I was honored to be in Morocco recently, speaking as the closing keynote for the annual meeting of the African Securities Exchange Association and before 22 CEOs for their respective country's stock exchanges, throughout the whole of Africa. More than 400 delegates attended from countries beyond the African continent, and I was also thrilled to again spend some time with my friend and our HOPE Global Board of Advisors' Chairman, Mr. Sean Cleary, whom I lovingly refer to as the "South African James Bond." Mr. Cleary, a legend in South Africa who helped to draft the South African Constitution, was also a featured speaker. The conference was organized, hosted and held by my friend and fellow global advisory board member Karim Hajji, CEO of the Casablanca Stock Exchange.
The launch the Arabic contextualized version of our Banking on Our Future financial literacy curriculum, and a featured part of our Wikia-HOPE Global Money, Morocco Initiative, was no small feat. The actual work to get this done came through the staff of the CSE (for whom I and we are very thankful), but the importance of getting this done, and at this particular time and place in history cannot be understated.
During my remarks before delegates I spoke of the Arab Spring, and the youth-inspired uprisings happening from the Middle East, parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America as all connected and inter-connected. I referred to them not in political or religious or even cultural tones, but economic ones.
The Arab Spring started with a man named Mohammad in Tunisia, whose way of life — a kart business — was seized by local authorities. He went to the police station and pleaded to have his business restored, and was dismissed as unimportant. He later set himself on fire in protest, and within a month the Tunisian government was literally on its knees. At bottom, this was about Mohammad being denied his basic human dignity, or in this case, more specifically his financial dignity.
He was being denied his basic ability to make a living and to take care of himself and his family. He felt his respect and dignity was being taken away from him, and he simply was not going to take it anymore. At bottom, this crisis was and remains about what my friend and partner in the Gallup-HOPE Index, Mr. Jim Clifton (chairman and CEO of Gallup) describes as "an all mighty good job," in his breakthrough book THE COMING JOBS WAR.
The Middle East will need an estimated 100 million new jobs over the next 10-20 years, for a population that will be 60% under the age of 25. This is a national security threat, left unspoken to, and it is all about that "almighty good job."
My message was simple, to these leaders from throughout the region. The new movement is one of silver rights empowerment, or economic in nature, and the way to create stability amongst nations and their citizens was to empower them with the tools to do for themselves, in an environment where increasingly their governments cannot. That means teaching each and every child financial literacy as the first new civil rights tool in a new silver rights world. That means inspiring a generation of African and Middle East entrepreneurs and small business owners, and self employment projects.
What Africa needs now is not more aid, but more taxpayers.
What the Middle East needs now is a new vision for its youth and citizens — one rooted in financial dignity and empowerment possibilities, and opportunity for all.
And at the root of this will be our new Arabic, fully contextualized and localized version of our Banking on Our Future and Wikia-HOPE Global Money, Morocco initiative.
We must think global, but act local. We must meet the world where they are.
Okay, let's go.
John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass) the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and a Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S. He is also a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum.