Many young Africans often reach out to me and ask about tips for career management and how to become successful. Some bluntly ask me,” show me how to get into the game.” Ultimately I tell them, ‘there is no game, there is only creating a life with purpose’. I tell them, ‘I am not sure you can refer to me as successful, I am still on my journey. But what I can show you is how I have achieved what you consider as success.’ My secret as I tell them (if it is any secret at all) is to ‘work hard to solve a large enough social problem, be truly passionate about the people affected by the problem, stay resilient and make sacrifices to move ahead. If you do this, with some luck, it is likely you will succeed. If you do not do these, I guarantee you will not succeed.’
But the question often not asked is what to do when you become successful as a young African. Achieving success is easy. Managing success as a young African is hard. How do you manage success. Success is a glitter- it attracts everything to you. The good, the bad and ugly from the outside as well as from the inside of you. Managing you is the easy bit- stay centred, stay humble, stay disciplined, avoid the toys of success, do not grow complacent. Doing this will prevent hubris and hopefully you can avoid you bringing about the downfall of you.
The harder bit is managing the external clout that is attracted to your success. They are the flatterers, the haters and the Trojans.
Those who never paid you any attention, those who counted you out, will now claim they knew you and somewhat had a hand in your success. These are the flatterers. Ignore them. Those who actively served up barriers on your path will most likely act like what you achieved is nothing- hiding their heads in shame. These are the haters. Their therapy? Ignore them. By keeping your circle small you can eschew the flatterers and haters.
The ones to be wary of are the Trojans- those who while still in envy celebrate you, even make a show of using your creation but actively seek to destroy what you have suffered to build. These are the crabs in the bowl. Unfortunately they abound aplenty in Africa where the role models often do not look African and many have grown used to preserving a culture of local mediocrity and dependence on extraversion for foreign-led solutions to African problems. These crabs will come for you and what you have built if you are making anywhere near something of impact.
Some societies constantly strive to elevate their very best. Their greatness is because they support their very best to do great work. Many of these societies in fact create communities around their stars to build clusters of development that elevate their race- the Jews, the Chinese- are unstoppable for this very reason.
Head out to Africa and the reverse is often the case. Some great genius shows signs of difference from the norm- he is labeled crazy. In the worst cases he is called a wizard/witch and lynched with petrol and tyres. The most brilliant minds of Africa who stay in Africa to do great work are often forced to wallow in penury while their brilliant interventions for the continent lie in ashes ignored; while pot-bellied, armchair warming – pen peddlers parasite off their greatness serving their do-nothing personal vanity as social media critics, judge and jury of why these brilliant interventions should not be allowed to thrive or justifying the cause of their failures. These crabs in a bowl who never achieve much in their lives rather than serve as freelancers to great western institutions (built through the sweat and blood of western geniuses nurtured by western society) love to position themselves as the great curators of new things coming up in Africa. But they do nothing themselves for the people of the continent asides chronicling substandard articles and podcasts that seek to discredit the struggles and the paths of the true African fighters sweating and bleeding to make a difference for the long suffering people of Africa.
These self-hating, lazy and non-performing Africans will rather see an Indian or Chinese or Caucasian intervene to solve a problem in Africa than allow another African who understands the problem thrive in Africa. They will see a great building built through sweat and blood and enormous sacrifice by an African supported by well-wishers often from other parts of the world, and they will seek to pull the building down- even if this building is providing jobs, stimulating otherwise dead economies and protecting lives. Their penchant for envy of the other African is so great, that they will rather destroy than help build even if it means pulling the whole building upon themselves as well. Such is the extent of their myopia and tomfoolery. These are the crabs. The crabs that have pulled down Africa’s best and brightest, forced many to go out and do their best work outside of Africa and as a result have led to the desolation of the African continent. These are not builders, these are destroyers. They are the reason Africa is so backward relative to its potential. These do-nothing local critics are the cause for Africa’s failures and lack of local role models because they pull the indigenous African builders back, destroy their efforts and kill them.
When you are successful as a young African, these crabs will come for you and what you are building. I implore you, have no hesitation in crushing them.
Take my case in point building RxAll. I was almost killed by a fake drug 15 years ago because someone in Africa wanted to make a quick buck. Just as many African societies in the past, sacrificed their own kind people for money and sold their own kind as slaves for alcohol, many Africans still continue today with the mentality of the easy dispensability of the African life.” If I can make money at the expense of some other African, why not?” This is the same mentality that pervades Africa today that allows fake drugs to thrive in Africa. The foreigners seeing the Africans having no value for one another- support our quest to destroy one another. But that god-forsaken counterfeiter that almost killed me- made a mistake. Some men cower from their terror, others are activated by their terror. Fake drugs activated me and I have made it my life mission to end fake drugs. Either I succeed or I die trying- no going back. I devoted the last 15 years of my life to solve this problem- 10 years while based in Africa. My ideas only started to be taken seriously when I got into Yale. What I worked 10+ years for in Africa to no avail prior to moving to the USA, took off within months of showing up at the Yale campus. This is the power of a society that supports its best.
When some African then comes up and talks about the West mopping up the continent’s best and brightest or that the West and China are in control of all the major new tech platforms on the continent- ask this person “what did you do to support that young African with a dream.”
I remember way back in the early days of RxAll in 2015/2016, when all we had was our first prototype, and we were running out of the initial funding Yale provided us; I showed up in Lagos to the office of one of the largest so-called local VC funds. Their feedback was blunt- “Drug quality control is the purview of the government. This idea makes no sense. If you get some traction come back.” In essence they did not believe in us at RxAll. Fast forward to 2019, now this same fund wants to invest in RxAll and claim they were there when it all started. If they had come in 3 years ago when we were struggling and we first approached them, their investment would have been up 1500% today. Where do people burn bridges and expect you to send a yacht?
In 2016, as we struggled with funding, we decided to build an ecommerce platform to distribute authenticated drugs. This platform was one of Africa’s first digital procurement platforms. Against all odds working in line with our mission of protecting the poorest most affected by fake drugs, we targeted the semi-urban regions of Western Nigeria outside Lagos and within months built a multi-million Naira drug distribution platform with 100+ pharmacies and hospitals. This platform helped sustain us, validate the RxAll drug testing platform and even helped fund the development of our second prototype of the RxScanner. We were able to get into Kenya in 2017 to launch the ecommerce platform and deploy this second prototype.
We incorporated a Kenya subsidiary, signed up 2 of the largest distributors and a number of pharmacies in Kenya before we rolled back due to renewed funding challenges.
By a stroke of luck as we struggled to keep alive , we secured new funding from Europe. The investors said ” this one idea of instant drug testing is so revolutionary and insane that it is likely to fail. But if it succeeds, these guys will be pioneering a new industry and will make it big”. These were Europeans who invested in us- in RxAll a company led by an African. And they invested in us despite knowing that our probability of success at the time was probably closer to 0 than 1. So when someone talks of racism- I know it exists- but my experience has been that it is often people who do not look like me who have done the most to support my mission.
This singular investment from Europe gave us the validation we so required. We were able to secure new tech partnerships, upgrade our prototype and launch the RxScanner platform commercially in October 2018- 3 years after I first pitched the idea at the Yale SOM Entrepreneurship Lab.
When some arm-chair critic serving the interest of a criminal drug syndicate who now just hearing about us because of awards we received years after the beginning, now tries to shoo away what we have achieved in order to drive traffic to his failing website, such a hater deserves no response. Such a crab deserves no attention and definitely deserves to inform the public which criminal syndicate is footing his bill to manufacture falsehoods. Such a person deserves his label- as a destroyer of the village square, one who would rather pull down because he is too envious, hateful and lazy to help build.
RxAll as a platform built on a hardware base required loads of upfront funding to stay alive. Usually most other hardware type startups receive government grants upfront. We were not afforded that luxury because we were targeting developing countries and seeking to solve a problem that many did not regard as a commercial opportunity. We were and are not some fly by night easy to replicate software website that is so common across Africa. What we have built comes from combined 40 years+ of PhD research of the RxAll team and its partners including more than 1000+ pitches (and rejections), and over 1 million combined team hours invested in R&D, product co-development, coding and commercialisation. And the work still continues to improve the platform, drive investor interest in this space while leading a global coalition to solve this huge global problem of substandard drugs that kills 1M people annually across the world. So when someone tries to belittle what we at RxAll have achieved in pioneering the in-situ drug checking industry across the developing world, that person should be rightly labeled as a crab and a loathsome hater.
And if you come for my team, then you cross the line. If you attack me, I grew up in Africa- I know how African haters act, I know how to manage them. But when you come after my team, that is a no-no. That is a red-line. There were Africans- some from some of the richest families- who I spoke to at Yale and Harvard when I first conceived RxAll. They know the disastrous state of healthcare in Africa after all their families often seek healthcare outside the continent. They know the pre-eminence of fake drugs on the continent. But what did they tell me, ” brilliant idea. good luck with it!”
My team was crazy to have joined me on this journey. Americans. Chinese. Danish. To come on this crazy idea of pioneering in-situ drug checking in Africa. The nay-sayers were like “high-tech is not for Africa- they cannot afford it. We will not invest.” My team said, “Ade we believe in you, let us trudge ahead.”. The nay-sayers said “if you pivot and focus on an application in the USA, we will invest.” My team said, “Ade we believe in you, we will fund it ourselves. You don’t have to pay us.” We were going broke. One of us offered to take on personal debt to keep us afloat. Between the cofounders we put in $40K+ of our savings in the platform. We were working across 6000 miles on multiple continents in several jobs at a time to fund RxAll. We were unpaid for 3 straight years working on RxAll and are still underpaid as we sacrifice to deliver on our mission. Some of us lost long-term relationships because we were working 22 hours-7 days a week and did not have time for anything else. Some of us had severe health breakdowns from the stress of delivering on our mission. My cofounders were crazy to join me on this journey. They are ivy-leaguers who have no business ordinarily with Africa or the developing world. But they saw the size of the problem, saw the opportunity but most importantly trusted me. They helped move my idea from just a focus on solving fake drugs in Nigeria to addressing a $9 trillion global problem of substandard drugs. Without them, there is no RxAll. For real. Without Amy, Ankur, and Wei- there is no RxAll. They can all get down to doing some other venture and do not have to put up with threats and vitriol from Africa because they are trying to support a do-good mission that benefits Africa. I also must commend our pioneer African staff- Pius and my Father -both of whom stayed with us through thick and thin- enduring steep wage cuts, investing in us and undertaking risky journeys across Africa. They serve as proof that there are many good Africans and I will never stop believing in the good of the African people even when some loathsome lazy armchair critic from some backward African country wants me to hate and stop serving my people.
At RxAll we stay focused on our mission, to save lives- especially the lives of the poor in the developing world and especially in Africa where the local elite would rather invest in money than in their own people. We will keep fighting for the right of the African to have access to good quality drugs.
We are proud of our pioneering role in creating the in-situ drug checking industry and pushing it to the mainstream. We acknowledge all other contributors as well. The RxAll platform has been well received in SE Asia, East Asia and many parts of Africa. A few hating, envious so-called African critic cannot stop our stride. We are still early on our journey and remain focused on making drugs safe across the world. If you are not helping us with our mission, get the hell out of our way. RxAll is more than a device or a platform. RxAll is an unstoppable global movement for safe drugs. We will succeed in making drugs safe for everyone across the world. Hating crabs and criminal fake drugs syndicates take note.