A while back I was given a briefing book before one of my #Afripreneur town halls. It included some background on the moderator, called Fatima. In one interview, I read she had been asked: “If you could give your 18-year old self some advice, what would it be?”
Her answer was: “Take pride in and ownership of your unique gifts. There’s great beauty in being different and great beauty in imperfection. It’s okay and actually a wonderful thing not to think like the rest of the world.”
So what do you “think” about that?
I want to focus our attention in this next series on entrepreneurial opportunities in rural areas and ways to see old problems in new ways, “not to think like the rest of the world”! That is why I am calling the upcoming series #Re-ImagineRural!
You are all aware, for instance, that millions of people across Africa still do not have the very basics of life — clean running water, electricity, and sanitation. Do you know how many people in Africa do not have access to a modern toilet?
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice,” said Nelson Mandela. “It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life…”
We need fresh new minds to come into the conversation about solving the world’s great challenges, and this is where all of you #Afripreneurs on this platform come in.
The other day a friend of mine from India who used to be Chairman of Microsoft India, sent me an interesting article on a program launched by PM Narendra Modi, one of the most inspirational leaders today. It was titled “World’s biggest nationwide toilet building campaign is creating new markets in India.” Here is the link: https://theprint.in/economy/worlds-biggest-nationwide-toilet-building-campaign-is-creating-new-markets-in-india/90875/
Another friend invited me to a football match at the weekend whilst I was in London. After the game we had coffee, and he asked me what are the biggest entrepreneurial opportunities I would love to do, even as a philanthropist.
“Sanitation,” I replied. “I would like to build toilets like Modi is doing in India. This is probably bigger than electricity going forward.”
Then I added, “I’m satisfied we’ll have power for everyone within 20 years. The technology is now available. We don’t yet have a clear path for providing toilets with running water for the poor.”
Marco smiled: “I’m working in that area. We have registered a patent and already installed 1000+ successful systems all around SADC countries!”
“Yes. Can I make a pitch to you?”
Marco is an African from South Africa who once worked for us, before going off on his own. He explained that their patented flush toilet system can go into homes, schools, hospitals, hotels and more, all without connecting to the power grid or local water mains…
“Come tomorrow. I will make time, because this is really important. If you have the right idea, I will help you raise as much capital as you need.”
As we parted, I told him about an article I just got from the entrepreneur in India, then I added:
“Bill Gates is so keen on this subject he ran a global competition for someone to design a new toilet system that can be deployed cheaply and yet have all the modern benefits. It was a global innovation challenge. It’s time to move on from pit latrines.”
“I’m going to China in November to see the winning designs!” I said.
“It’s a symposium on technologies for sanitation systems so you should come” I told him. “If we find a solution for clean toilets with running water, we will solve one of the biggest problems in the world today.”
“And if your idea is as good as you say, then you are going to be a billionaire!”
Now read the article on India and tell me what you think about the entrepreneurial opportunity.
And why don’t you also share your own thoughts on “What advice you would give your own 18-year old self?” so we can all take some notes.
One bit of advice I would have given myself is this: Don’t think just because you are “only” 18 (or younger…) you can’t solve some of the world’s greatest challenges affecting the very dignity of human existence!
Wow? Yes, wow. Get going.
To be continued. . .