MTN Ghana CEO, Selorm Adadevoh today sang world acclaimed reggae legend, Bob Marley’s classic solo track “Redemption Song” to his audience at the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania and around the world during a forum broadcast like on Zoom.
The occasion was the 28th edition of the Wharton Africa Business Forum (WABF28) and the theme for his keynote was “Dare to Dream”.
Selorm mentioned several contemporary African entrepreneurs who dared to dream, while sitting in fora like the WABF28 years prior to taking steps to become the giants they are today.
He said, like them, he also dared to dream, but there were times when doubts sets in and it took self redemption to surmount the doubts and odds and get on with the pursuit of the dream.
It was at this point that he put up a slide of the late reggae legend, Bob Marley with a quotation from his “Redemption Song” track that read “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”
Selorm first read out the powerful words from the Jamaican philosopher and musician, and then went on to actually sing it amidst a considerable level of applauds and shouts from the audience in approval of the unexpected fine tone of voice from him.
In the midst of applauds, Selorm said “I told you I will sing to you today”.
Speaking of big dreams, Selorm said, as an African young adult living and schooling in London, he always dreamt of returning home to make a difference on the continent.
According to him, part of that dream was a strong desire to be a CEO, and that, eventually led him to Congo where he attempted to built a telecoms network but it did not work out. He then returned to the UK, then to Boston in the United States and worked with various organizations and partners, until one day he decided to return home and chase his dream fully.
“No one was around to help me make that decision – I had to make a real big financial sacrifice- take a big risk with no guarantees. But I was convinced that it such bold initiatives create the kind of sustainable Africa that have always dreamt about,” he said.
He mentioned a number of contemporary African dreams who blazed the trail and serve today as the torch bearer for the younger generation to dream big and believe that their dream is possible, saying that he saw those African dreamers as a reason to step out and dare.
Selorm Adadevoh said he is a big believer in local content and so he has great admiration for the many African contemporary entrepreneurs who are creating value for African culture, talents, education and many others.
But to him, it would take Africa more than just a few dreamers to create a sustainable continent that would in the next century be the place where technology, talents and other value-added solutions are created and exported to the rest of the world.
“We need a different type of education not based on western models – but that type that trains our people to be come entrepreneurs and to take risks and solve Africa’s problems.
“For Africa plus we need more people with the audacity to dream big, believe in their dream and act on it.”
Selorm said African leaders need to start thinking about what Africa would mean to the rest of the world going forward because it is projected that in the next century, Africa will hold 30 per cent of global population and that means the would will look up to Africa more than just raw materials.
He said African countries must therefore begin to invest in research and innovation centers to create exportable skills and solutions that will bring some money back home.
Unity, he said, is also key for Africa if the dream of a sustainable continent is to be realized. He explained that unity here does not mean a borderless geographical area like the US, which does not look feasible for Africa, but rather economic unity through trade.
“Nigeria for instance, imports two billions tons of salt from Brazil every year for two reason – because it is about 40 per cent cheaper to import from Brazil than from nearby Ghana, and secondly, Ghana and Senegal combined cannot produce enough salt to meet Nigeria’s demand,” he said.
He however noted that the supply and cost gap presents an opportunity for African states to come together in invest in their production of their own resources for their shared benefit.
Selorm also thinks Africa needs ethical and visionary leadership across both the political and business sectors, who are ready to fight the status quo and be committed to killing mediocrity on the continent.
He concluded with his own version of Martin Luther King’s famous I have dream speech, saying “I have a dream that one day a ‘unified’ would mold its talents, assets, culture and traditions into a unique force that redefines what western development considers the standard Africa will create an opportunity and systems that the west will see as the standard.”