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In My View

April 19, 2015

Does success have a price?

When two people are on the same side of the fence in supporting just causes or promoting good practices, one would naturally assume them to be allies. Sadly however, not everyone sees it this way. From time to time I find myself the subject of unfounded attacks and accusations by people I would least expect it from. What is this chink in human nature that causes a person to turn on someone who believes in the same principles?

Growing up as a Swiss Angolan, I’ve been fortunate to inherit certain traits that have been passed on to me in equal measures by both sides of my family. A combination of African wisdom and Swiss ambition along with a deep reverence for values such as ethics, fairness, generosity and trust have guided me in becoming the person that I am today.

Those who know me well, know that I am more than just a business man, and that my true motivation has always been more philanthropically oriented. In fact I count myself as fortunate because I’m able to use the success that I’ve worked hard to attain to play a part, however small, in Africa’s progress. After all I am very much African as I am Swiss. So you can imagine my disappointment when I become the target of disillusioned rantings by a certain journalist activist who is facing trial in Angola over his libelous reporting style.

One has to wonder, is becoming an open target the price of success? What a shame. While I can’t condone his irresponsible behavior, I still have a certain amount of empathy for this gentleman because of his fight against corruption and his desire to promote a higher degree of transparency in Angola. However, I now find myself questioning his real agenda. Why attempt to disparage those who also want the same things? I may not be an influential political leader nor an activist. Neither am I a grand visionary like our beloved Madiba was. But as an African I am one of the millions who want to see greater transparency and zero corruption for the betterment of the continent.

As a business philanthropist, I try to influence change in the only way I know how to…and that is by supporting initiatives that unlock human potential and promote socio economic development in Africa. And because I believe that progress can only stem from best practices, everything that I do, whether business or philanthropic, is based on strong values of ethics and transparency.

The African Innovation Foundation (AIF), which I founded in 2009 has dedicated programs aimed at promoting good governance and compliance. In fact, one of the early initiatives the AIF embarked on was the Anti-Money Laundering program with the National Bank of Angola. Another important program, the African Law Library, which I founded in 2012, is a mammoth effort aimed at helping Africans access legal data freely and to understand their rights. We now have over 50 partner entities in 20 African countries including the African Union, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Ministry of Justice in Senegal and the National Council for Law Reporting (NCLR) in Kenya amongst many others.

Now tell me, would I be supporting legal understanding in Africa on such a wide scale if I did not hold dear to my heart that a more transparent Africa will lead to a prosperous Africa? Don’t get me wrong. I believe in freedom of press and I have great respect for the journalism profession. I also believe that African journalists in particular have a crucial part to play in this important time of reformation. But I would urge them to operate in a professional and ethical manner before making unsubstantiated claims that could seriously mar the good intentions of others.

I suppose there will always be the odd few who question me as a business man and what I do and how I do it. But I stand comforted by the knowledge that for each one of those, there are many, many more who know me for who I am and what I stand for. At the end of the day, I am just a simple guy, with many ideas and philosophies. I am indeed an “ideas machine”, in fact I thrive on it because ideas drive innovation, and innovation unlocks human potential, which is my passion.

And speaking of innovation, it’s that time of the year again. The Innovation Prize for Africa 2015 Morocco edition is coming up in less than a month and I am looking forward to meeting yet another interesting batch of African innovators, entrepreneurs and forward thinkers who share my interests. I’ll have more on that soon so keep watching my blog.