Today, what I want to share with you is something that happened to me, actually, around four weeks ago, it happened. Words were said to me that I never thought I would ever hear it said to my face by another human being. And those words, they shattered my heart. And at the same time, they filled it with so much hope. And the whole experience renewed my commitment to the idea that I came to share with you today.
You see, I tell everyone that I am a haunted person. What haunts me is the impossible stories, story after story after story after story of young people, my people, people like me dying out there on the ocean, right now, laying at the bottom of the ocean, serving as fish food. Do you really think that's the best we can do? To serve as fish food?
And for those of them who are trying to migrate to Europe—because that's what it is all about, they are trying to migrate to Europe to find a job. Going through Libya. Do you know what happens to us when we're trying to cross through Libya and we're trapped over there? Well, we're being sold as slaves. For 300 dollars, maybe sometimes 500 dollars.
Sometimes I hear stories of bodies that fall off an airplane. Somebody hid in the landing gear of a plane or in the cargo section of a plane, and then you find them frozen to death. Wouldn't you be haunted if, like me, from the moment you were a little girl, you hear these stories and they keep repeating themselves, over and over and over? Wouldn't you be haunted? That's my case.
And at the same time, you know, as my people are dying, my culture is also dying. There, I said it. Because, you know, we have this culture inferiority, which means that anything that comes from us is not good enough. But you know, in my situation, and because I was raised to criticize by creating, it's Michelangelos. My father said, "Do not come to me with problems unless you thought of a couple alternatives. They don't have to be right, but I just want to know that you thought of something."
So, I have this attitude in life—something is wrong, find a way to fix it. And that's why I start the businesses that I start, that's usually consumer brands, that have embedded in them the very best of my African culture. And what I do is it's all packaged, 21st century, world-class tendered, and I bring that to one of the most sophisticated markets in the world, which is the US. First company was a beverage company, second one is a skin care company, third one is launching next month, and they all have that in common.
So, why are these people leaving? They're leaving because they have no jobs. They're leaving because where they are, there's no jobs. So... But poverty, that's really striking them, is the root cause of why they're leaving. Now, why are people poor? People are poor because they have no money. You have no money because you have no source of income. And for most of us, what is a source of income? For most of us, what is our source of income, what is it, tell me? Jobs, thank you. Where do jobs come from? Come from where? Businesses, thank you.
Now, if jobs is what fixes poverty, and jobs come from businesses, don't you think—especially, they come from small and medium size enterprises, SMEs—then don't you think, maybe for a second, that we should focus on making it easy for a small-business person to start and run their business? Don't you think that it makes sense? Why is it that when I look at the Doing Business index ranking of the World Bank, that ranks every country in the world in terms of how easy or hard it is to start a company, you tell me why African countries, all 50 of them, are basically at the bottom of that list? That's why we're poor. We're poor because it is literally impossible to do businesses in these countries of ours.
But I'm going to tell you exactly what it means on the ground for someone like me. I have a manufacturing facility in Senegal. Did you know that for all my raw material that I can't find in the country, I have to pay a 45 percent tariff on everything that comes in? Forty-five percent tariff. Do you know that, even to look for fine cardboard to ship my finished products to the US, I can't find new, finished cardboard? Impossible. Because the distributors are not going to come here to start their business, because it makes no sense, either. So right now, I have to mobilize 3000 dollars' worth of cardboard in my warehouse, so that I can have cardboard, and they won't arrive for another five weeks. The fact that we are stifled with the most nonsensical laws out there. That's why we can't run businesses. It's like swimming through molasses.
So, what can you do about that? I told you today that someone said to me words that marked me, because I explained the same thing to my employees in Senegal. And one of them started crying—her name is Yahara. She started crying. I said, "Why are you crying?"She said, "I'm crying because I had come to believe—always seeing us represented as poor people—I had come to believe that maybe, yes, maybe we are inferior. Because, otherwise, how do you explain that we're always in the begging situation?" That's what broke my heart. But at the same time that she said that, because of how I explained just what I explained to you, she said, "But now, I know that I am not the problem. It is my environment in which I live, that's my problem." I said, "Yes." And that's what gave me hope—that once people get it, they now change their outlook on life.
Here, what are some of our solutions, then? If jobs is a solution, don't you think, then, that we should be simplifying the business environment of all of these countries? Don't you think? And along with you, I would like for all of your friends from the other 50 countries that are on the bottom of that list to do the same thing. You do that, we do the rest of the job. I'm doing my part of the game, what are you doing?
What are you doing?
What are you doing?
And as for you, everybody here in this room, I leave you with two marching orders. Get in the game, and the way you get in it is educate yourself, build awareness around yourself, and then also advocate for e-government solutions. He said, "Oh, corruption, how do we fight corruption?" Well, as a matter of fact, I'm here to tell you that yes, you can do it by the stroke of a pen. You do not need anyone to tell you when and how to do that. It is one thing, actually, that you don't need to wait for anyone to do, so do it. Otherwise, don't come and tell me that you want to fix corruption. You and your other 50 friends from the other 50 countries that are at the bottom of that list. That's how you fight corruption.
If you were only charging me 5 percent to get my stuff in the country, my raw material, instead of the 45 percent, do you really think that I would have to go a pay a bribe? That's what breeds corruption. Bad laws, sets of horrible, nonsense laws.
You want to fight corruption? That's what you do. And again, remember, you don't need to wait for anyone. You can do that by yourself. Unless you're telling me that maybe you have no sovereignty, and that's a whole other problem.
OK, so, from here on, I have simple words for our "leaders." This can go two ways. It can go the nasty way, because we have hundreds of millions of young people coming to life right now, here, and if they don't have an outlook in life, they are going to go for a revolution. They're going to go for violence. And none of us wants that. None, none of us. That's the one way it can go.
Or the second way it can go is, all this happens peacefully, productively, and everything is good, and you do what you need to do, you get out of my way, you let people like me do our job, we create all these jobs we need, and then everybody, Africa becomes this very prosperous country that it's designed to be, it should have been for a long time. It happens like that, everybody's happy, we move on with our lives. It can happen in two ways—pick violence or you pick the calm, productive way. I want the calm, productive way. None of us should ever, ever even try to think about what else could happen if we don't go there. So, please. And the time has come. This type of picture—prosperity, happiness, human flourishing—that's what I see if we do our job.