Senegalese-born entrepreneur Magatte Wade could feel herself growing more unpopular by the minute. She was sharing what she sees as the only remedy for the debilitating poverty of Africa: capitalism and free-markets.

Uh-oh. This was not the message her United Nations audience had come to hear. But Wade preaches it with conviction born of experience. “We don’t need people to come with aid and secondhand clothing or any of that stuff. We don’t,” she says.

“If we are going to tackle Africa’s problems in a serious and sustainable way, we have to get serious about the business climate that is offered to citizens of African countries,” she says.

In her writing, Wade has advised the continent’s aspiring benefactors to “transcend their romance with foreign aid and microfinance, and begin to take seriously investing in African manufacturing and purchasing products made in Africa.”

“We don’t need people to come with aid and secondhand clothing,” she says. “If we are going to tackle Africa’s problems in a serious and sustainable way, we have to get serious about the business climate that is offered to citizens of African countries.”

This isn’t theoretical for Wade. A self-described “serial entrepreneur,” Wade can detail the hurdles that African law sets up for entrepreneurs. Despite these obstacles, however, in 2004, Wade founded Adina World Beat Beverages, which sold coffee, tea and hibiscus-based beverages, and racked up revenues of nearly $3.2 million before she sold the company. The drinks were sold at Whole Foods and Wegman’s.

Her latest project is a company called Skin Is Skin, which sells organic lip balms from ingredients in Senegal. Natural ingredients include coconut oil, shea butter (“good enough for Cleopatra,” according to the product website), castor seed (“grannie’s cure for almost every ailment”), hibiscus, and baobab. Soaps and essential oils will be available soon.

Wade, 43, divides her time between Senegal and Austin, Texas, where she lives with her husband Michael Strong, who with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is coauthor of “Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems.” In 2003, Mackey and Strong founded an organization called FLOW—Strong’s intriguing title is Chief Visionary Officer—which “is dedicated to liberating the entrepreneurial spirit for good and focusing it on creating sustainable peace, prosperity, and happiness for all, in our lifetime.” One can only imagine the dinner table conversation at the Wade-Strong house!

Before Magatte left Senegal to join her parents in Europe, around the age of eight, her grandmother prepared her, saying, “You can be impressed if you want, but you cannot be intimidated by it.”

Magatte spent her early years in the village of M’bour, Senegal’s Atlantic coast. Shortly after she was born, Magatte’s parents left home to find work in Europe. Magatte was cared for by her maternal grandmother. She told Forbes magazine that she had “spent my days leading packs of boys on fun and adventure filled little hunting and fishing expeditions.” Her grandmother was a gardener who sold her vegetables in the market.

“For me, those are fond, fond, fond memories,” Magatte says. “During that period of time, I developed a very strong sense of independence and sense of self-agency in terms of who I am and what I can accomplish in the world.” She believes her grandmother is responsible for this.

Before Magatte left Senegal to join her parents in Europe, around the age of eight, her grandmother prepared her, saying, “You can be impressed if you want, but you cannot be intimidated by it.” She went first to Germany, but then the family settled in France. France was a natural home since Senegal had been a French colony and the family spoke French. Magatte’s father, who had been a chef at a fancy restaurant in Senegal, had become a CPA, while her mother worked as director of hospitality at a luxury hotel. Magatte hadn’t gone to school (grandmother was lenient about some things) or worn shoes regularly before she left Senegal. She received her education in Germany and France.

After a Senegalese village upbringing, Magatte was initially stunned by the relative prosperity of Europe. “You want to go shower?” she says. “Well, you know what? You step into this shower and then you turn the faucet on, and the water comes down. Where, back home, we would have to fill up buckets and things like that before. If it’s cold outside, during the cold months or cold evenings, well, first, you have to wait for grandma to warm the water.”

Magatte did not take this ease and prosperity for granted. It presented an intellectual challenge to her. She was driven to figure out why things were so different in Europe. “You’re starting to put two and two together,” she recalls, “and then eventually the question becomes: Why is my country poor while other countries are rich? This became a question that obsessed me.”

In her writing, Wade has advised the continent’s aspiring benefactors to “transcend their romance with foreign aid and microfinance, and begin to take seriously investing in African manufacturing and purchasing products made in Africa.”

Meanwhile, Magatte pursued studies in business. She spent the last year of school on an exchange program in Indiana. Over her family’s objections, she returned to the United States almost immediately after graduation to work in Indiana for friends, her college exchange program host family, who owned an auto parts and service company. Wade did accounting and worked in the marketing department, and loved it. “People say that America is a place where anyone can be anything,” she once told an interviewer. “To me it wasn’t a cliché. It was really how it felt.”

After Indiana, Wade moved to San Francisco and worked as a talent scout for several Silicon Valley start-ups. San Francisco is where Wade started Adina World Beat Beverages and started another company Tiossan, the predecessor to Skin Is Skin, which also sold luxury skin care projects with ingredients from Senegal.

“Eventually,” Magatte says, “it became clear to me that you are poor because you have no money and that jobs are the source of income for most of us. Where do jobs come from? Jobs come from businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. It seems simple when I say it now. But it was an amazing insight.”

She continues, “It is amazing to me how the outer world, the mainstream world, and those who claim to care about Africa never talk about this. They never do. Take the Millennium Development Goals, or now they’re calling them the Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs of the U.N., 17 goals. Most of those goals are a direct consequence of poverty.” The SDG goals focus on improving access to clean water and food, and even gender parity, a piecemeal approach rather than focusing on the overall project of making Africa more hospitable to business and entrepreneurship.

“It’s a direct consequence of poverty if somebody does not have enough money to get those things for themselves,” says Magatte. “Who doesn’t have access to clean water? It’s somebody who doesn’t have enough money to get clean water.”

Many African countries rejected capitalism and free markets because they associated it with colonialism. “So, you see how at that point, at the crucial, crucial time of our existence and our journey, we picked the wrong fork in the road,” Magatte says.

She says, “The minute I made the connection between reducing poverty and creating prosperity and entrepreneurship, I became a preacher and evangelist for free markets. That is how we build prosperity and enjoy the good things that come with it.”

Wade is put off by the implied condescension in Western attempts to “help” the poor African. She wrote in her Guardian column: “I prefer the humanity of a tough business person in a negotiation in which he or she is trying to make a deal. While there are jerks out there, I want to be engaged in relationships with people who believe that I’m worth struggling with, not just pitying. If you approach me with a worldview in which you are privileged and I need your help, there is no possibility of an authentic relationship. You may as well see yourself as the master and me as the slave.”

Many African countries rejected capitalism and free markets, Magatte says, because they associated it with colonialism. “So, you see how at that point, at the crucial, crucial time of our existence and our journey, we picked the wrong fork in the road,” Magatte says. “We decided as we were becoming free from outside rule, we chose the road of statism for most of these Sub-Saharan African countries. And I don’t have to give you a lesson on where statism leads. It led us to where we are today. There’s no mystery about that.”

Magatte’s mission is to change that. She works towards this through her business and a kind of free market evangelism. She explains to people why it is so hard to start businesses in Africa and what must be done to change this. Tariffs, regulations and heavily centrist legal systems make starting a business in Africa a nightmare.

“I know some of these rules actually better than some of these customs people,” Magatte says. “When you have to research them because you are trying to do business, you start to develop some very good understanding of what’s really going on. So, it gives me a chance to really speak about it from a place of authority, better than if it were some World Bank economist coming and telling people that the business climate in Senegal is really bad.”

Magatte Wade’s message of free markets versus aid projects is still considered counterintuitive to many, but she is a powerful advocate for her beliefs and her native country. Whether in TED talks, her numerous public appearances, newspaper columns, or simply the way she has chosen to lead her life, it’s clear that Magatte has followed her grandmother’s advice never to be intimidated–and as a result she is helping to make a better world.