During the recently concluded African Business Conference held at the Harvard Business School, “pan-African” Binta Touré Ndoye, a Malian national and CEO of the banking enterprise, Oragroup, started her keynote address with a question. Looking into her audience and seeing what were bright-eyed and eager, aspiring and established representatives of the entrepreneurial class of the continent of Africa, she asked how many would be willing to return to the mother continent after realising their academic ambitions in the United States. The numbers could have been better, a fact she volubly picked up on as she continued to fill the remainder of her time.
The next keynote speaker at the event, former Tanzanian member of parliament, president and CEO of MeTL, Mr. Mohammed Dewji, told a tale of his decision to return to Africa after completing his college education in the United States. His father grew tired of sending him money to supplement his living expenses and in his words simply asked of Dewji, “What are you doing there?”
The keynote speaker that followed, Ethiopian, Samuel Alemayehu, head of Africa Cambridge Industries Limited relayed a story he had once heard from his father on the very matter of going back home: so a benign old man is slowly walking through the interconnected pathways of a village when he comes upon a grass thatched hut, outside said hut, a young woman is pecking away, frantically searching between the blades of grass for…something; something that she seems to have convinced herself, must be hidden in plain sight, if only she sought harder.
“Young one, what are you looking for so passionately in the grass?”
“I seem to have lost my sewing needle father.”
“Where did you last see your sewing needle, child?”
“I was just now sewing a button on to my shirt inside the house, when it fell on the floor and now I cannot for the life of me find it, no matter how hard I look!”
“But… my girl, why are you wildly searching for it outside the house if you last saw it inside?”
“Oh Father, can't you see? The light, all of the light, is outside…”