Written by Yunong from China House
Translated by VOCO
What were you busy with when you were eighteen? School? ? Going to your favorite idol’s concert? idols?
Today, I’d like to introduce a boy to you. When he joined China House and introduced himself, his experience greatly impressed f the community members:
“I am currently doing several projects in Africa, from agriculture to industry to energy, step by step, and revitalizing the project luckily. The biggest achievement is to provide many jobs to Africans. We select projects without concerning any returns, but contributions to the society and the people.”
He’s not even 20 years old but has already become a “big boss” in Africa. You may ask, “What encouraged and motivated him?
After reading this story, I hope you can find the answer.
What do you think an 18-year-old boy can do?
When Leo went to Africa for the first time, he was not even 18 years old.
He bought a ticket without informing his parents beforehand, and with the “threat” that the refund fee would be too expensive, he managed to set off on the African continent alone.
In less than two years, he tried projects in Zimbabwe – he has done projects related to the organic food trade, gold mining, soap factory, and organic fertilizer.
It’s normal if you are shocked by Leo’s story. His partners were also stunned when Leo put out his ID card – “Born in 1999? Well, I’m 30 years older than you.”
Being a real friend to Africans
“The first project I did was to try to sell Zimbabwean avocados to China.” He gestures as he says, “The avocados over there are as big as my face! They are delicious and organic.”
However, aimed at the potential of China’s organic food market, Leo did not expect that avocado could not even be brought on planes and shipped to China.
Later, he tried the local cereal, juice, and finally, all stuck in the custom, lost more than 10,000 yuan, which is all the money he got. “I had to ask my mom for another month’s living expenses.” Leo laughs.
Leo was raised by his parents when he was young. His favorite adventure and exploration cartoons — Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in which the merchants engaged in the pepper trade in the Middle East — gave him an early motivation to venture into the world. His obsession began when Leo met a 30-year-old Zimbabwean who came to China for graduate school. They chatted so pleasantly that Leo began to ask himself: Why not go and see Africa himself?
This time, however, his family denied his plan firmly. Leo had to secretly buy the ticket and told his parents that the refund fee is more than 2,000 yuan, and let them compromise.
During ten days in Africa, he saw a very different Africa from his expectation and imagination– Zimbabwe was experiencing inflation and soaring unemployment(reaching 90%). However, the data differed from reality.
“You would find that the whole country is thriving with hope.” The literacy rate is now 90 percent, almost the same as in China, Leo said.
He saw children dressed in neat Western school uniforms and ties after school; He saw unemployed adults gathering and dancing. The local woman, who had never seen a Chinese before, saw Leo and gave him a big hug.
“Africans are different from what we think, different from what I thought before. We have stereotypes toward Africans that they steal and they are lazy, but after I went there, I found that they are kind at heart.” In this Christian country, people don’t let themselves do anything immoral because of their religion, even smoking, drinking, and lying are not allowed. Leo had even left $20,000 in cash temporarily in the area without any contractual agreement as a guarantee, and the money was still safe right now.
On his third trip to Zimbabwe, Leo received baptism in the largest church in front of thousands of people. “The locals have taught me a lot about the Bible, but I think I probably believe in the positive side of the world not only because of the faith itself but also because I know this group of people who have this faith.”
Leo told us about his godfather – the champion grower of wheat, corn, and three other crops throughout Southern Africa – who never got his hands on the profitable tobacco plantation because of his faith. Keep in mind that 90 percent of China’s cigarettes were purified from Zimbabwean tobacco.
In this church that brought people from all fields in the area together, people started to approach Leo with all kinds of problems. Some people had problems with their student visas and asked him to help them check them out, and he also helped people open a soap factory. “It’s as if I’ve become a little incubator,” Leo says, laughing.
“They bring something to me, and I’m correspondingly eager to provide help to them. Besides, people will only accept you friendly if you’re willing to do something for them.”
At the age of 20, with a 40 years old mind
With firm ideas and the experience learned from his first failed project, Leo realized that it was impossible for a few college students to change a country. So, he tried to find new opportunities.
“Many people suggested I target on resources in Africa, and I thought, ‘Africa has a lot of resources, so what is the best resource to get?’ Surprisingly, the answer was gold.” Leo says, “I was so excited and looked for people to discuss it, and some of my friends said, ‘Are you crazy to dig god in Africa? Why don’t you go to Mars and build a house?“
Leo searched all kinds of information and found that Zimbabwe’s gold industry did have great potential for development. He visited professional forums, made a preliminary proposal, and even went to the Zimbabwean Embassy in China to see if the information he found about gold mining was true.
In addition, this rash young man went straight to the embassy. “At that time do not even know the responsibility of the counselor. In the embassy, they asked me who I want to meet. I thought about the titles I know in the embassy and only knew “ambassador”, so I said ‘ I want to see the ambassador!’ .” Leo said, laughing.
He didn’t know that the ambassador was nearby him at that time, and the ambassador asked him, “What do you want to do?” Leo, who had no idea, said directly, “To talk about things.” It wasn’t until they met again in the conference room that Leo realized him as the ambassador himself, and that’s how their friendship began.
Leo has now become a regular visitor to the Zimbabwean Embassy in China. Just last weekend, he visited the embassy with his new project team and talked with three ministers from Zimbabwe. The ambassador told him, “It’s not because you brought friends from seven countries that you can meet the ministers. It’s because of you. Because we believe in your ability to make things happen.“
Once, an important Zimbabwe Mining Investment Forum target to professionals in the industry was held in Beijing. Leo, as a student, was not eligible to register to attend, so he went to the embassy and managed to convince the ambassador to attend the meeting so that he can attend as the ambassador’s “secretary”.
The forum gathered many international companies and Leo met the vice president from one of the top three American mining consulting firms, who later became his partner.
Interestingly, the co-organizers of this mission were the China Mining Federation, the Hong Kong International Mining Association, and Li Qiuwen himself. He became the youngest mission leader ever, and with the cooperation of the Ministry of Mines and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Zimbabwe, he was able to accomplish his mission triumphantly and attract the attention of investors.
Now, Leo’s gold mining project has been running smoothly in Zimbabwe and can produce more than one hundred grams of gold in two weeks, which is a relatively significant return. But he hardly saves the money but uses the proceeds to continue investing in new projects.
Leo saw many local mineral resources, but since lack of management and technical experience, there were many problems such as unsustainable exploitation of resources and frequent mining accidents. Now Leo is trying to solve these problems for the local people by providing training and guidance to the locals in management and technology. He also cultivates a group of people with experience that can continue to lead and teach new people. Now his management team has about 20 people, and there are only 3 Chinese.