us because we love you, but because we love you too, we can’t do that. And we think you’ve got much bigger things going on that could be going on.”

Back then I was engaged to be married to this other French guy, but everybody except for me could see that he was no good for me. And Carol was trying very hard to see how to make me see that without having me have an epidemic reaction too. And so she was just like, “Hey, I think you should definitely go and spend a weekend with your friend, this longtime friend of yours.” She already I think, could tell that he was more a romantic interest for me than I realized it. You know how parents can be sometimes. And anyway, she’s like, “We don’t like the idea of you getting married with this other guy, but if that’s what you want to do, we will support you. But before you do that, please do us a favor, do yourself a favor and go to California and you hang out with your friend.

And so I went and when I came back, the first thing I told her is I left my heart in San Francisco. That’s it. So there she was, she knew it. And anyway, it was really an interesting time. Carol said, “You’re doing what so few of us have the heart to do, which is courage, the courage to really follow your heart and step into the unknown.” And she said, “You need to go. I want you to explore as much as you can in this world knowing that if ever anything was to not turn out the way you want or whatever, remember, we’re always here. Our home is always going to be open, our heart is always going to be open. I’m always going to be with you in this heart of yours. So just go.”

It was just so great. She gave me a letter and she said, “Don’t open the letter until you’re in the plane.” And it was just one of the most beautiful letters I’ve ever had in my life. And it was designed to be a little talisman, something for me to read in terms of doubts, in times of hardships, whatever. So just to stay the course. Anyway, and it’s funny because that letter stayed with me for years it went through multiple with for years. And one day I just couldn’t find it anymore. To this day, I can’t find it anymore but I think what it is is the letter has run its course in terms of when I built roots, when the letter I think disappeared and I hope somebody found it that it can help. That’s my little story with that. It’s weird, but I get attached to this thing.

But anyway, so arriving in California, it was very interesting. I started out as a headhunter in the finance world and was tasked with finding great talent from around the world for places companies like Google and Netflix. And you have to imagine, I mean, Netflix was this tiny office in the middle of nowhere in San Jose. And I was just like, I got lost going a couple times. Who would have fought and known that Netflix would be what it is today? And same thing with Google. It was like one office. And same thing. Look at where it is today. And.

And I think there in Silicon Valley, I was just getting to experience and to see for myself, I call it the magic of entrepreneurship, which is truly … [inaudible 00:21:43] something out of nothing, sorry, just rather amazing. And the way my husband likes to explain it is if you lay down and you’re seeing the blue sky and all of a sudden you look again and there’s this cloud, it’s just very interesting.

Anyway. So there I was doing really, really well for myself living my American dream for sure. But you know, you are there and it’s happening for you. But every time you are doing a count of your life, I do that on a regular basis. On a regular basis, I like to tally things up and to see what has gone well, what has not gone so well and put my gratitudes together and all of that stuff. And oftentimes my gratitude always wear more than not. And of course, there’s joy that comes from that. There is a sense of joy and gratitude — gratitude for the journey you’ve been afforded and gratitude for all the people who showed up to help you on that journey.

But oftentimes when I feel this way, and I should say actually it’s not often, it’s every single time. To this day, when I start to feel good about myself, I can’t help but for the very next second to just be completely submerged with a tremendous sense of sadness and grief and despair and disappointment. And sometimes there’s a little bit of anger in there and sometimes there’s a little bit of resentment in there.

It always has to do with the fact that it’s hard for me. It’s hard for me to feel full joy when I also know that others don’t have the same, especially the very true life circumstances that I know about. That is the reality of so many who have stayed back home. And what I mean by that is the stories that I’ve grew up with my whole life, basically when you have these stories in your head of bodies dropping off airplanes because somebody thought it would be a good idea to hide into the landing gears of a plane on their immigration journey to Europe to find a job or frozen body in a cargo section of a plane because somebody thought it would be a good idea to hide there, to migrate in search of a better life or bodies at the bottom of the ocean serving as fish food. As we’re speaking right now, thousands and thousands and thousands of these bodies in the Mediterranean Sea is known as the graveyard for so many West Africans.

And because in my country, people pack themselves into little fishermen’s boats and that’s going to be the vessel that they use to cross to Europe. And as we know, these are not designed for that type of sea crossing and the boat tips over and so many young people in this, primarily young people, women and now also babies, and all of these people were on their way to … Just all they wanted was a chance at a better life. All the people who migrated to the US, that’s what it was too. They were on their way to a better life. And when they’re not at the bottom of the ocean or falling off of airplanes or frozen in airplanes, then some of them use land routes. Many there get stuck in Libya and they’re in Libya. People are being sold as slaves and 21st Century right now, people in Libya, when they catch someone like me, I get sold between $300 and $500.

So when I ask people, “How could you not expect me to be haunted? Because truly I am haunted.” I was having a podcast with somebody yesterday and to one of them, I said, “If you were to ask my husband what he prays the most for me, and he will tell you, I pray that you finally know peace.” Peace is something that I don’t know. I wonder if I will ever know peace, but I will work towards my getting peace because the only thing that can give me peace ever by now I know is making sure that Africa has taken a different turn in my lifetime. I have to know it. I have to feel it in my … Even if I don’t see it reaching that destination in my lifetime, I want to know that in my lifetime, the boat, it’s shifted and now it’s sailing in the right direction.

If I can be convinced of that, then I will have peace. But until then, I have to live with my demons. And the demons are very strong. But the way I deal with them is I work towards that goal of putting Africa on the trajectory where it’s sailing towards a prosperity and the dignity that comes with it. And that’s really what happened. At some point in my life, I really had to make that deal with God that from here on I’m just going to have to devote my life to it, to the betterment of my continent. And I’m not happy with a mere poverty alleviation. I want prosperity. I want the full deal. It’s not just about us being a little bit less poor because that’s never going to solve anything. We need that prosperity. And someone was asking me, “What do you mean by prosperity?”

And what I mean by prosperity is very simple. We do know that there is a threshold of income where if you’re below that, you’re truly what we call in poverty because literally, the material is lacking in your life. If you’re sick, unless it’s a disease that no doctor can heal, which we have plenty of those around us, but if it’s a disease that just having access provides, then you’ll be fine. The hunger, all of that, we know that there is a material level below which no one should be. And similarly, when you’re above that, wherever you’re making a dollar more, $100 more, $1,000 more, a million dollars more, it’s probably not going to impact much your sense of happiness. It’s going to be something else that’s going to deal with your sense of happiness.

But the truth is, you have billions of people who are still below that threshold and that cannot be that anymore. So that’s what I call prosperity. Once that happened, once that existential crisis moment happened for me, I was in California, I was in my mid to late twenties by then. And then what happened was I made a deal with God and I said, “From here on, it’s going to have to change. I’m just going to be showing up every single day, and what I want to do is contribute to building prosperity in Africa. I don’t know what to do, but you’re going to have to help me.” And eventually things started to change for me. It started to change for me and maybe when you were just more focused, things start to form in front of you, I don’t know. But God definitely has been providing in terms of giving me this opportunity or feeling like having have the opportunity to do something.

That’s how I went back home to Senegal just to see that the beverage that I grew up with was disappearing and the hibiscus, which was a main ingredient, which is what the ladies primarily were the ones cultivating and building their livelihoods out of that were then losing the livelihoods because now no one is drinking hibiscus anymore because oh, if you want to show your status as somebody who made it, you drink Western soda pop brand. So we’re talking Pepsi, Fanta, Coca-Cola and so-and-so. But people at the bottom of the pyramid, which is a larger part of a population, them they try to mimic status by drinking knockoffs of those soda pop brands. And in between, our traditional juices and beverages are being squeezed out and with them the ingredients that these women used to get their livelihoods from.

And then what it’s doing is just creating another greater cycle of poverty because now these women are leaving the countryside, packing themselves into cities, going to the cities where many of them would end up as maids and such and oftentimes treated very poorly, some begging on streets and this horrible cycle of poverty. And it’s just like, where does it stop? Where does it end? This was a big problem. It was really bothering me. It was bothering me because now I’m like, okay, on one end I have my culture and a key element of my culture about disappearing because the hibiscus drink, which is called bissap, is also called the juice of Teranga. Teranga means hospitality. That is what us, the people of Senegal are known for.

So this is a critical part of my cultural identity and it’s going sideways, meanwhile, also going sideways, women and their lives. Huh? So I’m like, “You got to be kidding me.” But in moments like that, you try to remind yourself that it’s very important to criticize by creating. This is something that … It’s a way of thinking about the world that we grew up with. We were told by our parents, my dad especially would be like, “Never come to me with your problems. I do not want to hear your problems. The only time I can hear your problems is if you have solutions to offer. They don’t have to be the right solutions, but I just want to know that you’re in solutions mode.” So that’s the only way I was allowed to criticize was by also creating.

And so yeah, I’ve got a problem. My beverage has disappeared. The rest of the world is not drinking it, blah, blah, blah. The women are losing their livelihoods. It’s not okay, what do you do? Well, what do you do? Oh, I know that brands are powerful at establishing culture for good or for bad. And I also know that if people have jobs, then they … That’s the job. The job is what they want. Okay? So I’m going to build a company that the product of this company and mission and vision is going to bring back, to introduce this beverage to the Western world. And we’re going to manufacture it in such a way that the supply chain is going to involve all of these women, so they get a chance and a reason to come back to the countryside and grow the hibiscus and we’ll be buying it from them. And that’s exactly what we did. Eventually, at the highest point, we had 9,000 women that were working for us. And so that was really great. We did that.

But Jim, when that … Well, that was happening, that question of my little girl’s question that evolved with her was God never put it in the backend. And eventually that process was going to give me my answer because that company had a sister … So we had a sister company in Senegal, which was primarily in charge of the supply chain side. And then we had a sister company in the US that was in charge of the R&D, research and development as well as sales and retail and marketing and promotions, all of that. And it was very funny because I will never forget again, being very struck by the discrepancy of what we would call the ease of doing business between the two countries, between in this case Senegal and the USA.

And what I’m talking about here are things that have to do with the situation around legally registering the business, all the different steps that you would have to go through to register the business. The simplest one would be … In the US, you just take a few minutes, you fill out this form and it gets sent out to the Secretary of State’s office, and then they have all types of automated processes where it comes back straight to you with all the stamps and what you need, and that’s it. Now you got the company. It’s legal, it’s legit. And then from there, you can just send it to your bank and the bank can then from there proceed to create a bank account for you. You email the information and then back in the days, you had to mail it, but still, it’s super fast compared to what was going on back home.

At the IRS, you connect them right away, you get a few days later. Today, it’s all happens online and in a few minutes it’s like back and forth, it’s done. But back home, it was something that would take literally half a day or less than that in America would take almost close to two years to do when it comes to just the registering your business, and I’m not even talking about all the other processes that come in place or even the cost that this thing takes.

So here’s it’s a couple hundred dollars. Over there, you’re into the thousands of dollars by now, and then to open a bank account, you have to have all of this capital that you can monopolize. It’s again in the thousands of dollars, back then, especially to back in the US, 20 bucks, you can open a bank account. And it was like that about everything about the permits. Here you need a few items to comply to get a permit. And over there, it’s like in the thousands of items that you have to comply to to get your permit and the time it takes and all the wait time, and who knows what else.

Jim: What causes that difference? Because as you pointed out in the book, not only is the cost difference huge, but the couple thousand dollars to get yourself registered is equal to a whole year’s income in Senegal. While the $200 in the United States is one day’s work for a well-paid person, how did a country choose to set up its practices that way to make it almost impossible to start a business? It seems like kind of a crazy thing to do.

Magatte: It’s a [inaudible 00:34:34] insane, and it was exactly the same question I had. So first of all, when I saw that, I had to ask myself. So my first thing was I was struck by the discrepancy and I’m going to go and answer that question, but before, let me say this, I was struck by the discrepancy. And then I thought to myself, I brush it up by, oh, well, I guess it’s just because we’re so poor, but it’s so complicated to do anything here and here in the US, they’re so rich, it’s so easy to get things done. Just to think, oh, wait a second, you’re poor because you don’t have enough money, at least not enough money to take care of your basic needs. You don’t have money because where does money come from? A source of income. So you don’t have money because you don’t have a source of income. What is a source of income for most people is a job, isn’t it? Yeah. Where do jobs come from? The private sector businesses. Yeah. And what do those businesses need in order to do their magic? Remember the magic of businesses entrepreneurship. Well, they need an enabling business environment, but oh, wait, didn’t you just tell me that in these countries it happened to be the hardest to do business and in these it’s easiest to do business. And there, my God, I was just like, wait, this thing has been under my nose the whole time, but it was just a little flip that you have to do. You know how sometimes the child comes up, but first and then you just have … The doctor just goes in there and does this, and then all of a sudden everything seems right.

It was just like something like that that happened to my brain. It was just like, huh? And so I think many people are walking around, all of these people coming up with what I call these lies about poverty in Africa, it’s like we are coming … It’s just like we have it upside down and it doesn’t bother you until actually it gets put in the right order. And so there at last, Jim, I had it. I had the answer to my question. This answer made sense. Not only did I experience it in my own life, but also eventually I started to realize … And then at first I was like, oh, maybe it’s just an anecdote.

And then I was like, oh, maybe it’s just Senegal and maybe it’s the US but no, no, no, just goes. And then I started to really study all of this stuff and I started to see, okay, are people saying this? And yeah, then you discover a whole literature. You discover a whole set of economists, a whole set of intellectuals that have worked on this, have studied this, have research, this have put numbers on it, have put empirical evidence, and my God, it’s all showing what I have experienced.

So this is not an anecdote, this is not an anecdote. The correlation is everywhere and beyond correlation, there’s causality here. So basically all these economic freedom indexes, because at the end of the day, all of these things we talked about, all the rules and regulations that together rule the life of a business, economists would put them into what we call academic freedom. So what all of these indexes are showing but Doing Business Index ranking at the World Bank, all of these, what they’re doing is we’re measuring basically how hard or easy it is to start and run a business anywhere in the world. And systematically, these indexes are showing that it is harder to do business in almost anywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa than it is anywhere in say, Scandinavia. And I take Scandinavia because even anti-business people like Bernie Sanders love to take Scandinavia as their example.

And I’m here to tell them, well, Bernie, Scandinavian nations are more capitalist than almost any sub-Saharan African nations. There you have it. And so that was it. Africa is the poorest region in the world because it is the most overregulated region in the world because if poverty is solved by prosperity, not poverty alleviation because that’s just being a little bit less poor, the solution to poverty is prosperity. Prosperity is built by entrepreneurs. What do entrepreneurs need? They need an enabling business environment. And anytime it’s not provided to them, entrepreneurs cannot go with a job of doing what they do best, which is create wealth and jobs and companies and all of that. You just can’t do it.

And so that was rather amazing. There I had it. I had my question, and then my next question to that was just like what you asked, why? Why would some nations decide to do this? Is it that it just fall out of the sky? Because that’s what I thought. I was like, “Huh, what happened here? Did we just get cursed from the beginning?” And there too … This is where the work of George Ayittey came in very handy. George is one of a few African scholars that had really studied all of this and had started to look into directions that were not the normal directions to look into.

When I asked George, I said, “George, what prompted you to look in this direction when no one else was?” And the direction I’m talking about is because he also, he said, “Look, Magatte, it just didn’t make any sense for me all of these rules and regulations that I saw, but my mother had to obey as a market lady also, she was doing another job, but she also was a market lady as many African women are, they dominate the markets.” He said, “It just didn’t make any sense.” See, George was from Ghana, so Rawlings was the first president of Ghana, right?

And so he said all of this stuff where they’re saying that the amount of profit you can make is mandated by the state, is controlled by the state. So they had all of these price controls, they had all of these bodies for various forms of regulations, basically just intervening in the market all the time. It was like this top-down centralized planning of the economy. And so he’s like, “That way of looking at it did not match what I knew to be the case for our traditional Africans who came from precolonial Africans.”

I’m like, “Huh, that’s interesting.” So for him too, it started with an observation. He was like, “This way of doing things does not match what I know to have learned about the way we were doing things pre-colonial times.” What George knows is that pre-colonial times and is all recorded and reported in his work is that Africans were very free marketeers. Free enterprise was very much alive and well. And as a matter of fact, we had some of the most interesting and sophisticated trade routes in the world. So trade was the name of the game, not central print and crap that everybody had to go by and these people had … And so he was trying to understand what happened. I asked him, I said, “George, what do you think happened?” He said, “Magatte, the sad thing is just around the time when most African nations were getting their independence in the late fifties, early sixties, Ghana is the one who got theirs first.”

He said, “Around that time is also when we’re at the height of ideological battle with the two blocs, primary blocs, one, the West, what they were defending was freedom, the economic system being capitalism facing off with the Eastern bloc, promoting various forms of stateism. And these two, as you know, when ideologies fight each other, they’re looking for influence. That’s how you win. [inaudible 00:41:32] down south, both sides. And us, it is … So at that time, just put yourself in the shoes of these liberators of Africa who would then become, for the most part, the new and the first rulers of their freed nations, no longer decolonized.”

“Think about it, you’re at a time where almost any respectable intellectual believed that socialism was the way. That socialism had won. That ideology was superior. Almost any intellectual believed that you also at a time when it has been the Marxist socialist that had traditionally been fighting for racial equality in times when there is not much racial equality, but they were the ones fighting for it, even though Marx was a known racist, Marxist socialists for the most part, we got to give that to them, they very much were fighting for racial equality. So when you put all of this together, you can understand that what probably was in the hearts of these leaders, the pain that they have had, the fights that they have been leading to take us to emancipation. So put all of those together and probably the hate that they had in their hearts and the resentment just that for the Western world.”

So they said, whatever the West is standing for, we’re going to stand against because you the West are the ones who colonized us. We reject you in fullness. Fullness. And so this is how at a very critical time of our journey, we took the wrong fork by rejecting fully the West. For me, it’s not so much about rejecting the West, but it’s about rejecting the baby that was in that bath water. That baby we also … We threw the baby with a bath water. And the baby I’m talking about here is the capitalism that the Western nations were primarily standing for. And so when we rejected everything together, we also rejected capitalism. And that’s how we ended up where we are. And when you believe in something, you don’t just believe it, you act it and you manifest it in your policies. And so you not only had that, but also the problem with the francophone nations. Then the French left and said … Supposedly left and said every nation that they colonized before is going to have to keep civil law because that’s what the French … So the French left a lot more of their baggages behind, which we’re still dealing with. And we frankly have never reconsidered.

I rarely hear a civil nation, African nation say, oh, maybe civil law is not the best for a business environment. And we got rethink that. The biggest one that did that recently was Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who has been like, “Nope, no good.” But the thing is you do that the minute you start to understand that what I talked about: poverty solved by prosperity, prosperity built by entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs need an enabling business environment. Once you understand that, you know what you got to do, go do. You got to go do what Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore did. You got to go do even what Communist China eventually ended up doing when they were sick and tired of being poor. They said, okay, fine, our communism, we’re going to keep it on the social realm, but when it comes to building economics and building prosperity, there’s only one thing that works. And so they went on to build these SEZs, special economic zones that are known to be among the most free-market zones in the world.

So in their own way, they created multiple little Singapores within China. And that’s what really gave us the feast of transformation that happened in China where within a very short amount of time, 800 million Chinese people lifted out of abject poverty. That’s rather amazing. What can do that? Only a free-market capitalism can do this. Only that force.

And so we find that any country that has gone for it gets to enjoy results of prosperity and economic growth, and anyone that decides to run on stupid criminal economic software, that socialism is, Marxism is, communism is, then you end up in the dump of misery. And so it is just what it is. So if you ask us, that’s what happened to us.

But in our case, except for a few nations, none of these African nations, some 60-plus years later is reconsidering this legacy. And so I’m here to argue that yes, we’ve been lied to about African poverty. We’ve been lied to about why we’re still poor. The question is not necessarily why are we still poor, but because poverty is the natural state of man, but we know that some people have escaped that natural state of man and what have they done for it? How did they do it? Free-market capitalism.

So my question was then how come we didn’t do that? But we’ve been distracted all of these so-called reasons as to why we’re still poor. And to this day, in my nation of Senegal, I think you could count them in a hand but had an accident, meaning lost some fingers, the people who will tell you, maybe we got to rethink our economic systems. No, they just adopted whatever the French left us and just kept on … We keep on going.

We meanwhile, the French are out there trying to do as many reforms as they can because they know, I mean anybody … You talk to people, they’ll tell you, Europe is in decline. It is in decline. The French have been running on some of the assets that they have had for a long time, and right now, besides the Eiffel Tower and weapons as well as the luxury brands, it’s not like the French are killing it anywhere. And they know that even that is on its way out if they don’t try something different and become a little bit more serious about free-market capitalism, but they’re trying on their side as they should.

But us, we have never challenged these, what I call the legacy of killing colonialism. This truly is the legacy of colonialism. So I am the first one to say, Africa is not poor today because of colonialism because in my mind, if we had done what we were supposed to do, we would no longer be poor. So that’s why I refuse to say Africa is poor because of colonialism. But if you want me to say Africa is poor because of colonialism, then I’ll say, yes, it is. But the reason why I would say that, it has to do with colonialism, meaning the legacy of Marxist socialism that we have inherited from the colonial times and colonial people.

So in any case, that’s what I have discovered and the reason why then the next part of a subtitle is because the subtitle is how we’ve been lied to about African poverty and what it means for human flourishing. Then you see the time because it seems like this solution and this force that can make the difference between being poor or being rich, prosperous; between peace or war, between life or death. Literally, this force is a very universal force. It’s not a matter of if you’re yellow, green, short, tall, whatever, you can use it and it does different things to you. It is universal and it is universal to us humans.

And when I use the word flourishing, it’s because without prosperity first you cannot flourish because what we talked about earlier, that threshold of income that one has to make to really now be thinking about flourishing, then it means it’s also a lesson for the rest of the world. And I think that anybody who still has doubt as to what socialism, Marxism can do, we are the last standing … There’s Cuba. But people talk about Cuba all the time, but I think there’s … One of the biggest, latest victims of socialism that the world is not even realizing it is, it’s Africa.

See, when you think victims of socialism when you think nations that have victims of socialism, you think about a lot of Eastern European nations, you’re thinking about places like Cuba, you’re thinking about Venezuela, you think about all of these places, but I think no one is realizing that Africa is the biggest. We’re right there in front of you guys want to know what Marxist socialism does? Look to us, look to us, but does have not been connected yet. And that’s what we’re trying to do.

And even us, we have not woken up yet. We have never revisited this legacy and what it is that we’re doing, how we approach economics and building our economies and going for prosperity. If anything, I feel like we have been subdued into the fact of thinking that prosperity will never be for us. I have some people literally. I even dare to say African prosperity, you can tell there’s a cognitive dissonance happening in their brain because they’re like, huh, Africa, prosperous? No. Now are we living in poverty in Africa? Yeah. That we know that makes sense. But Africa prosperity, girl, you’re joking.

As as long as this is the case, we’re going to have a problem. So what I’m doing right now is number one is awareness building. People have to have greater awareness as to the proper diagnosis to why Africa is still the poorest region in the world today. It is because we have … Africa is a region with the least economic freedom, meaning its entrepreneurs are the least free to enterprise. Once you realize that, then you have to think, how do we solve this problem? Then you work with me. So at the most basic level, support African entrepreneurs, if you’re in the US, anywhere and you need great lip balms or skincare products or whatever, we at Skin Is Skin, our company, manufacture these things straight from Africa providing really cool jobs to people, things like that. That’s how you support this is easy because it’s something that you already need, it’s well done and all of that. Okay, you buy it, you’re supporting great jobs.

But if you want to be even more involved and if you want to support the more radical way to go about it because every single year, we have millions of young Africans who are coming to an age of work that find no work, and this is a ticking bomb for the rest of us. Like I said, Africa has the youngest population in the world. Average age is 19, one, nine. By 2051 out of every four people walking this earth will be African. This could go two ways. Or Africans reach prosperity in general, and then it’s going to be a world in which I think no one could have imagined the type of possibilities and the type of advances and innovation that will come with that because can you imagine a billion-plus people escaping poverty and finally joining the rest of us.

Jim: Would be like another China, right? It’d be the size of another China essentially.

Magatte: Exactly. So what it’s going to mean for all of us, we’re probably going to find cancer cures faster. We’re going to find … I mean, just all of these people being liberated from the shackles of poverty that excluded them from happy, healthy, productive lives, and then all of a sudden joining the rest of the world into really innovating and going higher and higher in solution building. This is amazing. And so it could go that way or it’s still poverty. And then if people think the inequality that is among us right now is a problem, if people think that the immigration that’s going on right now is a problem, I am here to tell them you haven’t seen anything yet. Hell is about to be broken loose and good luck to everybody because no one will stand once that tsunami has gone over. No one including the poor Africans.

So my point is good, good two ways, and it’s still time. It is still time for us to shift this trajectory and that’s exactly what we’re working on. And so for that, I had to set my eyes on these concept called Startup Cities. Many people may have heard them as charter cities. The best way to think of them is one of the best new technologies in the world. That’s how I look at it. It’s next-generation special economic zones that have their own law and have their own governance and also have custom regulatory frameworks. So basically, what you’re doing is in a country where the entrepreneurs are trapped and are in shackles by these rules and regulations, and for many reasons, the nation is not in a really good position to change everything because make no mistakes, there are people in … All over Africa, there are people who are doing just fine, thank you very much.

It’s a small group, but they have friends in government and the system is working for them, including the leaders of these nations and their families and their friends and all of that. So there’s a little subset and also there is a way the economy was set that works for many people, like in civil law nations, notaries do very well. Because a notary is not like what you have in the US where it’s like a $5 signature by somebody who just has a stand or sometimes even free. A notary is almost like a lawyer. It’s that level of education, that level of expensiveness and all of that. Yet you can’t do anything without them. Meaning because by law, everything has to be notarized or it has to go through their offices, so which means your cost of business is being raised.

So imagine you try to show up and you say, okay, from here on we’re going to clean everything up. Right away we’re no longer going to be civil law, we’re going to be common law, blah, blah. So these people are like, huh, we went to school to learn all of this stuff and now you’re telling us from one day to another we’re going to be out of work? And the lawyers don’t understand how this is going to have to work because by the way, one of the minimum threshold for a really world-class functioning business environment, you’re going to have to be serious and put common law in there and you can mix it with the best of your traditional law, which is something that Botswana has done. And also Dubai had to say, Hey, we’re going to need to switch to common law. And then they pushed it even further by saying, we’re going to have to hire retired British common law judges to come and educate the law and kind of get us from where we are to the next level.

So you don’t have to be very serious about this. So it’s going to be a disruption at all points. So that’s why it’s really not a good idea to do it nationally or to try to do it at a whole country level because you’re just disrupting too many things. And as you know, first of all, people hate change themselves, even if it’s for the best for us. But at first, they’re not going to hate it and not feel like it was their prerogative. So in any way, so here what you do so that you don’t disrupt all of this, and most importantly, you don’t start messing around with entrenched interest. And to me, it’s not about a matter of is entrenched interest right or wrong; it’s about just being pragmatic. It’s like knowing and understanding that if you want to go after people and what they have, well, they’re going to fight you back.

And the truth is here, they’re way better settled in and part of a fabric than you are. And let me tell you, you’re going to be the antibody and that body’s going to spit you out, and just the way it’s going to work. So if you want to go crazy and go head-to-head, good luck. Otherwise, you go the smart way, you go a pragmatic way and you do it step by step way in which you get to bring people along with you rather than say you good, you bad, you going to destroy you … No, no, there’s a process. So that’s why instead of trying to disrupt all of that and where people feel like they’re being forced, where some leaders might even be in trouble because maybe they have … some other nations have some interest with them, where if it’s too abrupt.

So here what you do is you say, okay, on a given piece of land, the size of a city, ideally … Just like the same concept with special economic zones. Special economic zones is that. It’s like you have these zones where you have different rules happening more or less from the rest. And we did that because we know the rest of the country is not running on the best rules. So here we’re just saying, let’s have an even more world-class software running this zone. That’s what I’m calling next-generation special economic zone. And so you do that. So within this place, you ideally pick an area where there’s almost nobody living there. So you don’t have these issues of you have exported people or who knows what else. And most importantly, you’re giving yourself a chance to try something differently without having people resisting you too much because you’re not bothering to anybody.

And so there, you work with the government of the country to give you some protection guarantees, meaning that we’re going to try something new. And as you know, oftentimes the reason why investors don’t want to go somewhere in addition to a bad business environment is also how safe is it or not for your investment. And safe is not just always like are people going to come with guns or whatever. But it’s also … I mean, traditionally, it’s not like this in this country, we know these countries, you come in, if you’re in Cahoot with the government in place, then everything is fine for you. If you’re not, they come for you first. So we just can’t build with that type of uncertainty.

So anyway. So there after you have negotiated all the critical elements that you need from the government in order for you to think, okay, we feel safe, we feel safe to do this work, then we get to work, we get to work, and then we start and proceed to design some of the most world-class business environment. And that’s how, at least my partners, it’s called Próspera. So, Próspera is the largest and most successful governance platform in the world. And so the startup city that they have is in Honduras on the island of Roatán. And there you look at Honduras, if you look at Doing business index ranking of Roatán, it’s in the 130 or 140. I should know better. I always say I’m going to check it, but when I get busy and I don’t have time. I knew it once upon a time, but I can tell you it’s in the 132 or 142, which is pretty bad ranking under Doing Business index ranking. Bad ranking.

If you look at this zone called Próspera, if it was its own country, its own city nation, it ranks number nine on the same ranking. Isn’t that amazing? So what you’re doing is you are bringing to entrepreneurs who are trapped in these countries because as you know, something that the Hondurans have in common with so many African nations is they have many what we call captive citizens, meaning we are citizens of very poor nations, because we come from poor nations, prosperous nations do not want to see our faces in their countries either. So they’re blocking us from immigrating to their countries, at least legally, which means we are captive because we can’t exit, right? You can’t exit your country because you’ve got nowhere else to go. The other nations have made it really hard for you to migrate there.

And so that’s what a lot of these African nations by the way have. And the entrepreneurs who are in it, whose name is not Magatte Wade, who happens to have three passports, one European, one American and one West African, you’re trapped, if you don’t have those possibilities. You have great ideas, you have the will to work hard but you’re trapped in the worst business environment in the world, which means you can’t really enterprise.

So what we’re doing with this is we’re trying to give these people an escape plan straight from home, a way to be included without having to literally with their little feet have to go somewhere else. So all they have to do if they choose to do so, because again, it’s all voluntary process. You live in the capital city of Senegal, Dakar and you hear that there is a little city that’s building somewhere in the middle of a countryside or somewhere where nobody wants to be because it’s too hot and there’s nothing growing there and there’s nothing going on and everybody has left and nobody would move there, are you crazy? But all of a sudden we’re able to build a little place like Las Vegas was able to be built. I’m not talking about the morals of Las Vegas or gambling or anything, but what I’m saying there is just places where without the right environment for a business people, they don’t want to build anything. You end up in a very hot deserty-looking kind of place, place of land that people think is Godforsaken. But the minute you put right software to run this place, all of a sudden the developments start to happen. And that’s what you see.

I mean, Dubai, our little fishermen’s village, all of a sudden, Dubai gets its act together in terms of putting the right environment in place and wealth builders show up and eventually you look around next 25 years later and you look at it, you’re like, wait, what? Same thing with Las Vegas. Same thing with all of these places in the world that people thought who would live here?

Jim: Yeah, Singapore is a good example.

Magatte: Singapore was a slum. Very, very hard conditions to live in. So my point is now you’re living in Dakar until now you thought Dakar was the nicest town in Senegal because capital and all the investment is done there. Now all of a sudden you’re like, Hey, okay, but places still needs to be done, but at least there I can register my business in five seconds because forget now with 20 minutes, it’s like in five seconds because everything is super streamlined by this Próspera platform. I get to pick my choice of law, I get to pick my choice of arbitration. I get to pick my … to even work on a custom regulatory framework. I mean everything here is done for me to enterprise.

Wow. Wow. So, IPAC. And I don’t need immigration or anything because this is my country. I am just going to a different place of my country. I don’t have to apply with anybody. I go there and that’s it. So now I don’t have to think about going to the US to build a company. Now I don’t have to think to going to France or anything like that. All I do is pack up up my little bag and if I don’t even want to pack my bag, it’s okay, get myself in the car. I commute every day back and forth to a place if I want. But can you imagine all the freedom because now all of a sudden brought to you a world-class business environment that you can partake in straight from home? And then can you imagine? And we know that these things, when humanity start to do them and within 25 years, and we’re talking a generation in less than a generation, and we think that with these Startup Cities we’re building in Africa, it’s actually the magic will actually happen faster.

Probably we could see things happening in 12, 15 years, meaning things more or less fully developed rather than the 25 years it might take before or 30 years. So my point is to me, this is a promise. And the good news is I’ve been talking to nine African nations now and out of that, three of them are looking really, really promising in terms of could go right now while the other ones, we’re kind of building the pipelines and trying to figure things out.

So my point is this is going to happen somewhere on this continent within the next very short term. And the minute one of these cities goes and is successful, it’s going to be a sea change, it’s going to be game over. And then I think we will have our bad dream world that I live in my head, which is a very prosperous Africa, Africans becoming recognized as global co-creators of innovation and prosperity, taking finally our rightful place in the world scene and yeah, joining the rest of our brothers and sisters in the world just building, building, building and building and just advancing our world and making us all go forward in progress. That’s what I see.

And all I need for this to happen is one of the 54 nations to say yes, we’ll do it. And the rest follows. So that’s pretty much what we’re all about. That’s why I’m so bullish in Africa. I’m very bullish in Africa. And given everything I know and I’m seeing, I’m telling you these African countries are very motivated. So I think the problem we have had with a lot of these nations was it was just done one way or the other. So what you had was the West telling our leaders, oh, this is what you have to do. And always patronizing them about everything and the Africans being like whatever. They were doing it for a while, getting foreign aid for a while, it was okay for them to get the foreign aid. Yeah, they’ve been patronized, but at least they’re getting the money.

And eventually as the money was starting maybe to dry out and the Western people were saying, okay, this stuff is going nowhere, we’re probably going to … becoming harder and harder to deal with. It’s when China started to go up and have to have money and have money to spend on foreign influence. And so they showed up and told these group of people, the leaders who used to be given money but told what to do, all of a sudden, Hey, we’ll give you the money, we don’t care what you do with it. We’ll give you the money. You tell us you want to build a road. Fine. You tell us it cost a billion dollars, I’m just making it up, fine. We will loan you a billion dollars. It’s not up to us to tell you what to do. The only thing I guess they want is to get the contract. So we’re going to build the road for you. So you’re going to pay us back that billion dollars because we gave it to you plus interest because we loaned it to you.

By the way, we import our own workers. We don’t know if these workers are … who knows? But bottom line is, Hey, you said you want a billion dollars, we’re going to give up a billion dollars. We’re not going to be the ones telling you do it this way, do it that way, whatever. All we want is just let us build the road. Let us do it with our people. And then that’s it. We’re not going to be the ones looking at seeing if some money has been taken around or whatever. As long as they get paid the money back plus the interest, they could care less. And if you don’t pay, they come for your country’s organs, meaning port, airports and who knows what else. And that’s pretty much the deal is clean. So the Africa’s like, oh great.

And so I think that’s also how a lot of the West has started to lose influence in Africa because the Chinese came in and kind of do it more that way. Now you also have the Russians showing their face and also you have Arab nations that are also very active, but in a very under-the-radar manner that so many people still think that in Africa it’s just a Western play on one side or China/Russia on the other side.

But I’m telling you, Arab nations are there and they’re just maneuvering very much under the radar. So in any case, meanwhile everybody is having the pick of us. Everybody is serving themselves on us, but us, we for some reason are not working on any of these things. But me, when I go and I meet with these leaders, my point is not about trying to judge so-and-so. The point is, can we get us to move forward and to do the right thing and build these cities that eventually will become the new norms and that’s how we’re going to leap proud for Africa?

So my point is not to go and tell a leader, you bet bad, bad or whatever, but it’s about, hey, I believe that there is a way for you to start building towards prosperity for your nation and start building a legacy, which you will be shocked is to know that many of these people would love to have something like that except that they have not thought so much about the solution. A lot of them are building special economic zones. But the problem is many people do not realize how limited the special economic zone model has turned into because now you have much more competition going on, the world is much more connected than everything. You know how everything is, the envelope gets always pushed, the software always get better and you have to keep with that upgrade.

But the problem is, many of these African nations are still building special economic zones, very much ’80s style which is a big no-no because the world has moved on to 21st Century. And so this is what needs to happen now, 21st Century-type special economic zones. But the minute you present that to them and you show them a pathway from where they are to where they can get to without having to disrupt everything that they know of in the meantime, without you having to tell them take off a mask and just trust me, really, what? So keep your mask on, keep doing everything you’re doing fine. Meanwhile, we’ll build an alternative. And at some point, the two are going to connect.

And once they do, then eventually the new form actually starts to take over the rest. And that’s how you’re going to convert everything else. And all of a sudden, voila, you have turned yourself into a prosperous nation and you did it in a very pragmatic and very responsible way.

Jim: Isn’t that an empowering vision? Look really forward in the coming years to see how your work goes. And thank you very much for this very interesting conversation on the Jim Rutt Show. Any final thoughts before we sign off?

Magatte: No, really. I mean I would love for people to make sure you read the Heart of a Cheetah. We also have a free audiobook version, which I read for you guys. So please look at that. And I think you talked about checking out my social media. @magattew is my handle everywhere I have a substack. And also check out But you will be having more and more information on what’s going on with Próspera Africa coming up in the next few weeks as soon as we can start communicating about it.

But there’s interesting things going on. This I believe will be the biggest industry of the 21st Century. By 2050, hundreds and hundreds of new cities will be built in Africa as you will be having a billion people moving into cities. And so this is just the future of it. So right here, I think for anybody who is interested in, oh, how do I work with Africa? Start thinking about us, Startup Cities.

Jim: All right. Very good.

Magatte: Thank you.