Acton University Speaker Exemplifies Sustainable Solution to Poverty

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Acton Institute University cutline235 Magatee Wade: “I know the best way to serve God is to serve His favorite creation: us.”Magatte Wade is a convincing example of what an entrepreneur can accomplish when she decides the best way to veer from poverty is to possess the can-do determination to create wealth and prosperity for herself.

This is admittedly easier said than done, said Wade, who was one of four plenary speakers at Grand Rapids-based think tank, the Acton Institute's June 14-17 Acton University held at the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. The annual event drew 1,000 people from 75 countries.

First, said Wade, she was born in Senegal, a country on the coast of West Africa. Many in the Western world view Africans as a people who are in continual need of charity. Second, she is female and, finally, she is black.

Hurdles to clear

Conversely, launching a business and selling her products in the United States has had its share of hurdles to clear, but Wade said she was up to the challenge.

"For those of us whose culture has been dominated, it's always about the Western way," she said. "There's nothing wrong with the Western way, but if God wanted us to look the same, there would be no diversity (in the world) which has solutions for all of humanity.

"I was born in a family of faith where if we complained about something, we better have at least three solutions."

Wade evidently took her family's insight to heart.

Launched first business in 2004

She founded Adina World Beat Beverages in 2004, a San Francisco beverage company that manufactures coffee, tea and fruit juices based on indigenous beverage recipes from around the world using organic ingredients supplied by farmers in Africa and Asia. Within five years the company raised $30 million in venture capital.

Wade then launched Tiossan, company that produces luxury organic skin-care products based on traditional Senegalese skin care recipes. The name is a play on "Thiosane" a Senegalese word that means "origins."

"I want to create jobs and share my culture and a new approach to beauty as designed by an African woman," Wade said of her company, Tiossan. "The only way to preserve my culture is to make sure it expands."

Caught world's attention

Wade's hard work has caught the attention of others. In 2011, the World Economic Forum named Wade as one of its Young Global Leaders. Forbes named her "20 Youngest Power Women in Africa."

There is a vast difference between managerial capitalism, which is administered by decision-making executives rather than by owners, and its more preferred counterpart: free, fair competition, said Wade.

"When I started the beverage company, I knew I wanted my people to feel pride and dignity because who wants to be a beggar for life?" said Wade. "I call my journey a journey of seeking truth. It was a hard journey because I wanted to understand why some countries are poor."

Wade said her answers proved to "shatter" her previous anti-capitalism conceptions. The truth is it's businesses and entrepreneurs that create jobs and living wages and not a reliance on government handouts.

"It's the only sustainable solution to poverty," she said.

At the same time, Wade said she's learned government regulations can impede the entrepreneurial spirit.

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"In the Congo, if you want to export or import anything, you need 18 pieces of documents," she said. "They pay bribes (to get things done). Then you wonder why there's corruption? That's when I made a pact with God to devote everything I have to small and medium size enterprises because most jobs come from small and medium enterprises."

Wade credited her husband, Michael, for sharing the same business-bond in their marriage.

"This is how much God answered our prayer: Michael and I serve the same thing," Wade said. "It's important for me to live as I preach."

A rare combination

There are three major focuses Wade said she centers her life around: preach, practice what she preaches and polity reform.

"I know the best way to serve God is to serve His favorite creation: us," Wade said. "Each one of you is a rare combination."
Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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