Kofi Annan, Former Secretary General, United Nations
interviewed by Mark Weinberger, Ernst & Young, Global Chairman & CEO-Elect
Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, 2001
Chairman, Kofi Annan Foundation
Chairman, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
Entrepreneurs needed to reshape the world
Entrepreneurs have the power to help build a more economically just and politically stable world. That’s the message Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, delivered in his World Entrepreneur Of The Year® keynote address in Monte Carlo.
An estimated 1.2 billion youths worldwide are unemployed — and that raises the prospect of rampant political instability in years ahead, according to Mr. Annan.
But entrepreneurship can help. “We need to encourage young people to go in creative directions when forming new businesses,” he said. “We also need to find ways to finance their new ventures without forcing them to give away 70% of their company.”
Annan: Africa is ready
Entrepreneurs also will help drive the growth of emerging markets, such as Africa. “Africa is ready,” Mr. Annan declared. Business opportunities range from agriculture — especially for women developing small businesses with the potential to feed the world — to manufacturing. He noted that an estimated 700 million manufacturing jobs are expected to move from China to locations such as Africa.
Public-private partnerships “get things done,” Mr. Annan stressed. He’s seen that firsthand. Mr. Annan received his Nobel Peace Prize for his work addressing the scourge of AIDS in Africa. “Without the contributions of the pharmaceutical industry, we would not have reached millions of people in Africa with medicine,” he said.
Currently, Syria poses a special challenge. “The country is being systematically destroyed,” Mr. Annan observed, and 1.5 million refugees are struggling to survive.
When the war in Syria ends, rebuilding the country will require a decade or more of massive investments.
The struggles in today’s world demand a new type of leadership: business and governmental leaders alike need to explain to citizens what they are doing.
“New leadership demands a sense of humor, and laughter helps,” Mr. Annan explained. “And you just can’t do it well — you need to communicate you’re doing it well, too.
“Also, they need a long-term perspective, instead of just considering the next quarterly report or election,” he added. Leaders need empathy for people’s situations and be willing to work across borders to achieve goals. As recent popular uprisings illustrate, “If a leader fails to lead, the people will start to lead.”