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US’ interest in African entrepreneurs

First, let me thank the team at Field of Skills and Dreams. They have done an incredible job in pulling this event together. This conference has brought together 105 young, talented, ambitious young people who are looking to make their mark in the world of business. To aid them, Field of Skills and Dreams has assembled an outstanding group of mentors. These mentors, men and women who have accomplished great things in their business careers are taking time out of their busy schedules to share some of their wisdom and experience with young people and the US Consulate thanks them for their commitment and generosity. They are excellent role models for these budding entrepreneurs and, again, we thank them for their contribution.
As I mentioned, I am looking out at the faces of an incredible collection of young people who believe they are driven to be successful entrepreneurs. Let me ask, are you really? Do you have what it takes to succeed? What exactly is an entrepreneur? To answer that question, this may help.
“Entrepreneurs are risk takers, willing to roll the dice with their money or reputation on the line in support of an idea or enterprise. They willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets.” This is a quote from Victor Kiam, a famous American entrepreneur, best-known for his successful turnaround of a razor blade company. A fewer people are aware that he was a life-long entrepreneur, who took his first risks at selling a product at the tender age of eight. He used five dollars given to him by his father to buy 100 bottles of Cola to sell to his thirsty neighbours. Incredible but true.
His story confirms this message by Niklas Zennstrom, a co-founder of Skpe, who said: “If you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle. It defines you.” In other words, if you want a job with predictable hours, being an entrepreneur is not for you … if you do not want to have to take your work home with you at the end of the day because you are absolutely consumed with it, being an entrepreneur is not for you … if you are afraid to fail, this is without a doubt not a path for you.
However if you are passionate about the success of an idea … a new product or service, a means to deliver something that people want and do so easier, faster, or more economically than others, then you may have what it takes.
You will know whether you do and no one else because only you will decide whether you are committed to that idea when others doubt you … when it is tough to get a loan… and when it would be so much easier to get a normal predictable job. The men and women who remain steadfast in their beliefs, no matter the doubts of others, no matter the obstacles, have what is takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. You must decide whether those characteristics describe you.
You may ask why is the US government interested in supporting entrepreneurs, especially in Africa. That’s a good question and I believe I have a good answer. My answer is that we believe you represent the future of this continent. We believe that Nigeria’s people, especially its young people, are its greatest resource and they can produce a more prosperous future for Nigeria, one less dependent on a single commodity, instead one capable of inventing new products and services that will be attractive to markets around the world, producing the growth, jobs, and incomes that will enable Nigeria to take its rightful place among the leading nations of the world. Yes, we believe in you and by aiding Field of Skills and Dreams, and other local organizations, we are demonstrating our confidence in what Nigerians can accomplish.
Returning to what you as an individual need to know and do in order to succeed in your business, please remember this quote from Dave Thomas, the founder of the American fast-food chain called Wendy’s. He said, “What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.”
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