That is how I stumbled on Corneille Towendo. I checked his profile because we had a lot of mutual friends and I saw something that ignited my interest: “Fondateur et hôte à EntrepreneurEnAction.com“. I am very fascinated with young Africans behind meaningful initiatives, so I sent him a friend request… which was welcomed with a kind message. And there started our conversation and the first draft of this article.
The very first question I asked was: What is Entrepreneur En Action, why does it exist? His answer was very clear:
“EntrepreneurEnAction.com is a Blog and Podcast where I interview African Entrepreneurs who created their business here in Africa. I am selecting the Entrepreneurs who are making waves, which means people already know them, they are social, you can meet them at conferences and you can see that their business is moving. These interviews I do are audio, so you can download them easily on your phone or PC or you can listen to them from the website easily just by clicking the play button. The goal is to inspire young people from French speaking African countries and show them that their big brothers are making it in Africa, so it’s possible for them also to make it here, in Africa.”
I was impressed with this guy talking to a complete stranger, telling her about his initiative and making her literally fall in love with it. His approach is very unusual in Francophone Africa. I am a great consumer of podcasts so I am well placed to say they have a very positive impact in one’s life, but I had never heard of African podcasts. It was a very pleasant discovery.
What is important about Entrepreneur En Action is it encourages people to think out of the box. It is true that In French speaking African countries some people start making the difference and entrepreneurship is on the rise, but the majority still think of employment only as working in multinational companies. A successful career is to end at the top management of a well established company.
We still do not have it in ourselves to go a different way, to follow a different path. Besides, we have few examples of successful people from our countries who studied in local universities or elsewhere in Africa, opened a business from scratch and thrived. Most of the time, it is African people coming from Europe or America after studying or living there who are entrepreneurs.
The fear of failure is a major obstacle to entrepreneurship. It is the first reason why people never try. They think their background is not good enough or they do not have enough money to start anything whatsoever.
Entrepreneur En Action is THE platform every young African coming from a French speaking country should know about. The people interviewed by Corneille are African people living and thriving in Africa. Some of them have always lived in Africa and studied there such as Sadibou Sow of AfriqueITNews.com and INAOTA, a 33 years old Senegalese who studied in South Africa. Some made a profession out of their passion, as it is the case with Corinne Erambert. She created Les ateliers de cuisine de Corinne, a business specialized in cooking workshops.
As a Cameroonian, I definitely had to mention Christian Ngan of Madlyn Cazalis, a natural cosmetic brand. It is quite unusual to see an African man build his empire on beauty products, but he did and he is successful in his work. He was on Forbes list of the 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa for two years in a row, in 2014 and 2015.
Women are not lagging behind when it comes to entrepreneurship. They find a way to juggle between family and work, as explained by Dr Valerie Quenum Ndiaye of Esteval, a fruit juice brand. She said in her interview that sometimes she has sacrifices to make to be productive in her work and/or be there for her family.
Most of the businesses of the entrepreneurs interviewed on Entrepreneurs En Action highly depend on the Internet, the digital space. They are adapting it to their own needs, to the needs of African people and to the needs of the various African markets. Those who are in food or cosmetic industries promote and process African products. They all have a common goal: the development of African countries and Africa as a continent.
The entrepreneurs interviewed share key information with Corneille: their background, their routine, their best and worst moments as entrepreneurs (some of them failed miserably before success), inspiring books they read and their strengths and weaknesses as entrepreneurs. The two words almost all of them used to explain how they made it was Patience and Perseverance.
I have to admit that the podcast I liked the most among the 31 interviews on Corneille’s website is the one with Nicolas Bussard, the one behind SkilledAfricans (and several other companies), the first Pan African professional social network. First of all, his professional career is impressive (Phd in Mathematics at 24, created dozens of companies…), but what impressed me the most is his work as a motivational speaker. He gave what I think is the best piece of advice to young entrepreneurs: “Money should never be one of the goals. A company is created to fulfill a specific need. Money is nothing but the reward of those doing a great job”.
Corneille himself is a great example to follow.The young man from Benin and Togo who lives in Senegal realized that entrepreneurs from English speaking African countries were under the spotlight while those from French speaking countries were not well known, even from people from their countries. He created a podcast and a website to share, totally free of charge, key information from successful people to inspire fellow Africans. He dedicates his time and efforts to his initiative, Entrepreneur En Action, for young people like him. Apart from his confidence and conviction in what he is doing, the most beautiful thing about Corneille is he works not to get anything, but to give everything.
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