At last week’s MassChallenge Resolve Summit in Boston, our CEO Gildas Bah participated in a panel discussion about innovation ecosystems. Dr. Phil Budden, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, moderated the panel. During his talk, Gildas shared Zeleus and MassChallenge’s experience launching our career enhancement program in Benin this past July and revealed the inspiring story behind the program.
“We went back to Benin in October to meet with a network of people who had never heard about innovation through entrepreneurship, and it’s a foreign language to them. The large corporations – some of them are foreign – but very old school… they want to help, but they don’t know what to do. Then you have middle-size entrepreneurs who also need help but don’t know what they need or where to go for support.”
In Benin, traditional corporations find it hard to help entrepreneurs since they don’t understand the language of innovation. Gildas shared an example he encountered when asking for help in training 10,000 AI engineers: “One of them told me, ‘do you understand that there is no place on the planet where there are actually 10,000 AI engineers?’”
Gildas then revealed the hidden potential in Benin: “On every street, there’s somebody – young boys and girls – that love math. I was a math major, and I was average at math.” Recently, Zeleus launched a call for training to become AI engineers in Benin. In just two weeks, the program received 5,000 applications – validating that there is indeed a level of interest there to build on.
Gildas also pointed out the vast opportunities in Africa currently: “There are 2.5 billion people (soon to double over the next 20 years).” To help encourage entrepreneurship in the region, Zeleus announced the launch of ZeleusCap – a venture fund to help bridge the gap between potential entrepreneurs and investors.
The panel discussion was inspiring, and Gildas effectively highlighted the importance of connecting innovative thinking with partnerships to create meaningful change.
If you are interested in joining us to support startups in Benin and beyond, please get in touch!