This meeting, held this year in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, is about Africa’s Transformation. And there is no greater transformation taking place than in the continent’s entrepreneurial realm where Africans are showcasing their immense skills and creativity, and transforming the brand that is Africa. We will see a lot of this on display at the meeting!
I am often asked about the “poverty” in Ethiopia and Africa. People are amazed when I answer that there is no poverty in Ethiopia or Africa. What there has been is a poverty of ambition, one wherein we were never supposed to dream big and execute grand ambitions – such as building global companies and global brands that employ thousands at prosperity wages, all from the place where we were born and raised .
This happened because endless numbers of entities monopolized Africa’s image, our brand. They insisted that we Africans were incapable of doing it for ourselves. And they still craft imagery and stories that support this, a never-ending presentation of our shortcomings coupled with their never-ending attempts to counter these “failings”.
However, Africa’s creative entrepreneurs have seized the initiative and taken full ownership of all our resources –- physical, mental, spiritual, cultural and creative – and are moving forward with huge ambitions. As our entrepreneurs forge new markets, create global companies, award-winning brands, jobs, growth and unmatched prosperity, they are redrawing this picture of needy Africans.
The most exciting element is that these entrepreneurs are also exposing the true brand of Africa, a brand that bubbles with creativity and industriousness. A brand that is buoyed by reservoirs of talented and cultured peoples, and one that is enriched by Africa’s soil and her untapped treasures.
Africans have endured and triumphed over tragedy and privation, to the extent that we are now poised to make this The African Century, an immense opportunity for all. This is our story, our transformation, created by the sweat of our brows, moulded by our unvanquished spirits and told by us in our own beautiful tones. The world is grateful…
And as African entrepreneurs move forward in further shaping this transformation, they are letting it be known that the days when others project Africa’s image and damage our brand for their gain are finally over. They are determined to protect that image –- perhaps Africa’s most critical resource – as zealously and as righteously as the global brand giants who sell their brands across the continent. No less would be expected from Africa’s emerging brand stewards!
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is the founder and CEO of soleRebels footwear and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.