Exclusive interview with Founder of the African Innovation Foundation Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais


Founder of the African Innovation Foundation
Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais

Jean Claude Bastos de Morais is a private investor and philanthropist with an active interest in social and economic development of Sub-Saharan African markets.In 2003, Bastos founded Quantum Global Group in Switzerland. This private group of companies with USD 8 billion in assets works in areas of asset management and private wealth management for high net worth individuals and corporate clients. It is an active investor in US commercial real estate through its USD 1 billion Plaza Global Real Estate Partners, a joint venture with LaSalle Investment Management.

Bastos, through his work with Quantum Global, advises governments, central banks, sovereign wealth funds and other institutional investors. Recognizing the opportunity to support the development of the African financial system, Bastos founded Banco Kwanza Invest in 2008, Angola’s first investment bank.At the core of Bastos‘philanthropic work is the African Innovation Foundation, an organization founded to drive African-led development through fostering innovation particularly among youth. Bastos is a member of the advisory board of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) and a board member of the invitation-only Swiss community of scientists, entrepreneurs and business leaders, Zurich.Minds. He holds a master‘s of arts degree in management from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

Founder of the African Innovation Foundation Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais:

(a)    You are a private investor and philanthropist; how did you develop an interest in social and economic development of Sub-Saharan African markets?

For a dual Swiss-Angolan citizen like me who spends much of his time working across borders, it is clear that Africa is rising and we need to ensure and contribute to a sustainable economic path forward.

(b)    Given the nature of poverty and unrest in the continent, do you see any potential in the African market?

Yes, the important thing about innovation is that, if funded and supported by the correct public- and private sector channels, it has the potential to draw Africa out of the cycle of poverty, dependency and unemployment and push the continent towards economic growth and prosperity. We believe that a prosperous continent will see less unrest as people find positive and constructive ways to contribute to their communities. Innovation creates more jobs and provides more opportunities to move the continent forward.

(c)    Some African countries seem unwilling to apply advises from the IMF and the World Bank with regards to domestic and national borrowings; what is your take on that?

Compared to some European countries, I believe that the average African indebtedness is moderately good. Innovation is a concrete path to getting Africa out of the cycle of dependency. We have the capability to literally create our own future and the African Innovation Foundation (AIF)  is deeply involved in encouraging this mentality through the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA). The more Africans create and innovate solutions to the continent’s every day challenges, the less the continent will have to rely on external support to fund its economic growth.

(d)    You actually said and I quote “The focus and main idea of my social initiatives is giving back to Africa, the continent where a part of my roots come from and a part of myself feels at home”; have you been extending your hand to education and health, which are two basic factors in Africa’s development?

Yes, I have. The IPA focused on five priority areas and two of those are heath and ICTs, which can provide opportunities to improve education. Health, education and other challenges across the continent can best be addressed by funding uniquely African solutions to these persistent challenges.  In addition to that, we are currently analysing partnerships with education stakeholders to create vocational education and entrepreneurship programs, to strengthen the African innovation ecosystem.

(e)    Mr Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, can you share with us the secret to your success?

Knowing the market and having a strong and passionate team helps to achieve our goals and objectives. There is no secret, it is all about hard work, learning important lessons and investing in solutions that make a socio-economic difference. Having a clear vision and authentic passion to innovate, attracting good people and a good feeling for the momentum helps a lot too.


(f)    It all boils down to what Warren Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, and one of the world’s most successful investors, calls having “skin in the game”. Buffet coined the term to describe those senior executives who are prepared to use their own money to buy stock in the companies that they run. Financial institutions and corporates that are managed by people who are prepared to put their own money at risk in the enterprises they manage are more likely to be successful over time than those that are run by executives seeking only to collect fat bonuses.


I absolutely agree with Warren Buffet. We advocate for a multi-sectorial approach when it comes to innovation in Africa. It is important that private and public sector stakeholders, academia, and leaders from all sectors come to the table to fuel African innovation. Through the African Innovation Foundation this has been our approach and our call to action. And I am proud to say that AIF has not only “skin in the game” but has “soul in the game” too.

 


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