This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard talk with Magatte Wade, the founder & CEO of Skin Is Skin and an advocate for African dignity and prosperity. Her forthcoming book is The Heart of the Cheetah. She shares her journey from Senegal in West Africa to America, and how she came to experience the power of free enterprise to promote upward mobility and human dignity on her native continent. She describes some of the regulatory practices in both Africa and America that either help or hinder economic activity and prosperity.
Stories of the Week: For over a century, educators have used the Carnegie Unit, a time-based measurement of student progress. But now the Carnegie Foundation is seeking alternatives that more accurately reflect content mastery. In New Hampshire, the president of the American Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit against the education commissioner to block Education Freedom Accounts, which were created in 2021 to help eligible parents afford private school.
Magatte Wade is the founder & CEO at Skin Is Skin and an advocate for African dignity and prosperity in home country of Senegal. Fluent in Wolof, French, and English, Ms. Wade is an accomplished communicator, speaking at the U.N., The Clinton Global Initiative, the Aspen Institute, TED, Conscious Capitalism, and variety of higher education institutions, including Harvard, Yale, MIT, and the Wharton School of Business. Her TED Talk is, “Why it is too hard to start a business in Africa – and how to change it.” She has appeared on Forbes’ “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa” list, and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos, a TED Global Africa Fellow, and a “Leading Woman in Wellness” award winner by the Global Wellness Summit. She serves as the Director of the Atlas Network’s Center for African Prosperity and on the Advisory Board of the Whole Planet Foundation of Whole Foods Market. Ms. Wade’s forthcoming book, The Heart of the Cheetah, highlights African poverty and the future of human flourishing.
The next episode will air on Weds., December 21st, with Prof. Michael Slater, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, and the world’s foremost expert on Charles Dickens and his works.
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Read a Transcript of This Episode
Please excuse typos.
[00:00:00] GR: Hello listeners, it’s Gerard Robinson coming to you from beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia. We are here for another fabulous conversation with a guest in fact a guest who is a little further over the Atlantic than most of our guests. But this is why we have a learning curve so that we can learn from people who work and live on different continents.
[00:00:42] But of course, . I can’t have any real conversation with anyone on any continent except for the person who lives in the Boston area, who is a co-host of doing the fun stuff with me. Hey, Cara, how are
[00:00:53] Cara: you? Well, sometimes it feels like Boston’s on another continent to some folks. I think . Oh, [00:01:00] I’m doing so well, Gerard, because as I just shared with you, Argentina just beat Croatia three zero.
[00:01:07] So we’re at a good place for the World Cup finals. Very, very excited about that. And just a comment, I know some of our listeners are fans, others are not. But man, nothing like bringing the world together to watch than this beautiful game. So I’m, I’m in a very good place right now, Gerard. I hope you are
[00:01:26] GR: too.
[00:01:27] For our listeners who may not know why you’re in a good place with Argentina. Could you fill them
[00:01:32] Cara: in? Yeah, that’s, thanks for that. Yes. So I think, as I’ve mentioned before, my husband grew up in Buenos Aires and I’ve been spending time with my extended family there for, you know, over 20 years now. And we, spend a lot of time there and my children feel very Bicultural, I would say.
[00:01:50] And yeah, they’re actually, they’ve are having the opportunity right now to be down in Argentina experiencing the games, watching with family. [00:02:00] So pretty cool. And I wish I could be there with them, but other circumstances have kept me on the continent of Boston, so, I’m, I’m happy to watch it from afar though.
[00:02:07] It’s, it is just as exciting.
[00:02:09] GR: Great. Well, what uh, article of. Caught your interest.
[00:02:14] Oh, well, I mean,
[00:02:15] Cara: saying it caught my interest is maybe it caught my ire or just made me laugh a little bit, which is very facetious. But what I’m looking at right now is an article well, it’s entitled New Hampshire Department of Education’s.
[00:02:29] Sued over program that sends funds to private schools. So, of course, Gerard, this is about a lawsuit brought by the person who is the president of the American Federation for Teachers New Hampshire. She is actually suing us herself, not on behalf of her union alleging that. in New Hampshire, what they call education freedom accounts.
[00:02:50] But what most of us would know as education savings accounts are illegal because they divert. I mean blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They divert money from the education [00:03:00] trust fund for those who are in public schools, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, is the same old song. It’s the same old argument. But the thing that I find, so I know I’m being facetious, George, forgive me entertaining about this, is that this program has now been up and running for about two.
[00:03:16] Very successfully. And parents are just I think they doubled in size in the past year. Education Freedom Accounts. Shout out to my great friend Kate Baker Demers, , who runs the program there. And, you know, Gerard kidding aside, this kind of article is important because as these programs grow in popularity, as they grow in size, as they spread to now, you know, now we’ve got 10 program.
[00:03:42] Across the country. We’ve got micro grants as well, which could useful be expanded into education savings accounts. Of course, micro grants don’t allow parents to purchase private school tuition. But um, What I think this is when we see lawsuits like this, number one, it’s to be expected in most cases.
[00:03:58] This one in New Hampshire is coming a little [00:04:00] late. The strategy is usually to head these programs off at the past or at least try to before parents get a taste of them and really experience what it is to have flexibility and be able to make choices on behalf of their, children. But this is to me is an indication that these reform.
[00:04:17] are not only on the move, but they’re gonna continue to be on the move because those who want to take choice away from parents are on the defense and trying to go on the offense. And I think it’s just becoming increasingly clear to many that are not only are these programs. Legal constitutional as they’ve been deemed in a place like New Hampshire where they’re so popular to try and take choices away from parents once they have them, once they’re enjoying them, especially on, I think what.
[00:04:45] Most are gonna look at , the grounds of this lawsuit and say, Hmm. I don’t think that’s a really strong case. it’s untenable to think that once parents have had a taste of educational freedom, that they’re gonna give it up pretty easily. And I think it’s yet again another. [00:05:00] Instance of the establishment underestimating parents.
[00:05:03] Before I close here, I’d also like to say a shout out to Commissioner Edel Blu, who is the one being sued here. We have had him on this show and he is one of the few. Commissioners of education. I think you were one of these guys, Gerard, in the states where you served. But he’s one of the few state chiefs who really boldly comes out fullthroated in favor of educational choice and educational freedom.
[00:05:28] Many state chiefs, if they don’t come out as opposed, sort of remain silent on the issue because it is controversial. Increasingly I think we’re seeing state chiefs take. Who are built like our friend Frank. And I think that that’s really encouraging because this need not be a public-private divide.
[00:05:43] This is about parents, it’s about kids, and this is about finding the right education for every child. So, like I said, Gerard, I, I came at it with a bit of skepticism and facetiousness, but at the end of the day, this is an important case. I think it’s one we’ll talk about again, and maybe we’ll be able to have our friend Kate on to tell us why.
[00:05:59] I’m [00:06:00] hoping this case didn’t succeed. What do you think?
[00:06:03] GR: Well, Kara, as you know, I think we’re one of the few podcasts around that actually invites real people, attorneys and families who’ve been involved in some of the most important private school choice cases in the last decade to this show.
[00:06:17] So let’s just say upfront right now for the families involved in New H. And for the attorneys who are gonna represent you, whether there’s someone local or if it’s gonna be someone at the Institute of Justice, we look forward to having a conversation with you. I almost spend a ton of time on this. You hit all the right points.
[00:06:32] It’s just worth noting. One thing for our listeners. The Education of Freedom account program was enacted in 2021, as you said. It’s only a couple of years, but let’s also remember that in New Hampshire, they also have a town tuitioning program. Yes. That was created in 2017. So parents already enjoy choice, but guess what?
[00:06:53] They have an education tax credit program that was enacted in 2012. And so in 10 years, [00:07:00] the state’s created three program. Parents are taking advantage of them. Are there challenges? Absolutely. So, but when families decide they want to do something, it’s gonna be hard to turn back. I like what you said about parents.
[00:07:12] Guess what? If they get a program they like, it’s gonna be hard to take away. And I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said what are the hardest things to take away? From someone is a federal program. Once it’s put in place, there’s a paraphrase on that, but making the point that once something’s there, it’s codified, it’s tough to take away so, Good luck to the families in New Hampshire and also good luck to the a f T version in New Hampshire because they believe that this is going in the wrong direction and in the system of freedom, they should also have the right to uh, take a stand.
[00:07:46] So good luck to them as well. My story is a little different. It takes a national view of education. So many of our reader. Probably have heard of the Carnegie Foundation. Some [00:08:00] of them may have heard of the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching, but I don’t know how many family students, scholars, of course, probably do.
[00:08:08] Know how our schools operate and what it takes to actually earn a diploma from a high school. So my article is from Education Week. The author is Sarah D. Sparks and the title, the Head of the Carnegie Foundation wants to ditch the Carnegie Unit, and here’s why. Timothy knows who became the 10th president of the Carnegie Foundation in 2021 made it pretty clear that we need to get away from the Carnegie.
[00:08:37] Well, what exactly is that? Well, let’s start off by going back to 1905 when Congress chartered the Carnegie Foundation. It was created, of course uh, and center was founded by Andrew Carnegie, who was a steel magnet and basically Carnegie units. From 1905 moving forward has been a way in which we measure how teachers spend their time [00:09:00] and what students learn.
[00:09:01] So for example, I was in fact interested to see that the Carnegie system as right now has a standard measure of requiring 7,000. 200 minutes of instruction, that pretty much equates to an hour each day for 24 weeks for a student to earn one credit in a subject. And now states, of course, could provide flexibility as this relates to high school graduations, particularly so during the pandemic, before the standard diploma that our students earn in our school districts across the country.
[00:09:33] We’re looking at 18 to 24 credit. Now the credit hours are based upon seat time. Something that we’ve talked about on this show, if you sit, you meet your 7,220 minutes of instruction, it takes place each week for 24 weeks. Guess what? You’re gonna earn credit where what NOS is saying is, When he’s talked to neuroscientists, psychologists, other researchers, we know that young [00:10:00] people don’t learn in simply one way, seek time-based learning.
[00:10:05] Guess what they learn in many ways in class outside of class, whether it’s out school time practices or involvement in sports. He also identified that teachers will tell you that there gotta be better ways. For us to deliver instruction to young people and this model and how we use it, we’ve gotta change it.
[00:10:24] So he’s working with a group of leaders. He’s also trying to get 10 large school systems to come on board to help pilot the project. And he said, this is gonna be a project that could take up to a decade to talk about the implement, but I’m glad to see someone talking about Carnegie units. You talked about the role of state.
[00:10:44] For over 20 years. State chiefs in different states, blue and red have raised the question, what are we doing to really talk about innovation? As Noel says, many people did not wanna take on the challenge of trying to change Carnegie units [00:11:00] because they didn’t see Carnegie units as standing in the way of innovation.
[00:11:04] Well, there are a lot of social entrepreneurs in and outside the. who said, actually that’s not the case. it’s actually, it’s not impeding innovation in some ways. It’s not opening up the doors wider. So this will be something to watch and follow for a few years to come. What are your thoughts?
[00:11:20] Cara: I mean, yeah, this is, it’s an, it’s a long time coming, right, as you said, and Carnegie units, you know, they had their place, I think at one time they were. Useful and innovative, but , we’re in a place now. I mean, this really ties into my story too, in the sense that it’s about, as you said, people learn differently.
[00:11:38] We can’t measure learning with seat time. We need to think about competency based education, and mastery based education, which also comes with its own challenges, right? Figure out how we know and how you help people learn at their own pace. But I’m eager and, happy to see that this is something that’s, really now in the ether in the general discourse.
[00:11:58] And I would say some [00:12:00] states have been doing a pretty good job, Gerard of. Sort of forging these more innovative paths. I think Utah is a really good example of a state that is thinking through how to take a more personalized, innovative, competency-based approach to education. And it’s a new era.
[00:12:16] So thank you for bringing this. to our attention since
[00:12:20] GR: you mentioned competency based learning. Let’s also let our listeners know that Western Governor’s University was created in part to provide higher education with a model to show how non SSE time alone can work. So we’ve got some models in place in higher
[00:12:37] Cara: ed.
[00:12:38] That’s right. And I’m just gonna say it out loud now so that it’s a note to us and our producers that I think we should absolutely have somebody from W G U on the podcast to talk to us about this. It’d be great. It’d be a great conversation. Gerard you named it. We’ve got a guest joining us from another continent, so I think we should probably be sensitive to that.
[00:12:55] We are gonna be speaking in a moment with. Magatte Wade, the founder and [00:13:00] c e o at skin is skin and an advocate for African dignity and prosperity. Coming up right after this.
[00:13:41] Learning correct listeners we have with us Magatte Wade. She is the founder and c e o at Skin is Skin and an advocate for African dignity and prosperity in her home country of Senegal, fluent in wall French and English. Ms. Wade is an accomplished communicator. Speaking at the un, the Clinton Global [00:14:00] Initiative, the Aspen Institute, TED Conscious Capitalism, and a variety of higher education institutions, including Harvard, Yale, m i t, and the Wharton School of Business.
[00:14:10] Her TED Talk, which you need to watch, is called Why It is Too Hard to Start a Business in Africa. And how to change it. She’s appeared on Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa List, and was named a young global leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos, a TED Global Africa Fellow, and a leading woman in Wellness award winner by the Global Wellness Summit.
[00:14:33] She serves as the director of the Atlas Network Center for African Prosperity and is on the advisory board of the whole Planet Foundation of Whole Foods Market. Ms. Wade’s forthcoming book, the Heart of the Cheetah, highlights African Poverty. and the future of human flourishing maggot. Wade, thank you so much for spending time with us today.
[00:14:52] Thanks for having me, Cara. Yeah, well, we’re pretty excited. from your bio, it’s clear that you’ve had a lot of success in your life. You are [00:15:00] an entrepreneur and a dynamic public speaker. if people watch your TED Talk, I’m sure they’re going to see this. our listeners might not, know you yet, could, could you share a little bit?
[00:15:10] Your country, your background and how you got to where you are, how your background informs the way that you advocate for education and, and how you believe that the free market can advance prosperity and dignity in Africa.
[00:15:24] Magatte: so it’s a big question, but I’m sure if I had to answer it very fully, it would take more than the 20 something minute we have.
[00:15:31] So let me see if I can answer it in the most compelling way in a short amount of time. So when people ask me to tell my story, I pretty much tell them the story of my story really has to do with an intellectual, the story of an intellectual journey. So I was born in Senegal, west coast of Africa, and as soon as I was done breastfeeding, my parents , decided to take a journey.
[00:15:52] But so many African parents before them have taken and so many more sinks to this day are still taking, and it was making the decision that. [00:16:00] You know, now they’re gonna immigrate they’re gonna leave their country for, more prosperous skies, so they became basically economic migrants.
[00:16:08] So that is when they left, move behind with my grandmother and when they realized that their immigration journey has worked and that. , you know, they were gonna be stably, positioned in Europe. they first went to France, then to Germany.
[00:16:22] And while they were in Germany, that’s when they called for me to be with them. And if that’s when I left my country for the first time ever, my left, my village’s, my country left my continent. Just to land in Germany in the middle of the winter. So you can only imagine the shock. . Fine. I, yeah. So it was really bizarre and not only did I not have this concept of what a cold weather meant, but forget, this white stuff coming from the sky.
[00:16:47] too real, right? Imagine and. Yes. And so basically I went to Germany and I remember that when I arrived there in Germany under her circumstances. My first [00:17:00] question that I remember so vividly, even though I was a child still, I was, you know, barely seven. and that question was how can they have this?
[00:17:08] And we don’t. And it really was not about, fancy riches or anything like that. For me, it was, for example, about the taking my shower just because back home, in order for me to take my shower, it could be a 30 to 40 minute affair because grandma, first of all had to get the coal, her little stove you know, using coals going and yeah.
[00:17:30] So people should not be hearing. . I understand. When you’re living in the US and all you’ve known, is this relative comfort that countries like the US provide. When you hear the word stove, you’re thinking, oh, she just pops into the kitchen. You’re thinking she’s popping into the kitchen. Absolutely not.
[00:17:44] She’s like outside. With a little coal stove, like, uh, you would take on your camping trip. , right? And so there, she puts the cold in there gets to get them hot, then puts a pot of water on top, and when it boils, then she puts it in a [00:18:00] bigger bucket and then adds colder water to it to bring it to a good temperature for me to bathe with.
[00:18:05] And then somebody stronger in the family would drag this to what served as the shower area. And there at last I could finally, with a smaller pot proceed to take my shower Here. Mom is like, my God, it’s time for your shower. I’m like where is the bucket of water? I am not getting but naked in this winter.
[00:18:23] where’s the back of the water? And she’s like, come on, you’re silly. Just jump in the shower. And then I jumped there, turn the knobs on one side this way, one side this other way. And the water comes down and the temperature I wanted, I can control it anytime in any way I want.
[00:18:37] I’m like, are you kidding me? What is this? How come they have this and we don’t? And it was in thing, you know, paved roads in Germany. Where I came from, you hardly had any papers, especially back in the days, always coming home with ashy feet, having to wash my feet. So in a way, I think what little girl me was saying was, how come here life feels so easy and so [00:19:00] I’m not wasting my time doing everyday.
[00:19:03] You know that here in the blink of an eye, it takes place. How come? And it’s really a question that became a defin. Question of my life, which is the reason why I’m talking to you today. Because I went on to finding out what happened, , why is this the case, why? And eventually the question became how come some countries are like mine or poor, while others are rich?
[00:19:25] and as I’m growing up, I’m trying to get this answer and. I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard some people say with a very straight face, oh, come, oh darling, it’s not your fault. It’s the IQ fear. It’s the, you know, it’s just because there’s just no way that blacks and browns are just, they’re just not as smart as white people.
[00:19:41] So you know, that IQ fury that’s still very much alive. And then you have people telling me it’s just because, you know, if only we had access to, to more education. And then I tell them, well, you go and you say that. To the 64. Something for million working youth that are living in extreme, or moderate [00:20:00] poverty.
[00:20:00] Basically what you have is every single year you have 10 plus million graduates that are coming out of the 668 universities that are on the continent, and half of them cannot get the job right. Yeah. So, similarly, One of my team members she is based out of Eswa Ziland. And when I interviewed her, so here is this young lady and she’s got a BS in Math.
[00:20:26] Mathematics. That’s what we’re talking about. And I was looking for people and of course, you know, I was given her resume and she didn’t have a job. She never had a job since she finished at university. And I said, what are you doing now?
[00:20:37] And she said, well, I’m braising. , this is what brilliant math minds are doing right now in so many places on the continent. And so you go tell this girl that she needs more degrees and if only she gets more degrees, she got a job, right? Yeah. And so anyway it’s just like, and so others say, oh, you know, malnutrition.
[00:20:55] Others are like, oh access to shoes, you know, when to shoes. If I give you shoes, then it will be better. [00:21:00] So anyway, all of that made no sense to me, Kara, because here I am thinking if any of that was. Then why and how come my parents and like so like them, so many others. The minute they get to leave, they get to accomplish their greatest potential.
[00:21:16] We’re talking about the same people in this case, same people. It’s my parents. Same background, everything, same name, face, everything. Yet their outcome in life can be radically different. And what has changed in this equation? What’s the only variable that change in equation, it’s the place that they happen to be in.
[00:21:36] And so I’m starting to think, I’m starting to think , it has to do with a place that these people are in or not. And then I became very curious about that. What’s going on, what is it, what’s the difference between France and I mean in this case Germany and Senegal. And of course, uneducated mind right away will say, , of course, it’s because in, in Senegal they’re poor.
[00:21:54] So of course nobody can get anything done there. And in Europe or in the America there, it’s a, these [00:22:00] origination. So of course it’s easy to do something there. but that also didn’t make sense and I couldn’t explain why, but it didn’t, I could see why people jumped to those conclusions, but I’m like, hmm, that’s kind of bizarre.
[00:22:10] And eventually little by. Here is coming the answer. Eventually after a couple years in Germany, family decided to move to France if we’re gonna stay in Europe after business school in France, I decided France was gonna be too small for my ambitions, so I moved to the United States where I became a head hunter in finance, in the heyday of a dad com boom.
[00:22:27] Working for companies like Google, like, like Netflix. Before we became household name brands and just really getting to discover right there in Silicon Valley discovering the magic of entrepreneurship, which is literally this magic of creating something out of nothing. And watching these entrepreneurs who, in my mind are the greatest entrepreneurship is really the greatest form of criticized by creating entrepreneurs or those who , criticized by creating something in the status quo does not suit them.
[00:22:55] And they set. To change it by starting and offering [00:23:00] and creating the alternative. People don’t have to all love it, but at least that’s what they do. And so here I am in Silicon Valley doing extremely well for myself. And one day I had an existential crisis, a crisis of existence driving down Bix, one of those moments when I was basically celebrating myself and being so great and exercising gratitude for All who have contributed to me having, managed to make it so far.
[00:23:25] but as usual, when I would feel that way all of a sudden. This weird, very dark mood and feeling would descend upon me. Almost like a, black veil, like, you know, like just very bad, very dark. And that day though, I was not able to do what I usually would do with it. Usually I had developed a coping mechanism to shrug it under the rug.
[00:23:49] What was that veil? That veil was simply this very conscious acknowledgement that. while I was afforded this life of abundance, that many back home were [00:24:00] still living in a, world of scarcity. And when I would get into this mood, it just comes. coming out of me from everywhere.
[00:24:07] Images, stories, words that I grew up with, almost every month or every other couple weeks. A story of people, some of them friends of friends, some of them. far away family members that have died because they took these little fisherman’s boats, tried to, they use them to try to get to Europe to find a job, so often the boat steps over and with it, babies in it.
[00:24:29] But mostly young people and stories like that, that just, you know, of. Bodies at the bottom of the ocean serving as fish food, just really, really haunting. And when people try to use air route you somewhere above, you know, England, a body drops from the plane because somebody thought it was a good idea to hide in the landing gear.
[00:24:48] If they open a cargo section of a plane in Paris they see a dead frozen body because no one told them that the cargo section, you know, would get dead cold up there in the. And then when people try to avoid sea [00:25:00] route, air route they try land route and oftentimes they get stuck.
[00:25:04] in Libya where there, in Libya, if you get stuck as an immigrant, illegal immigrant like this, then they put you on an open slave market. And you heard me right in 2022, it’s when CNN came up with a story a couple years ago that they finally believed what people like me were saying because you.
[00:25:22] so many of us are part of WhatsApp groups or people who are part of WhatsApp groups, where on a regular basis we’re being asked to contribute to the liberation, to basically buying back the freedom of somebody so they can go back home. Yeah.
[00:25:35] Cara: First of all, I wanna thank you because the vividness with which you are not only, you know, Compare and contrast the way you grew up in Africa to what you experienced in Germany and.
[00:25:45] stories that drive your, the ambition is what I hear you saying that you couldn’t even enjoy your own success because you knew what was happening to folks who, it could have been you and it could have been any family member, I’m assuming. I’d like to [00:26:00] pick up what you said though about the status quo, that there is a status quo.
[00:26:04] You know, people are making assumptions that, well, okay, it’s poverty or, okay, it’s the person, or there’s something deficient, right? And you are locating and saying, how could that be possible? These things are untrue. You changed the place, you changed the person. But let’s talk about that for a moment, because I’m curious to know.
[00:26:20] What you’ve arrived at in terms of understanding, is it the, structure of the place? Yes. Is it the economic, the political institutions, because most Americans don’t even understand where Senegal is. Unfortunately. That’s our, problem with our education system, right? We think of Africa as one large place.
[00:26:36] And it must all be the same. I think that’s travesty of American education. Can you hone in a little bit on the diverse sort of political institutions and structures and economics that drive these tragedies that you’re locating?
[00:26:50] Magatte: Yeah, yeah. No, and that’s it. That’s exactly what I was gonna get to. And yeah.
[00:26:54] Africa for, 54 countries, 55, depending on how you count it’s a massive, [00:27:00] massive continent with People speaking. I mean, thousands of different languages, so many different cultures. Very, very diverse place as you can imagine. But to go back to the story and how I eventually got to understand what was going on and what going on with these different places.
[00:27:16] Why, why Germany this way and Senegal this way. So eventually, . I was there in Silicon Valley, you know, doing really well for myself. But like I said, I had this emotional breakdown and eventually I just simply could no longer, reconcile the life of abundance that I was afforded with the life of scarcity that I left behind.
[00:27:35] And that day though, I had to face it off. I had to face off with, my pain and with the state of the world back then. And so that’s when I made this deal with God. Cuz I’m a person of faith who is just like God from here on. , I want that for every breath that you afford me. I want to put that breath towards the betterment of my compliment.
[00:27:53] And so, as soon as I made bed vow, basically things started to, , kind of, maybe I was a different per, I don’t [00:28:00] know, but I started to see things and so basically what happened is a few months after that, I went home to Senegal with a person who was my husband back then.
[00:28:07] He passed away since then, but my husband was from, France and I took him back just to discover where I came from. We talked about this juice my whole life, but I told him about the biscuits drink. So we went there just to realize that people, you know, if you made it now you drink a CocaCola and Pepsi, whatever.
[00:28:23] So, long story short I was very upset about that state of affairs, but again, criticized by. Then I built a business beverage company, a brand that we built in the US to do reverse colonialism of my people. Because for them, anything that came that were indigenous to us must not be something good.
[00:28:39] We’re always, always reaching out for Western brands because that’s what we think is better. So I said, fine. , I’ll build my brand in the west, do reverse communism on all of you. So by the time I get back here, you’re gonna drink it because you’re gonna be like, oh, well we share. That’s what the fancy Americans are drinking.
[00:28:53] Well, if that’s what it takes for this generation, let’s do it. So anyway, that’s how I built my first company. But you see Kara [00:29:00] right there in building my first company, and then later my second company, and now my third company. What they all have in common is there is a sister company in the US and a sister company in Senegal.
[00:29:09] And I remember when I first did. Where we were in the US it was so fast for you to set up your llc, meaning your legal entity for your business. It would take back then not even a day. You know, you fill out the paperwork and then it goes through the process quickly. Everything is done. You don’t need to know the.
[00:29:28] Anybody at your state Department or anything, you didn’t need to know anybody you know, the Secretary of State or anything like that to get anything done. You, there is a process. It’s very clear, it’s very straightforward, it’s very short.
[00:29:38] You do it. You have your legal entity, you choose between uh, your llc, your corporation, sc whatever you decide. And compare something like that, that takes me less than a day to back home in Senegal during that time. It literally almost took couple years for me to be able to register the business legally.
[00:29:56] That’s insane. Then you look at um, [00:30:00] the labeled. in Senegal. You are married to employees for good or for bad. Compare that to Free will employment at will in the US right now. Just to give you an example, I’m going through a process of hiring two more employees in Senegal and what do we have to do?
[00:30:15] So, Kira Myat started her business. and she wants to hire you, Cara. But guess the problem is Cara has a PhD in German that’s worth less to both of us in this situation. But because of that PhD and her level of so-called education, the government of Senegal, it happens to be that it’s a country where everything is centrally planned.
[00:30:37] So every single job somehow is on a grid and depending on. Background and everything else, then the state has decided what your salary should be. so here it’s saying that I need to pay you X amount, which in this case makes absolutely no sense because I don’t care about the degree.
[00:30:57] It doesn’t matter for what we’re trying to do. And so what [00:31:00] happens in a situation like that either I’m probably gonna say, well, Kara, I’m sorry, but I can’t hire. Because it makes no sense what the state wants to impose. This, this doesn’t make any sense. So you remember it half of 10 million people coming out of the university every year, but I told you are still looking for work.
[00:31:14] Well, the few that could find work with me or others in this situation government provisions prevent us the reality of business to do that. . But then let’s say fine this salary that is been imposed upon us by the government mix up. But let’s say, I’m just gonna go ahead and do it because I really, really like you and you really, really like us. We want to get this done.
[00:31:34] Okay. Let me see if I can make an effort and maybe. Can only hire you. I cannot hire the two people I would’ve hired for your salary. But fine, let’s do it. And I’m just doing this for this for the sake of the story because in reality I’m not gonna hire you, Cara, I just can’t . The reality of business is ruthless and if a business doesn’t justify how much I’m forced to pay you. I’m simply not gonna hire you , and go find somebody that is more affordable for me. So you stay home. But let’s stay here for the sake of a story. [00:32:00] well, we found an agreement. We can do it. Well guess what?
[00:32:03] Then at that moment, you and I, we sign an employment agreement. Even if it’s like a temporary agreement that’s gonna be, maybe I’m hiring you for this next six months or the next year or the next two years. It’s a temporary employment because I am really scared to hire you permanently because then.
[00:32:17] It’s really hard for me to get out of it. So here we are. We signed the agreement in free copies. Then we proceed to take it to this government office called , the labor inspection Office. Because guess what? There, it’s that labor inspection person from the government who has never sat a foot in our company, has probably no idea even what we are making and even if we heard that we’re making lip bumps, has no idea what gets into it.
[00:32:44] What looks for facility, what does the facility. Nothing but this person gets to decide if the employment between you and I can go can happen. And we get there after free hour or something of driving there because I decided to set up my facility in the rural [00:33:00] area so that people in the rural area no longer have to immigrate in the city in search for work.
[00:33:05] Right? So we did this intentionally, but what it means is we’re so far away from the where the government offices are, which we have to. every single month. So we go and then they say, well, after you wait for this person who has been running his errands all day, he finally shows up and he is like, well, where is Gary’s medical certificate?
[00:33:24] I’m like, what? And the CPA whom we had to hire, because the laws are so complicated that if you don’t hire experts, you run the risk of making mistakes. And if you make mistakes, you run the risk of been harassed or worse yet put in jail. And so you have to hire these experts, which means added cost of doing.
[00:33:41] but even him, I call him like, he said, we need a, what is that? And he said, give it to me. The talks to him. And the gentleman says, the inspection label person says, well, yeah. It is part of a law. And here was my expert. He’s never heard of that. And he’s the expert, but I’m not blaming him. I’m blaming these very obscure laws.
[00:33:59] And then [00:34:00] he said, well, it’s, something that, and then we’re asking him since when are these, these laws? When were they dated from turns out, these date from colonial times. But anyway it turns. He also is gonna have to determine how physically fit carer you are to do this job that you and I, as both adults have decided to enter into.
[00:34:18] And finally after many back and forth and mind you, when we started the process, it’s now a month plus later. and we still are not completely finished because on some of them, she’s still saying, well, this job that you wanna hire this person for we have a provision for it. Nowhere. Well, of course, because back in colonial times, their job that exists today that you guys, you guys sent printers could simply never have imagined would be real.
[00:34:42] Today. And so, and I say, well, what do we do in a situation like this? Well, in a situation like this, it’s me, the inspection person who gets to decide the category and the pay and everything that goes with it. And because they’re so pro employees, so are they thinking, he’s like, I’m gonna use this opportunity.
[00:34:57] To make it a high salary. So [00:35:00] I’m helping this employee making more money. And I said, well, sorry, then it means I cannot hire this person. So you see how we go back and forth, and I could walk you through, if I walked you through all the struggles, you would be just like, why are you, why on earth Yeah.
[00:35:13] Are you doing this, this place? And so this is where Kara, I’ve got my answer. it turned out that at the end of the day, you’re poor because you have no money, at least not enough money to, take care of your basic needs. You don’t have money because you have no source of income. A source of income for most of us is a job.
[00:35:30] Where do jobs come from? The private sector, these enterprises, especially small and medium sized enterprises. Then don’t you think we should make it easy for these. entrepreneurs to actually enterprise to start and render businesses. Then what I’m finding is what I have been going through as an em, as an entrepreneur doing business in Africa is basically something that economies have been measuring forever.
[00:35:54] And they call it economic freedom. How free is one to [00:36:00] enterprise. And it turns out that for all the indicators that matter to measure such It turns out that what I have lived at first on the ground it show, what it is saying is it is almost harder to do business anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa than it is say in any Scandinavian nation. Wow. There you have it. This is why we’re poor. A nation is. If it does not offer a good business environment to its would be entrepreneurs.
[00:36:28] And conversely, a nation becomes rich when it allows its entrepreneurs to do their magic by offering them an enabling environment which means greater economic freedom. That was my answer.
[00:36:41] GR: Yes. Well, you’ve actually covered the three questions that I was gonna ask cause Oh, I wanna just go ahead and thank you. For what you’ve had to share with us. My first trip to Africa was to Senegal in the late 1990s with a group of students from New York City and Los Angeles, and had a chance to meet some [00:37:00] great people there.
[00:37:01] The one question that I would leave with and You can answer. Within the few minutes that we have is one takeaway from this conversation that the sub-Saharan Africans have to leave Africa to be successful.
[00:37:13] Magatte: not everybody has to leave Africa always, but the ones who stay behind and try to make it work they certainly have to jump through so many more hoops than they would have if they did not have to deal with this very, very messed up and convoluted business environment.
[00:37:29] So, for. , all of their investment, their investment could get them so much farther ahead than it is right now. So this is not to say that it is impossible to survive and thrive, but we’re never gonna get the critical mass of entrepreneurs that are needed to actually lift a nation out of poverty and leap into prosperity.
[00:37:48] It’s just not gonna.
[00:37:50] Cara: Wow, that, I mean, that’s quite a statement I think for our listeners to consider. And certainly based on your own experience and your, good work, I’m gonna [00:38:00] encourage everybody , to look you up and view your TED Talk is I’m sure informing your advocacy greatly around these issues.
[00:38:07] Magatte, thank you so much for your time today and we really appreciate, thank you having your voice with us on the learning curve. I
[00:38:13] Magatte: appreciate you as well. Thank you so. , thank you.[00:39:00]
[00:39:01] GR: And my tweet of the week comes from Ed Nex, and it’s about an article published by two of my A e I colleagues, Nat Kinson, Cody Christensen, who is now in fact, a doctoral student at Vanderbilt. When I. Was in the office at a e i. He was actually a fellow and they did a really good study published by a e I focused on enrollment.
[00:39:24] Their tweet is the effects of school district’s reopening policies on enrollment differed by grade level according to a recent report. If you’re interested in knowing what’s gonna likely happen in terms of outcomes funding. Take a look at which schools opened sooner than others. Take a look at what schools were remote longer than those in person.
[00:39:47] Really good article won’t spoil it, but they do a really good deep dive into public databases and others. So to those two. Thanks for your work.
[00:39:56] Cara: Yeah. Looking forward to it. I haven’t read it. Jordan, I’m going to, cuz it sounds like a great [00:40:00] one. Next week we have another international guest.
[00:40:02] We are going to be speaking with Professor Michael Slater. He’s the emeritus professor of Victorian Literature at Berk Beck College, university of London, and the world’s foremost expert. On Charles Dickens and his works very appropriate for this time of year. I was just talking about Charles Dickens with my children.
[00:40:19] Yes, I was the other day we were talking about a Christmas Carol Gerard root for the blue and white for me. Will you, can you do that? I will. All right. So I will plan. We will be back together very soon, my friend, and I’m looking forward to it. You have a good one. All right.
[00:40:34] Magatte: Take care. Bye-bye.[00:41:00]