Africa Economy

Here’s a 19-year-old Mining Gold in Africa Part II

By Yunong from China House

He believes that local people can not learn from those broad projects with hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the small amount of capital, management, and technology self-sufficient operation model that he launched can give practical guidance for the locals.

Conducting inspections at local mining sites

During management, Leo applied the KPI system to motivate the employees, trained the technical and accounting staff to improve their work efficiency and reduce loss, and also thoughtabout “localized management” based on the cultural background and personality characteristics of local people.

Leo has even given a name to the localized management trategy he developed and is writing research articles. “Since you want to go abroad, you have to be localized. It makes very little sense if Chinese managers only use “the hands” of the locals.”

When talking about various business projects and management experience, Leo is like a professional and experienced businessman.  Those businessmen who worked with Leo but are 20 to 30 years older than him often tease him, more envious of him having social experience in management, socialization, entrepreneurship at such a young age.

Since Leo knows what he wants to do, he doesn’t waste time on what other people often consider as “important” – when everyone is taking the CET, Leo was happy to use the washing machine in his dorm room which was rarely unoccupied. “Because I know I don’t need these paper proofs for my English skills,” Leo says.

And from some “great friends,” he learned to take 1-2 hours per week to review and reflect on the choices he made this week. “I don’t set DDL (deadline) for myself anymore, because I can never finish all my To-Dos on time. I only set Priority for myself, and if Priority is not finished, I won’t care about the coming DDLs.”

“I am willing to grow with them.”

Maybe you already want to call Leo “boss” -how can a teenager under 20 years old do this?

Actually, Leo was once confused when he first entered college, studying hard and maintaining good grades.

“But I realized that that’s not what I want. Everyone was infighting for one test, one course.” Leo says, “I never denied the significance of studying, but after reaching a certain margin, it didn’t mean that much to me.” It was also that time he went to see the Grand Scholarship Debate in Tsinghua University, which gave him a great shock.

“They were excellent people who have reached a high level above and beyond in the field they were passionate about. I just thought that many people do a lot of things to get a scholarship, but actually, if you go for what you love and think is meaningful, the scholarship is just a matter of time.”

Therefore, Leo decisively gave up everything he had been stubborn about to find his meaning. What he wanted to do most was to help local people in Africa. “At the beginning, I wanted to sell the things of African people abroad to help them gain incomes, but I found out that it was infeasible. I found that the local goods are very expensive, and I wanted to sell cheap things from China in Africa, but earn money from the African people is not what I wanted to do.”

In the process of constant trial and error, he continued to accumulate experience with the knowledge he had learned by studying International Trade and his practice in Africa. Finally, he found a direction that was meaningful for both himself and Africa.

“I found that the fundamental reason why the local situation was bad was because of the shortage of foreign exchange. So the raw capital in this country was important, and I didn’t want to toss the raw capital, so I shed the African market. I exploit the resources they already had and help them gain the ability to develop. That’s how I found the thing that I really wanted to do, and it was so lucky for me.”

But, Leo doesn’t want to stop there.

What annoyed Leo most in Africa was that the government has been spending money gained by investment from overseas on a lavish parliament building at a time of high unemployment and low living standards.

Therefore, he tried to set up a special fund to ensure that the money can be spent on the right things and made a complete and scientific plan for each project.  The fund also guaranteed credit in a way that suits the characteristics of local society. “When you have access to all of their social networks, you don’t default because the cost of default is too high.” Leo points to the situation in Zimbabwe, a Christian country where credit based on the church is more reliable.

Leo calls this fund project “The Belt and Road Fund” and hopes to start by empowering one country and gradually expand to more One Belt And One Road countries.

“This fund was supervised based on each countries’ and societies’ special circumstances, national conditions, and systems. It is a meaningful thing that can energize the economy. It is in line with my major and my passion,” Leo said. For this reason, not only Zimbabwe, Leo has begun to plan to invest in projects in Bangladesh. He also plans to expand the trade to South Africa, and gradually understand the national conditions of different places.

Right now the project seems to have a 100% possibility to succeed, but there will be many unexpected difficulties. It’s probably the same as my previous obsession with bringing avocados to China that I thought would work, but it never did. Although I might fail, it’s still worth a try! It’s good that I’m young and have enough time to learn from mistakes.” Leo said.

He plans to spend three years in Africa after graduation to try out this project and to find out whether he needs more knowledge and skills in finance, technology, or business administration in the future, and then go to graduate school.

Leo will struggle in Africa in the future, not only because there is more place for innovation, exploration, and economic development there comparing with the crowded market in China, but also because of his constant confidence in this continent and its people.

“Africans can be hardworking, as long as they are motivated. Just like us, when we find that life is hopeless, we might as well stay home and drink every day, right? When the economy is not good, everyone feels helpless. But there is an opportunity — with Africa’s resource endowment, the GDP growth rate can reach 10 percent, but now it is only 3 to 5 percent. Although it is very complicated, I am willing to find and grow with them.”

This summer, Leo’s fifth project is about to be launched. This time, several partners come from seven different countries. They know each other from the Sino-UK University Entrepreneurship Project, a project led by British universities, and cooperated with the City Hall to promote Sino-UK business cooperation.

During the exchange in the UK, he talked about the development trend of Africa in the bar. Two Korean friends were going to start a farm in Zimbabwe in the summer vacation because of Leo’s “speech”. While in Beijing, six of the 12 European students in the program were persuaded by him to work on a drone agricultural project with him in Africa. “The professor was angry with me and tried to stop me, but he didn’t succeed,” Leo said.

What this boy of fewer than twenty years old is doing now, though small, is beginning to influence people from all over the world to come to Africa. His project has helped more than a dozen local families with no income become able to buy bread.

And the image of Chinese people overseas can also be changed: “Maybe they will not say ‘look at these Chinese people’ anymore when they see them, but ‘Chinese people are nice, at least they are’.”

“I think it’s definitely a trend, and there’s a lot of charm in this place, not just because it’s the ‘blue ocean’, but because of the desire to help other people,” Leo said.


That’s the end of today’s story, but Leo’s story seems to have only just begun. Now, have you found his”secret” to success?

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