Opening remarks by Chairman:
Please let’s be seated.
Mr president, is it good afternoon, good afternoon.
Ladies and gentlemen good afternoon and welcome to this interactive forum.
I and the TEF are happy to host this interactive session with the president.
The president is no stranger to Nigeria, he is no stranger to Nigerians, he lived and worked in Nigeria for some time.
I was going to ask you but let me now ask formally to join me in welcoming him formally back to Nigeria.
Equally importantly is the fact that the president is not new to entrepreneurship. He understands your language, he understands entrepreneurship ecosystem, he understands how it works, he understands the imperative for success, he understands what you go through, your frustrations, your aspirations, your yearnings and your dreams and he continues since he became president to work hard to support entrepreneurs in France and across the world and Africa in particular.
In may I think or early June, I was opportuned to be one of the global leaders he invited to Elysee the French govt house to talk about technology for good because he realizes the significance and importance of technology in shaping and improving humanity in the 21st century especially in this age of AI.
At the forum he spoke to all the key giant leaders in the world today in this place, and in my humble remarks, I did say, I thank Mr. president for putting me on the table to advocate or speak on behalf of young African entrepreneurs and more importantly I did say that it should be technology for good and tech for all and I’m happy that Mr. president is here in Nigeria in Africa to again demonstrate his love for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship and again I want us to clap for Mr president for this.
So you have here with us, a president, a rare politician, that believes in you, he believes in young entrepreneurs, he believes in your dreams, he believes in your aspirations and he works hard to make it happen.
President you have here Africa’ s entrepreneurial talent you don’t get them better, these young men and women, they are africans at heart, they are energetic they are extremely hardworking they want to succeed they know what their success means for Africa but they are held back but i hope that in the course of the interaction and your dialogue here this time and also your visit across africa and your interaction with African leaders that we can achieve one thing and that is how to prioritize our youth, how to realize that the future of Africa belongs to them.
I continue to preach and advocate that entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs and those they inspire are the life blood of africas transformation and you share this too and that is why the TEF decided to support young africans with $100million over a period of 10 years to create 10,000 african entrepreneurs. We have done 4000, we have 6,000 to go and we believe and we speak to our friends that it takes two things, these young africans are ready to succeed and they realise that their success is not just for themselves but for the entire community.
We need our government to prioritize them and we also need some of us in the private sector to realize that they need just as we had democratization of luck, access to opportunities, they need all of us to support them and they need us to invest in their future so that collectively all of us can make a greater gain.
I say to my colleagues and also friends that we are not defined by the resources or balances that we have in our bank account but what defines us ultimately is the kind of impact on humanity that we are able to make, the kind of legacy that we leave in turning lives.
So I’m happy that you are here. These young africans they want to listen to you Mr president, they want to be inspired by you and we have them anglophone francophone all in this room from 54 african countries. They like your story and they want to hear how you became the president of France at the age of 39 so that they too can be president and even beyond that.
Mr president I believe and strongly and not just me but many people that you have spoken to africans with a new voice, we identify with that new voice, we like that new voice today I believe that this forum would be interactive and provide the unique opportunity for us to achieve a few things.
- It would be nice for our political leaders here in Africa to understand the potent powers and importance of people we have in this room and those that are not in this room because our demographic structure we have 60% of our people who are under the age of 30.
- We also like France and the rest of the world to know that Africa in the 21st century, there is a lot more about Africa than the Africa they used to know
We have new narratives on Africa, hopefully you hear it today and beyond.
And also Africa is now a home of opportunities we want the world to see us as a continent of opportunities and so mr president we like your voice, we like your tone and we welcome you to Nigeria and Africa. Thank you.
Opening remarks by President:
Thank you very much Mr chairman. Ladies and gentlemen I am very happy and honored to be here with you.
I recognize some friends in this room. I don’t want to deliver a long speech I think its much more an interaction but let me just convey a few convictions.
The very first one is about Africa, you just told it Tony, things are changing, and Africa has some new leaders arriving decided to totally change and reframe the whole continent.
But Africa is young, in this state 2/3 of its population is under the age of 35 in Lagos state. And this state is just a 1/5th of the economy of Africa, just Lagos state and I don’t speak of Nigeria.
And these young people, these new generation, have a lot of responsibility and opportunities to build and indeed what I want to build with you is this new narrative you mentioned.
I mean its obviously different to work from the political point of view and all the security and different issues which are absolutely critical to Africa but as we want to build through entrepreneurship, the economy, digital, culture, sports and we were yesterday at the shrine exactly for the same reason and Femi Kuti should be around.
I think he is here, he is an entrepreneur.
It is part of the same message and the same narrative which is to say nobody has to decide for our future. We are the one to decide, nobody has to lecture us which means that we have to take our responsibility think about the legacy and sustainability of our deeds and how we share and develop our countries and we can refer to this during the discussion.
But these new narrative is just to say Africa is the one to decide for Africa to explain about Africa and to create its own model of entrepreneurship and its own culture and to explain it to the rest of the world and not just to be part of the globalization where adjustments were always made despite of people in a certain way.
So this new narrative is to be built now and I do believe its your responsibility and I do believe that its good for Africa and it is good for France because if Africa doesn’t succeed France and Europe will never succeed on the long run.
For two very simple reasons, Europe is not an island and all this migration crisis and we can revert on it if you want is exactly due to the fact that we have a common destiny, and second because we have a very important African diaspora, in France and the rest of Europe and they cannot leave and develop themselves and succeed in France or in Europe if in their country people don’t succeed. That’s the new narrative and it was my first message.
The second one is that entrepreneurship and innovation is part of the answer, it is part of the answer because that is best way to access responsibility and to change everything when you are young and you want to do it.
Innovation is just about change. Smart people when they are in charge are obsessed by innovation because they want to reinvent themselves. But new players, young people should be obsessed about innovation, because this is the only way when you are not a player or an insider to enter into the game and to succeed to disrupt the insider to be part of the game.
Innovation is just about how to invent or reinvent something in which you can succeed and make your life, your family and the life of people around you better and there is no gap for innovation except the one that you have in your mind.
Innovation is just precisely about how to create and is the symptom to destroy past activities that doesn’t make sense. But how to create new things new perspectives and provide new opportunities to young people.
If I am here today its just because I wanted to change a lot of things and I decided to innovate and take my risks in political life.
I never asked for the permission to do so and guess what even when I try to get an advise from the insiders of this game, the first thing advise was u should wait a little bit at a point of time it would be for you but not now.
Never follow this kind of advice so if you want to do it, if you want to change this world if you want to change your country if you believe in your innovation, in your project just make it feasible, just create, just dare and just do it right now. That’s about innovation and that’s part of the answer for this continent and this country.
You have massive young people and part of their future would be through this innovation and that’s why we decided to launch this digital Africa initiative, which means to create a sort of African platform for digital and not to lecture people what they should do, I’m not the one to have the best possible idea for Nigeria or Lagos. I had some entrepreneurs and have seen the craziest ideas now become reality.
But you are the ones to have the right decision and idea for your country, for what is good for your people, which kind of innovation would succeed, which kind of innovation could find its market.
So digital Africa is precisely this platform where we will connect, so you have here and that is the website center, and Chairman is part of the advisory board for Africa.
It just a bag but it is bag, ideas, and money. And what we want to do is to connect people and to allow people with ideas and innovation to scale them. Because a lot of things are a question of scale, how to accelerate, get access to market, get access to finance, being connected to all the people with the same kind of ideas improve your ideas and innovation, thanks to that.
And I think it is good because that is the best way to work all around Africa but I want to work with investors.
It’s a good showcase and precisely to work with large companies with business angles and I want to thank the large companies in this room coming from Nigeria and France. Some of you made long trips to be here and I think it is very important because for me these large corporates, these French corporates some of them work already with you (Chairman: like total) but they can be part of this ecosystem as well and be part precisely of how to finance and how to work and innovate with African start-ups and this new digital Africa because it is good for them as well because it is how to reinvent their mogul, their brands in Africa and it is good for you because it would provide lot of opportunities for young people.
My third and last remark is obviously that part of this answer we are discussing for Africa, this new narrative is obviously about innovation and disruption but more broadly private sector, private sector is part of the answer. Because private sector could provide a better access to people, much better than political life I have to confess.
When you want to get access to responsibility, make your family happy, have a better life you need this access and you need this access to the private sector.
I am a strong believer in Africa’s private sector because I think that is the best way by Africa people for Africa people to change the continent and change their countries and to make it for people and not for foreign business with foreign business despite of your people even if a few people can make their profit with the classical things.
I think the unique way to succeed is to have a strong private sector on the ground, be developed here because this is the only way to have an inclusive growth which means you have an access to sustainable growth to build middle classes in different countries.
These middle classes would buy a lot of products which would allow all the African players develop their business and create new businesses which is the only way to have a sustainable political life because when people get access to jobs, to better life.
The political life is totally different because the whole society is much more inclusive and it part of this African success. That’s why we launched another initiative for African private sector which is the fact that we decided to invest 1 billion euro which means 500 billion naira in the African private sector though the French development agency which is part of digital Africa obviously and we want now to gather a lot of us are players, tycoons Africans and European from different angles to build this platform to develop, leverage and accelerate private sector in Africa.
That it, I don’t want to be longer, I would answer all your questions and convey every message that I wanted to convey to you today. I believe in this new narrative in innovation and the private sector. Thank you
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS;
- Question: With the new brand of populism sweeping across continental Europe and the ensuing trade wars among competing nations, is global trade dead as we know it? Should upcoming entrepreneurs look only inward at home markets only?
Answer: Your first question is a very complicated one but it is true that today, you have a rave of extremisms not just in the economic science or what you call populism and you have indeed what we should call the bigger end of a trade war between some developed countries largely triggered by the US decision. If you look at the root of these different features and phenomenon I could tell you that it is due to the anxiety of middle classes in Europe. Let me explain
I think we made a collective mistake during the past decades, we developed a globalization made for everybody because when you look at figures we decrease poverty and inequalities by the way at the scale of the planet. On a global scale, this globalization was positive but you had a big acceleration of this globalization in terms of free trade, movements and you have much more financialized and digitalized globalization and the consequence of this new phenomenon in acceleration, concentration of wealth on the top 1% of people and in Europe and in the Us and in all the western world those who have the feeling that they were the potential victims of this globalization were the middle classes. Middle classes became feared by migration issues, terrorism. They were the first to fertilize that and because of that you have such a rave of extremists everywhere in Europe. And this push coming from some governments and some people to say now we would build walls and we would close everything; obviously is not sustainable but they manipulate this anxiety which means we have to fix the situation and I can refer to it during the discussion if I have other questions on migration.
I have a strategy for that but the strategy is not just to build a wall, but we have to listen to these anxiety coming from middle classes and it means that if we want to fix it in the long run we need to provide this new narrative, we need more Africans to succeed in Africa and more Europeans to have a positive view about Africa. The loseless game is to have extremists in Europe playing on fears and sometimes on racism and saying African people are losers, they want to invade us and to have africans saying it is impossible to succeed in my country, I have to reach Europe even taking the most crazy risks and by the way making smugglers richer and richer. It is a loseless game and I believe in win win game which is to say lets help Africa to succeed lets provide new hubs in Africa and increase cross country experiences.
Trade is part of it and trade war has the same trigger, middle class were the first victims of globalization because it destroyed jobs in industry and I think trade war is a bad answer it is how to close the countries, build new barriers and increase costs and kill jobs which doesn’t fix the issue for middle classes.
So I do believe we can build something much more inclusive for middle classes in Europe and in the western world. We can reform this globalization to have more people succeed which is the best possible answer and to address your second point and the end of your question, I do believe that we would manage and probably to fix at a point in time this trade war and I think that necessity is in the interest of everybody and that’s why I do believe that the right perspective for African entrepreneurs, for European entrepreneurs is to pursue precisely this cross market experience, this access to all the markets, and these trade developments.
The new generation of trade developments should be more respectful of social issues and environmental issues and obviously new trade opportunities will not be productive if you choose to take opportunities in the country without developing the people but that’s why I do believe that entrepreneurs like you in your sector obviously have African perspectives but also European perspectives as well.
If your product is good, it would succeed but we would open access for people like you and if you provide a positive image, a positive brand (beckons on entrepreneur to come on stage)
Entrepreneur: 17 states in Nigeria can grow coffee but only two are growing presently. I work with farmers in Taraba to ensure that an average Nigerian has access to locally grown coffee, we need to rejuvenate our farms and create new farms for the future.
This business makes sense because it provides opportunities here for farmers and jobs and you would create jobs and because it makes sense and the message is positive the brand could be very strong.
I don’t believe that an innovation or a brand could be successful if the message or the values don’t make sense and that’s why you have a lot of trade opportunities in Africa and in Europe because it makes sense.
You will succeed I’m sure.
- Question: What is your advice for young emerging leaders in politics, business and social-enterprise looking to make a difference locally and globally?
Answer: I would say first and in a nutshell and I told them exactly this at the shrine yesterday that there is no advice. Take your risk. It seems to be a joke but it is serious. There is no one model or one recipe to succeed in politics, in economy, in culture and so on. I think the first thing is to be sincere and to take your own risks. There is no success without being a risk taker. If you just want to follow a model or a recipe, you can be happy, you can have ur part, you can succedd as an employee and have a beautiful life but if you want to be a leader, if you want to create if you want to be a business leader, you have be in a certain way a front runner so you have to take your risks.
My second advise except that the first one is that there is no advise would be never stop at the first failure because when you try you can fail and if you don’t fail you become dangerous for yourself and that’s because it could happen. So be optimistic by the potential failure and always learn from failures but when you fail it is not so important.
I have failed a lot of times, I failed in different fields. I didn’t want to become a politician or president, I think the main reason is because I learnt from my failures and because too many people told me it was impossible. So I would say I think our job as the government is to reduce the cost of failure for people like you but for you accept the failure.
And third never believe that your success can be just your success if you don’t have a vision which is sustainable for everybody around you, then you are making a mistake. Your generation of leaders, in economy, in politics and so on will be a generation of leaders with vision.
Let me explain.
I mean 20 years ago it was possible to be a leader and to succeed with your business and live in the middle of crisis of poverty, its no more sustainable because now people are connected, people are aware of everything and 10/15 years being a leader meant when you are in Lagos, you have much more things to discuss with someone in new York or Paris than with someone else in a close neighborhood and that is no longer sustainable because at a point of time its where you live that is close neighborhood.
It means through your business, through your politics, through your leadership you don’t have this inclusive vision, and this means a vision for you, your business, being connected with the rest of the world, but for your close people. If you are not in a position to explain these challenges to your neighbor, to your sister, to your family friend, you are making a mistake.
So have a vision and that would probably be my third advise.
I like that.
Many times people ask me this question about sharing my failures with them and I always say just like the president said here, yes to share the failure is one thing but what is more important is lessons learned from failures and you know in business, it is not a linear journey, in entrepreneurship you would definitely have up and downs. We have big gurus here (Acknowledges some of his guests including Jim Ovia). So failure is given in business but you need to bounce back, resilience, learn from it and make sure you don’t repeat such failures again.
- Question: I’d like to know what is France’s stand on the immigrant crisis in Europe and what is your practical solution?
Answer: That’s a huge issue, Europe experienced three years ago the first wave of immigration coming from Syria and Afghanistan and this region with a lot of people leaving their countries because of war and they get asylum in Europe. It created a lot of tension because it is something to get more than 1 million people arriving in Europe and being protected but that’s the pressure and it created some tension just like your colleague described it. Now, what we see and what we are experiencing is a new wave of immigration coming largely from Libya and from Africa and another from morocco from Africa as well and Spain.
Let me say first that we should not mix everything, and I want to make two precisions:
- First, migration between Africa and Europe is not brand new. People are becoming crazy everywhere and for decades there has been migration between our continents and our job is to integrate people and where my country probably failed a little bit is because of a lack of political energy and a lack of collective development and we would discuss that with a lot of some private sectors present in this room precisely. We didn’t sufficiently integrate the African diaspora and new people arriving in France in its economy and being recognized but for decades in my country they had migrations coming from Africa. So its not new it is not a crisis.
I mean if this diaspora is made by our common history and the fact that there is a common language with a lot of countries in Africa and a lot of common families and so on so that’s the first distinction.
Let’s stop with these crazy ideas, that migration in its own is a bad idea or its just a crisis, it’s a global phenomenon, it always existed and we have it.
The second point is when you speak about migration, I don’t like the word because first you speak about people, people who took a lot of risks through the desert or the Mediterranean sea losing their lives living in very difficult situations, spending months not to say years in camps being exploited by smugglers but we have a distinction, some of these people are eligible to asylum because that are in war in their country and they are at risk because of their political ideas or because of their religion and this ones have to be protected in Europe.
It is part of my constitution in France so the question is this people will always be welcome because of the asylum roles and on the other side you have these people leaving their countries and taking all this risks for economic reasons and because of the lack of economic perspective and opportunities and these people given the magnitude of this wave cannot be accepted at least all of them, you can accept part of them where it is sustainable for your economy and your country but you are not due to protect them because they come from a country in peace and if you look at the migration crisis and its new wave which is diminishing by the way was the peak for us last year. You have people coming some of them from Sudan, Eritrea, due to crisis, political difficulties, war and so on.
But a large percentage of people from Africa came from Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria. I mean look at the situation, these countries are in a better situation than a decade ago and people who are leaving these countries are not very poor people of these countries but are very often middle classes, low middle classes where the family can pay in other for them to go to Europe. So in Europe we have crazy representation and crazy vision about that because we mix everything.
What we have to do obviously first is to fight against smugglers that’s my first priority and that’s what we do in Sahara and that’s what we want to do in Libya governments that’s why we have to fix the Libya situation to stop that and to work with all the African countries to fight against smugglers because that are the ones to benefit from this crisis and because the smugglers are closely linked to the terrorists, where are the smugglers? Precisely in all these countries where you have boko haram, and all these crazy guys they live with them.
But more than that, the root of this new wave and the fact that these people came from the countries I mentioned and not the very poor countries is due to the fact that there is a lack of hope, a lack of opportunities, and for me the in-depth and sustainable answer is not just security, and obviously this war against smugglers but that’s the work with the different African governments and African union to build a better future for this new generation.
In an nutshell, first we have to deal with demography, it was a taboo to know, I spoke about that one year ago, it was a huge scandal especially in Europe. It was not a norm for a European leader to speak about demography, birth rate in a lot of countries but I’m sorry to say that when you have 7-8 children per woman, you can have 5% growth, you would never end the fight against poverty and guess what, a lot of people tell me, my friend it is part of the African culture you should not say that.
In Europe, centuries ago we had so many children but ask your women and ladies if this is their choices, if this is their free choices im fine, but when this situation is due to forced marriage, when this situation id due to the decrease of education for women and girls, its crazy.
That’s why you have many bold leaders in Africa today, president Youssouf in Niger for instance, he fought against against forced marriage, he invested a lot on girls education.
I multiplied by 10 our investments in girls education in Africa and in all of you because that’s the basic.
Second, so its demography, education for everybody primary, secondary school and university. You have such wave of young people and lack of universities, a lot of these young people are what you call migrants people are just people in a situation not to be able to go to universities in their country so for the best reason they decide to go to Europe due to the fact that they want access to go to schools to universities, they want to learn.
Investment in education is very important that’s why we work with President and we increased together with a lot of commitments coming from all around the world for education and especially education in Africa.
Third, its economic opportunities, its business opportunities, its involvement of private sectors a lot of these people just want to get access to jobs and to live.
Do you think it’s a free choice in that perspective to make thousands of kilometers to take all these risks to have the perspective to live in a poor neighborhood in Europe with the privilege to send some money every month to your family back at home.
Its crazy, those people that think it’s a privilege aren’t crazy. What these people want is to succeed in their country and they want to have the opportunity to do so. That’s the solution and that’s my view for that.
It is long term perspective but where we have to resist we have to resist to emotions and short -term emotions, we have to resist and protect and get this message understandable for European middle classes to avoid a new gap and we have to work with African governments precisely to win these different battles.
You know talking about migration, I totally agree with all your points but the one I stamp three times is about economic access and opportunities because people who migrate as you rightly said don’t do that because they want to do it, its not fun to them but they do it due to lack of economic opportunities. So we all, private sector, government and friends of Africa should work together and work hard to create economic hope and opportunities for our people.
Last Christmas, Donald Duke here and his dear wife, he is one of our star leaders and I was with them for Christmas and they called one of the cooks that explained how he tried to cross the Mediterranean and he spent over a year in the bush to move from Libya to Italy. His story was sad and I wish he could come on national television to share his own experience with people. You said it all people don’t move because they want to move, its because of hardship and lack of opportunities.
President: But the most useful thing I think to do is to fight against fake news and bad publicity made by smugglers because what they want to do is to spread lack of hope and opportunities and they want to make themselves rich by providing crazy stories to these young people and sharing these experiences on tv and explaining what the reality of such a trip is and that it is feasible to succeed here and have a job here is the best possible answer.
- Question: What do you classify as your biggest failures and successes And why? How have you been able to leverage your experience in the private sector in the public sector and would you advise young people here that it is good to get the best of both worlds before going into the public sector?
Answer: Its always difficult to be in situation to say what your main failure could be at a point of time. But I experienced some of them, I first wanted to become an academic, and I failed to do so and it was probably a chance and an opportunity and it pushed me to some other perspective and I became a civil servant and after a few years I became an investment banker and after a few years I became, I would not say a politician but I became a minister and afterwards I ran for election.
I think the first failure not to get access to my perspective and what I had in mind made me stronger because it pushed me to reinvent something else, to try again and as I said to your colleague not just to be your own stage of my own failure. I’m obsessed by that.
I think my main success is probably what I did right after. Your main success are what you don’t see but the fact that from a private and professional point of view I reinvented right after what I wanted to do.
A big success is not just an election, it is what you built before and the consistency of what you built before.
Because I have to say my own bet when I ran for elections in France was I always made the assumptions and I’m deeply convinced that people are smart and see everything. A lot of classical politicians were used just to convey a classical message, message of the party I would say to our people and French people were perfectly aware of the situation of the fact that the classical political life was following a crazy way and they see when you are not sincere and I think that is the case for all the people.
When you have the lack of sincerity, when you don’t build your own approach, your own proposal on a sincere basis at a point of time, people can see it.
So I think my main success is the long term approach and the fact that I built something consistent. I strongly believe in family life and this private life balance.
I strongly believe in the fact that I wanted to have a job and my own independence before going into politics and I always try to defend ideas in which I do believe.
Some of the ideas were not supposed to be competitive in the classical French political life at the same time policy, taking one idea from the left and one idea from the right. But because I thought it was much more consistent and it is true for the reforms we did and we are making in the private sector.
As for your second question regarding how to create a cross fertilization between public and private experience, I think first my private experience provided me independence. I get a job, its something totally different. When you have a job and you know that you can make your family happy and live without being in politics you are much more independent.
And being independent from pressure from people, for me is the starting point to do what you believe in and to make useful things.
Second, I think it provided me a better understanding of the private sector and what I believe for Africa, I believe for France.
The government/state has a very important role to play because we organize a common life, we provide education, health and we provide protection for people when they are in a difficult situation.
But we need the private sector to provide energy, opportunities, hope and this dynamic and understanding the private sector and its dynamics, entrepreneurship was useful to me as a politician and now as a president precisely to try to accelerate this trend.
And I want to tell you and that’s my message. Now in France, we have the largest companies in Europe, and some of them are here today. These large companies used to work for the African continent that’s their strength because they have a lot of people and as a president I want to develop this win win approach to make all stronger.
We have now the most vibrant ecosystem in term of startup and that’s why I do believe in the exchange between our ecosystems with new financing, new startup, digital Africa initiative and that’s where my experience in the private sector is very useful to me. That’s it.
- Question: Foreign aid isn’t a sustainable mode of financing for the economy. Young entrepreneurs care a lot more about access to trade. How exactly are you and your government facilitating this?
Answer: I think your issues are trade and finance because you spoke about financing. I think your challenge and correct if I’m wrong is access to trade I mean access to all the markets, and access to finance.
I mean first when you are a Nigerian entrepreneur, you have a big advantage, your market is huge and if you don’t get access to market, mi sorry to be blunt, the stories of your politicians, that’s the job of your government.
Governments should provide access to markets but that’s a big issue everywhere. In my country in Europe in some segments in some economic sectors people say I don’t get sufficient access to this market because the old classical players just capture the market and make the regulation for themselves so your first market is the domestic market, your domestic market is huge, I don’t exactly know for your sector, lets check if your market is totally free in terms of access and if you don’t have overregulation dedicated to protect existing players.
It is never good in the long run to protect only existing player why because I do believe in the fact that you can accumulate success, money and capital when the cause of these accumulation is innovation because it is your own merit.
But if you accumulate profit because of the regulation and monopoly and so on at a point of time its not acceptable for your people.
So that’s the first point in terms of market access.
The second point, I think what you need to have better access to your regional markets is regional integration. I am a strong believer of ECOWAS and market access and a regional approach of using Nigeria as the big champion in ECOWAS.
I think for young entrepreneurs and young leaders, I think ECOWAS is a good opportunity and I think that is where it is good for us to work together. All your neighbors are francophone and they have now to work and do business in English, you have to make business in French but you have to make this regional integration real and I do believe in an ECOWAS where we have free markets, free trade, free circulation, much more integration.
It would be the decision of your government but far as I understood sometime that there are some reluctance about that and the key drivers of this reluctance could be those whose vested interest is largely to get monopoly into the country.
It not good for the country and for you and I have to say some countries of ECOWAS you know have currencies closely linked to Euro and the old France cefa, and I told them I think if you want to change that, I’m ready to do so, I’m open.
Because for me this regional integration at a point of time, access to market and we have to change the rules, we have to accept these ideas for a lot of countries in the region.
Third, access to trade opportunities in Africa and in Europe, I think to get market access you need peace and stability, that’s what we work on with a lot of governments, second you need a framework and I believe that what African Union decided in March in Kigali, to launch this initiative for free trade is a very bold and a very good one and I think the more we can build common access and free trade, the more we can do but I want to insist that for trade I believe in openness but unfair openness which means that you have to take into consideration social and environmental issues and in the end you have financial constraints for an entrepreneur like you, you have a big chance in Nigeria because you have a lot of successful people, you have business angels, its not the case in a lot of countries in the region and you have people like Tony believing in a lot of leaders in the room, believing in their ecosystem, investing in startups and innovation in the country and I want to thank them because what they do is not just for investment, it is for the country, the region and for all of us.
You need to scale which means you have to develop and be financially consistent in the regions as well, that is to encourage the development of long term investors and what I would like to do through Digital Africa initiative for the private sector is to participate with you to frame the financial ecosystem of West Africa which is a necessity.
- Question: Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t have accomplished all he’s done today if he were in Nigeria. How would you advise Nigerians to achieve their technological dreams despite numerous limiting factors?
Answer: Look, I addressed some part of your question but let me share a conviction.
We spoke about migrations, we spoke about very bold people and when you are speaking refer to precisely the American innovation ecosystem, you speak about a lot of people and all of them were not totally Americans just for you to bear that in mind. It seems that Steve jobs came from a family of Syrian refugees.
Your nationality is not part of your ability to succeed. Its not your nationality and your ID which will say you can succeed or not except if it’s in your mind.
I don’t know your peculiar situation and I’m not here to make a farce between the government and the Nigerian entrepreneurs but I do believe that if you think for yourself that being a Nigerian make you in a certain way not enabled to succeed, then you will never succeed.
Whatever you will you will be whatever your idea will be because precisely what you have to promote, what you have to do if you want to succeed is to take this part of your risk precisely because you are a Nigerian, because you dare, you can become one of the greatest success of the upcoming century because it is probably more difficult than in the United States. To be clear with you, its true that when you start as a startuper in Nigeria, the preconditions in the ecosystem is less favorable than in the US on silicon valley but if you succeed given this condition, if you dare if you fight, and don’t tell yourself that it is impossible because you are a Nigerian, if your idea is the right one and you succeed you will be such a role model that you would convince a lot of people in the region and Mark Zuckerberg or any other leader coming from silicon valley would not be a star here, you would be a star.
So please what I want to do is not to export my startupers, I’m not teaching you or lecturing you to say I want my startups to be your role models, what I think is good for Africa and for you is to build your own role models.
So I have another way to answer your question, Mark Zuckerberg would never become Nigerian and you leave in Nigeria and Nigeria has to succeed.
So please advance in your Mark Zuckerberg being Nigerian, Senegalese and so on, that’s what Africa needs.
(Jim Ovia speaks and Signing of the MOU)
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