Speaker: ‘Cheetah Entrepreneur’ Wade to Address African Prosperity

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Magatte Wade headshot with event details

The 2022 Ralph J. Gerson Distinguished Lecturer explores how reforming small-business processes in Africa will boost the continent’s economy

Magatte Wade, entrepreneur, author and advocate for African dignity and prosperity through business growth, will deliver the Ralph J. Gerson Distinguished Lecture at 7 p.m. Nov. 10. The discussion will be broadcast via Zoom. (Register here to join the event).

Wade’s talk, “The Heart of the Cheetah: Entrepreneurship and Prosperity in Africa,” will focus on the power of business growth and importance of business-friendly infrastructure, which she sees as critical to innovation and economic flourishing on the continent. As an entrepreneur from Senegal, Wade has decried a lack of business infrastructure and subsequent unemployment as key reasons why many Africans risk their lives to migrate to other countries.

The Ralph J. Gerson Distinguished Lecture gathers the community around the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan to celebrate and promote ways businesses can positively impact social challenges. Its transformative speakers bring unique perspectives on economic development, new considerations around innovative business models and informed evaluations of emerging markets.

Wade joins the series’ two past lecturers — Nobel Prize-winning Economist Sir Angus Deaton and Kevin Lobo, Chairman and CEO of Stryker Corp. — in her work highlighting economic acceleration through business tools.

“Magatte Wade is an outspoken advocate for the benefits that profitable businesses bring to an economy,” said WDI President Paul Clyde. “She is a successful entrepreneur who understands the value and importance of business in the development of an economy. Considering WDI’s mission of equipping economic decision makers in emerging countries with the tools of commercial success, it’s hard to think of a stronger advocate with a more relevant background than Wade.”

Wade was named one of Forbes’ “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa,” a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos, and a “Leading Woman in Wellness” award-winner with the Global Wellness Summit. She’s the Director of the Atlas Network’s Center for Africa Prosperity, a member of the Board of Directors of Conscious Capitalism Inc., and a member of the Advisory Board of the Whole Planet Foundation with Whole Foods Market.

As a TED Global Africa Fellow, her TED Talk, titled “Why it’s so hard to start a business in Africa — and how to change it,” has nearly 650,000 views. In her talk, Wade draws a clear and definitive thread between poverty reduction and business creation — asserting that the solution to poverty is making it easier for small businesses to start, run and thrive. In it, she describes how she came to this conclusion: “I have this attitude in life. Something is wrong, find a way to fix it. That’s why I start the businesses that I start, usually consumer brands, that have embedded in them the very best of my African culture.”

Wade describes what it’s like for her to run these businesses in Senegal, navigating the complicated and problematic laws and processes. “It’s like swimming through molasses,” she said. Knowing the impact these stifling rules have on business growth, Wade advocates for easing these restrictions and creating systems that promote private economic development. Not only does changing these laws make a major difference in business success, she explained, but shining a light on them can shift the outlook Africans have about their own capabilities and potential.

Her new book, “The Heart of the Cheetah,” will be released soon.

Register to watch Wade’s speech live on Zoom at 7 p.m. Nov. 10.


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