For a while now I've been impressed by the development of the Cape Verdean tech & start-up scene. I was interested in hearing a few stories, and wanted to understand both the motivation and challenges. In this series of interviews I'm speaking to young (start-up) entrepreneurs in Cape Verde. Despite challenging circumstances they are able to discover solutions and bring these to the market. Products that can create a better society. This is part 11:
Company Name: Cabo SL & Manutenção Adrião
Interview with: Elvio Rosa
Location: Porto Inglês, Maio
Problem/Solution: Creating jobs on the island of Maio
From the start of this series I had the intention of speaking to entrepreneurs/founders of different islands. I didn't establish certain rules for the series. It would also be great to connect to and speak with entrepreneurs outside of the tech & startup scene. As I said before, this allows me to understand the challenges on different islands, across different sectors. Hopefully I can do a good job when it comes to communicating these challenges and problems the entrepreneurs face as well.
The scope of the Sonvela Social Impact Investing project goes further than just the tech & startup scene in Cape Verde. Yes, the focus will be on this 'sector' first. In my opinion it's one of the most important factors of the development of our country for the future, and there's a huge opportunity for the diaspora to contribute to that development.
But the plan is to also set up a fund for micro- and small businesses who can apply with Sonvela for funding to start or expand their own business. It might be a street vendor looking to invest a small amount to strengthen the business which allows him or her to provide for the family. I'm convinced that within this group of entrepreneurs the amounts that they generally need to make significant changes can be very small. The big problem here is that this group is excluded by traditional lenders such as banks.
These interviews are important because they help us to understand what the situation is like on different islands. When it comes to tech & startup companies, the fact that they don't exist on some of our islands create an even bigger opportunity for the future. Take the islands Sal and Boa Vista for example. Thanks to the Tourism industry and all of the (foreign) investments of recent years, many Cape Verdeans have been able to find work here. But, in contrary to the cities Praia and Mindelo, the tech scene here is either very small or just difficult to trace.
A tech & startup scene on these islands, with the possibilities that tourism provides, offers a huge and interesting opportunity to solve problems for a market that is a lot bigger than that of the local population. A subject for another day, but definitely one to think about.
This is what Elvio Rosa did when he founded Cabo SL. The company focuses on providing services within Maio's growing Tourism sector. Despite his young age Elvio is a man with a lof of experience and he is a very ambitious person.
My interesting conversation with Elvio started with the fact that he did not finish High School at first. A subject that I love talking about, because I've always believed in other paths to success other than through the traditional route. This is another group in which you can find incredible talent in Cape Verde, but they usually don't stand a chance against a system that has declared the educational system to be the holy grail.
Elvio, please introduce yourself to us.
"I was born and raised in the city of Porto Inglês, on the island of Maio. My parents are from Calheta and Moro, the 'inland' as we say here. I'm the co-founder of Maio Bio Diversidade, and owner of the companies Cabo SL and Manutenção Adrião."
"I left school without getting my degree, and joined the army. After that I became a Fireman and later worked for City Hall. In the past I also was the representant on the island for Tmais."
"Manutenção Adrião focuses on maintenance for vehicles, but we also offer different types of (administrative) services. I started the company because when I worked at the airport I could see there was a lack of good processes, such as with invoicing. Take an independent plumber for example. The services he provides to companies need to be officially invoiced, according to certain rules."
"We have been acting as an agency in these type of situations since 2014, and have added new services to our offering."
"It's difficult to say how many jobs I've been able to create through my companies. In all these years I've mainly hired people temporarily, on a project basis. When I have a painting job that needs to be done, I look for the guys who can help me with it. But I have to admit it has been a good number of people. At the moment I'm working with 7 people, including a few interns as well."
What are the challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
"The life of an entrepreneur is one big challenge. But the biggest challenges are the enormous bureaucracy and the lack of investments."
"When it comes to bureaucracy, a few months ago we had to fill in some paperwork for government support because of the lockdown. It's one of those things you can see coming. They reject our application because one document is missing. Which one? Proof of diminished income. While the whole island was in lockdown! I really wonder why people work this way."
"Decisions are not taken here on the island. Things have to go through Praia. I've been waiting for an answer on an issue regarding Maio Bio Diversidade for 3 months now."
"A few things in my businesses need to be replaced. I would like to innovate, but the market is not doing good at the moment. I'd like to invest in new tools, among others. There's talk of a new investor coming to the island. This would be very good news."
What do you think needs to change?
"The current policy needs some changes. The government says it wants to support (young) entrepreneurs, but when it comes to it you really can't count on them. With Cabo SL we saw a big opportunity, something that was lacking in this market. We finally receive a license to start working, and participate 3 or 4 times in a City Hall Concurso Publico (a public tender), by writing up a proposal. It's very frustrating when you don't hear anything about it after that."
"I don't understand why we don't get the chance to work on projects here with people that are from the island. Why does it have to be companies from Praia? Yes, these companies hire local people when they come here to work on projects. But to really build the economy of the island we need the companies to be from here as well."
"Politicians don't show any support or offer opportunities to grow. We can contribute to this market but when every job is attributed through a Concurso Publico it's makes things very difficult. It's not an entirely wrong model, but the standards do exclude young companies from entering which makes it impossible for them to grow."
"It's not fair that for services such as Security the same standards apply everywhere. You can't compare the situation in Praia to that of our island, it just doesn't make any sense. All these things make it impossible for us to compete with larger companies. If you ask me, they should always give local companies an opportunity."
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