While here I will be encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurship, small business ownership and what I call individual job creation (self-employment projects) amongst the generation of young people coming up today in the country.
These young people have benefited from the incredible and life-changing civil rights justice work done by the likes of former President Nelson Mandela, and my friend Archbishop-Emeritus Desmond Tutu, but all too often these same young people are not seeing that history and tradition translate into what I would call silver rights empowerment opportunities for all, today. And that means they are then less interested in school, less interested in their families, less interested in "doing right," and less hope for themselves. And the most dangerous person in the world, is the person with no hope.
Our financial literacy work started here 6-years ago has been helpful, and I want to publicly thank the likes of Angela Motshekga, Sean Cleary, Ambassador Andrew Young and former mayor Herman Bailey, all who encouraged me early on to start the office here. That said, it is not enough.
It is simply not enough to teach the people here financial literacy, or what we at HOPE call the 'language of money.' Many don't have any money with which to negotiate with in the first instance. What we need to do now, as the next logical step and stage, is to teach them how to connect financial literacy to financial empowerment, leading to financial dignity, or more specifically — how to grow opportunity in their lives, how to get a job, or how to create one. How to do for themselves. This is where their personal dignity lies, and this is the core problem of South Africa today, like so many other inspiring African countries in transition.
The problem today is decreasingly the boldfaced issue of 'race' or racism, but the often hidden and shame-filled face of poverty. And yes, poverty can often be found in the roots of racism or a racist past, but racism is not the primary impediment in Africa today. Not knowing and not doing, sustainably and at scale, is the primary problem today.
South Africa, while the most successful economy on the African continent today, needs today the very same thing that every other African country needs now — and that is a generation of new taxpayers. Because when you have that, you also have jobs, you have prosperity, and you have a society with a new culture of hope increasingly embedded into its societal DNA.
That mission and movement is what I am about, and why I am here.
I am honored, led and directed by the HOPE Global Youth Empowerment Group division president, Mary Hagerty-Ehrsam, who is traveling with me, to be signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, as well as the Peace Corps here in South Africa.
A special thank you to our HOPE Board of Directors here in South Africa, and our partners including Sanlam Insurance, Citi and its COO Donna Oosthuyse, and the South African Banking Association led by its CEO Cas Coovadia.
Okay's 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 is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for 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. Mr. Bryant is a thought leader represented by the Bright Sight Group for public speaking. Mr. Bryant serves on the board of directors of Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation (NYSE: ACRE), a specialty finance company that is managed by an affiliate of Ares Management LLC, a global alternative asset manager with approximately $59 billion in committed capital under management as of December 31, 2012.