__”Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”. (Alexander Graham Bell)
When I was a young entrepreneur beginning to follow what was going on around the world, even at a time when news was not as instant as it is today, if you had asked me who I would like to meet, I would have told you without hesitation two guys: Bill Gates and Michael Milken!
And as God would have it, my wish was granted almost 3 decades later. Here is how it happened: Michael Milken despite a few controversies in his early life is, and always has been, considered by many of the world’s most respected business and political leaders, as a bit of a sage.
Look! Like him or not, he is a certified genius!
Anyway, those in the know, which include the leaders of some of the world’s biggest companies, gather twice a year at special annual conferences organized by Michael Milken. Don’t tell anyone you know this, but the Milken Institute Global Conference held in Los Angeles, and the Middle East and Africa Summit (MEA) in Abu Dhabi are a bigger deal than Davos, for those looking for investment.
I remember the first time I was invited to speak, someone whispered to me: “You will be addressing a room with several billionaires, and fund managers with a collective worth of more than $20Tn”. No pressure, that is just about 10x times the GDP of Africa!
The first time I went to the Milken Global Conference in 2013 I was invited to lead a small discussion on investment into Africa, and I teamed up with guys like Patrice Motsepe and Jim Ovia of Nigeria. After I finished my session, Michael Milken, called for me. We had never met!
“Strive, I loved the way you present the case for Africa. Why don’t you join Bill Gates, Tony Blair, President Kagame, and myself, in the final session… the main event!” I was stunned! If you have never seen it before, here it is:
Now Mike and the Milken Institute have also been doing a lot of things to promote investment in Africa, quietly and efficiently for years. Some of the biggest investments by giants like Microsoft, IBM, GE, may have been inspired through discussions at the Institute.
Since 2016, the institute has also been helping to train the next generation of policymakers in 40+ developing and emerging economies including across Africa, through its International Finance Corporation-Milken Institute Capital Markets Program at the George Washington University.
If you are interested in this 8-month program, and you work in a Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, capital markets regulator, stock exchange or other relevant financial market institutions, (or know someone who does), check it out! You can find out more at: https://ifcmilkencmp.org/
Their people are some of the world’s smartest thinkers on how central banks and ministries of finance can be more effective, in managing economies to make them more attractive to investors.
Next week I will meet about 40 of them when I take part in the inaugural Milken Institute Africa Business Symposium in Johannesburg (which it’s hosting together with the Motsepe Foundation).
As they were planning the event, Mike said to me, “Since I’m going to Africa, what are some of the issues that are on your own heart?”
“Young people, and entrepreneurship. I want our young people to start accessing real capital. We need to understand how you guys built the ecosystem that funded the visions of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Ted Turner. In America they know that you personally were one of the key guys that built that system, but in Africa my young guys are only getting to know these things.”
Mike was excited. We then agreed that when I was in the US on business, I would come visit him for further discussion.
I also told Mike about our Facebook platform, and that we have 4.2m entrepreneurs that discuss entrepreneurship in Africa. About that, he chuckled before adding: “4.2m plus one; Me. I love what you are doing!”
So you see guys… this is why I’m always saying don’t come to this platform here like you are on social media! Come to class, study and join an audience that might change the trajectory of your own life, if not your continent!
One of the reasons I love Mike so much as a person, is something he did when he was afflicted by cancer. With his never-say-die attitude he fought the disease until he was free of it. Then he declared war against cancer in general.
He poured himself into mobilizing resources for cancer research, and ensuring that new medicines get through the regulatory process quickly. Someone once said to me, “If Cancer were a person, it must regret the day it attacked Michael Milken, because he has been relentless in fighting to end it.”
I love it when people who have faced a misfortune of any kind, use their experience to help others who may face the same misfortune. If you lost a friend to a car accident, for instance, you can pour yourself into road safety.
Now we’d planned to do a town hall together in South Africa next week, but unfortunately due to logistics it won’t be possible. We will, however, collect some of the discussions and post them at a later date. As I told some of you, our Sasai App is currently developing a platform called Sasai Watch and Sasai Watch Live, which will stream and archive content like this, for free. It is going to be amazing!
Meanwhile if you want to know more about the Milken Institute, visit their website: https://milkeninstitute.org/ You can even learn about their programs for Africa.
Now that this secret has been shared with you in this final year of the class, remember: it is for the mature, and those who would be mature in this game.
“No matter when or where, always bring your “A” game because you never know when it will open doors for you”!
Serious investors are arriving to the continent soon… Be prepared!
Image caption: Mike Milken with Capital Markets Alumni and program supporters, Los Angeles, May 2019.
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa