Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais is the Founder and Innovation Influencer at the African Innovation Foundation, whose stated purpose is to increase the prosperity of Africans by catalyzing the spirit of innovation.
Jean-Claude is of Swiss-Angolan heritage, having been born and raised in Fribourg, Switzerland. His affinity for entrepreneurship saw him enter the startup scene while he was still in university with a micro-mergers and acquisitions business that specialized in the evaluation, due diligence, acquisition and sale of small enterprises in the hairdressing, beauty and carpentry space.
“I’ve always believed that innovation-led entrepreneurship is crucial to Africa’s growth and development", Jean-Claude explains. "It drives economic opportunity and has the potential to equalize wealth distribution across all segments of society, and it holds the key to speeding up economic diversification and job creation, which is a priority for many African nations where youth are the predominant demographic.”
Founded in 2009, the African Innovation Foundation has three flagship programs under it, namely:
- The African Law Library, a free one-stop online portal and database for resources in business, government, and civil society.
- The Innovation Prize for Africa, which rewards African innovators for the work that they are doing to grow the ecosystem. Applications for the 2017 prize are currently open.
- The Social Impact Program for Angola, which was set up to solve pressing social problems via socially responsible solutions and collaborations.
“Innovation is vital to the overall economic divergence mix for African nations", Jean-Claude says further. "There are many layers to this. Some schools of thought believe that technology and leapfrogging can't work in Africa because of poor infrastructure, and concentrating on building this infrastructure will divert vital funds required for more basic needs such as healthcare, education, water, and food supplies.”
“In Angola", he continues, "we built Fábrica de Sabão, the country’s first hybrid innovation hub on land owned by a subsidiary of the Angolan sovereign wealth fund (FSDEA). It comprises of incubator and accelerator hubs, co-working and maker spaces, a cultural exchange platform, local radio station and a residence program for visiting mentors and artists. Fábrica de Sabão is an ecosystem to foster innovation-led education, creativity, and entrepreneurship among Angolans, including marginalized slum communities who are highly resourceful and eager to learn.”
Jean-Claude at the Fábrica de Sabão hub in Angola
Jean-Claude says that his dual heritage has had a significant influence on the work he does. “My background has been a major influence on who I am today", he explains. "Growing up as a Swiss-Angolan, I’ve experienced a culturally rich upbringing and inherited many traits from both sides of my family. A combination of African wisdom and Swiss ambition have shaped my business and philanthropic goals."
"My late Angolan grandmother was a great pillar of support", he says in conclusion. "In fact, the African Innovation Foundation, which I founded in 2009, is a result of a promise I made to her to give back to Africa when my time came. Now when I look back, I see that I am fortunate to be able to use the success that I’ve worked hard to achieve, to play a part, however small, in Africa’s progress.”