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Zandir Santos: We will be left with nothing

· Social Impact Invest

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 3:

Zandir Santos is an exception in this series of interviews. Where others appear in this series because of their involvement in a startup or innovative initiative, I wanted to speak to Zandir because of his views on important issues within Cape Verdean society.

He became well known through his videos and statements last year, regarding customs in Cape Verde's ports. He used his personal FB page to distribute his message and asked people to boycot the organisation. A while back he posted a new video talking about another very serious issue. This time his concern is about the future of (young) Cape Verdeans within their own country.

(Since I spoke to Zandir he has created another important video about the proliferation of Chinese shops in Mindelo, the capital city of the island of São Vicente, Cape Verde. Within a few days, the video has close to 100,000 views.)

Why do you create these videos highlighting your concern about the economic plight of Cape Verdean in Cape Verde?

I make these videos because I want to address some of the injustice I see around me. Not everyone has the courage or the ability to make themselves heard. Sometimes people lack the platform for this.

That latest video was I created because I’ve seen it happen so many times now. Both in Praia and Mindelo, stores are closing which are then taken over by Chinese. Of course the issue here is not that they are Chinese, but it’s about the situation we’re in today. A Cape Verdean store owner can not compete with them because of the exemptions they receive, and the support they get from their own government.

I speak up because I’m very worried about the future of our country.

If we continue this way, even those who are yet to be born will only have the option of becoming a laborer in the country. We can’t let this happen, we need to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Our government makes it all so incredibly difficult.

A people that do not control their own economy, in their own country, have nothing.

What is the role you see for the diaspora in this all?

The fact that Cape Verde has become a better country is because of our Immigrants. We live in an expensive country, where people have low incomes. Immigrants have been doing a lot for Cape Verde ever since the first people left Brava for the US. Such a big part of Cape Verde’s GDP depends on our emigrants.

I do think it is time to change a couple of things. We should not continue to support those who don’t support us. Politicians need to know that we want to see improvement. For this to happen, we need to take of our ‘jerseys’. I’m Party A, or I’m Party B should be a thing of the past. I believe the diaspora has so much influence in all of this.

What can politicians do to improve the situation?

One of the things the government can do is rent out subsidized commercial spaces for a few years to support and motivate Cape Verdean entrepreneurs. There is a building here in Mindelo that would be perfect for this type of initiative. It could be turned into a mall. Something needs to happen. People can’t improve their lives with the salaries that are being paid here.

Why not support our own people? Using the subsidies and exemptions that are available to others.

Our government is not doing enough currently. That’s why this fight is so important. If you ask me, we are facing an anti-Cape Verdean policy, and this is a huge problem for the development of our country. Those same politicans get to enjoy all these exemptions and benefits they deny their people…

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