The Publicity-Shy Entrepreneur Unleashing Innovation in Angolan Slums
I first heard about the Innovation Prize for Africa in 2012, when my Nigerian friend Julius Akinyemi, an entrepreneur-in-residence at the MIT Media Lab told me about his involvement with the prize as well as with the Zurich-based African Innovation Foundation, the organisation behind the prize. ‘You have to find a way to meet Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais,’ Julius told me. ‘You and he have a lot in common.’
Having found out that he started the African Innovation Foundation in 2009 with a mission to ‘unleash Africa’s dormant potential and support sustainable projects that improve the lives and the future of people in Africa,’ I started asking various people, mostly my African entrepreneur friends, about Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais.
I was told that he was a controversial, enigmatic, publicity-shy Swiss-Angolan businessman who began his career as a management consultant and eventually made a fortune in technology, banking and real estate businesses while in his thirties. Now 49, he runs a multi-national conglomerate that spans several high-growth industries from Switzerland to Angola and beyond.
Organising the TRUE Africa interview itself was no easy task, because we discovered several layers of protection around Bastos, who tends to stick to a small group of advisors, including Pauline Mujawamariya, a Rwandan-American dynamo of a lady who runs the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA). I caught up with Jean-Claude via Skype on December 5th, the day after I met his communications advisor Walid El Alaoui Mrani in Lomé.
Walid had flown to Lomé, the city where I was born, where he announced, on stage as we were about to give the grand prizes for this year’s edition of our Forum of Young Entrepreneurs that the total prize money for the IPA 2017 was US$150,000, including $100,000 for the first prize. Walid encouraged our young Togolese entrepreneurs to apply, noting the fact that in 2014,