NOMINEE BUSINESS INNOVATOR, YOUTH DEVELOPMENT, LIFETIME CONTRIBUTION AWARDS
LIFETIME CONTRIBUTION AWARD
“I believe the future of Africa does not lie in its old and flawed
relationship with Europe. It lies in the new and deep relationship it
will build with China.“
JX Paulin – Letter to my mother, July 1994, Shanghai- China
I am a Togolese entrepreneur who has spent 23 years working in China,
where I have grown and led successful businesses in my adoptive city,
China and Africa’s cultures are closer than each part tends to
believe. We share similar values towards family, honor, respect, and
have many positive things we can learn from each other. During my 23
years of interactions with my Chinese friends, colleagues and staff, I
always did my best to lead by example and show them the positive
narrative and pride about being Black and African. Yes, we are
hardworking. Yes, we can learn from each other and yes, we can be
In 2004, after a career as an executive in various industries, I
teamed up with a Chinese partner to create DBX International, a Design
& Build firm specialized in commercial spaces. What started as a
2-person startup reached 130 staff and 15 million USD revenues within
5 years, and became an industry leader catering to Fortune 100’s
companies. Being the only Black person in this industry in Shanghai
has never been a disadvantage for me. On the contrary, I played it as
an edge, enrolling my staff and clients into my Black & Chinese Power
mindset, and it worked. Our commitment to bring design and quality
above all led us to receive praises from FMI’s director Christine
Lagarde, when she was touring one of DBX’s project in China.
I am really proud that we have created – directly and indirectly- over
600 jobs, inspired Chinese to seek excellence and advise from a Black
person, and changed the lives of many.
In 2010, with over 15 years of hands-on experience in China, I’ve
decided to bring my expertise back to Africa. Having deepened my
knowledge in real estate, I started to advise governments and private
companies in Liberia, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire and Uganda about how
successfully develop, build and promote real estate projects. Over
there, I am amicably called “the Chinese” by my African counterparts,
which is a true testimony of my longevity in China and my commitment
to bring the best out of both parts. During each of my trips to
Africa, I make sure that I meet students and inspire them to think
outside the box and reach for the Asian path.
Back in Shanghai, my friends and I founded the ChinAfrica Rendez-vous
in 2016. It’s a business gathering where we invite private Chinese
companies and individuals, introduce the business side of Africa, and
give a real positive narrative about our fantastic continent. We
highlight winning strategies and main issues that Chinese companies
have faced so far. Real Estate, ICT, Light manufacturing etc…we aim at
pushing a pro-business agenda that will benefit Africa’s image.
Now 44, I would be honored to receive the Lifetime Contribution Award,
so that my story and commitment towards holding our colors high can
inspire more young Africans.
BUSINESS INNOVATOR AWARD
Together, Growing Together, Succeeding Together! ”
During my many trips to Africa and speechs to students, I noticed a
shocking commonality across each major blocks (Francophone, Anglophone
and Arabophone): students tremendously lacking up-to-date knowledge.
In Gabon, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, I visited universities’ libraries
filed with books from 1920’s, decades old scientific reviews, no
digital content, no computer room etc. That led me to found Mysimax, a
tech venture targeting education via technological means, for Africa.
Africa has over 12 million university students, whom will likely lead
the future middle class. The vast majority lacks access to up-to-date
knowledge, and we lack understanding about them. If we manage to
create a platform where students can be rewarded for their
intelligence, I reckoned, we would improve general knowledge and open
a fantastic door towards Africa’s future middle-class. Right now,
no-one cares about who they are, as no outsider cared about Chinese
students 15 years ago. But soon, investors will be pouring millions
into trying to figure out how Africa’s middle class think.
In early 2016, we created VINPE.org, a web-platform dedicated to bring
up-to-date knowledge to African university students. VINPE stands for
Values, INtelligence, Progress and Economy, and is
pro-entrepreneurship. VINPE is powered by an algorithm that rewards
the students for their smart comments & ideas, encouraging them to win
more points and download more intelligent contents. It’s a first in
In June 2016, VINPE demo was handpicked with 11 other Chinese-bound
projects to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the yearly
event sponsored by the US State department, where 700 carefully
selected innovative entrepreneurial projects met in Silicon Valley.
In October 2016, we launched VINPE.org’s pilot in Cameroon, one of
Africa’s toughest market to crack. We bring our VINPERS (our members)
up-to-date knowledge in 12 categories ranging from business to
agriculture or architecture and have coaches who give them advises and
inspiration. VINPERS receive Viz – our currency – each time they make
a smart post/comments/ideas. They can use their Viz to access our
V-Shop and acquire greater knowledge, and so on. Their brain is the
only currency they need!
The innovative bet seems to be paying off: in the first 6 months and
with no advertising, VINPE pilot has grew to reach over 25,000
members, 100 times more than any other similar platforms. Students
from other African nations are also joining the Community, using
word-of-mouth to enroll. It’s a promising pilot!
VINPE is also ruled by strong ethics and Code of conduct, which
promote meritocracy, self-confidence, respect of all genders and
religions, and pan-Africanism. Beside being revolutionary for the
African students, VINPE is a bold innovation against mainstream social
medias that are pushing our youth into the dangerous path of idle
entertainment, voyeurism and intellectual laziness.
Our next step is to build a full VINPE platform on a pan-African scale
and bring more Chinese and African-based contents, thus creating a
sort of “educative WeChat”.
I would be grateful to receive the award for the Business Innovator of
the Year on behalf of my team and everyone who supported this daring