EIT Spotlight: Ulrich Mabou

Sylvana Lewin, Tuesday September 18th 2018

This year, we welcomed EITs from 12 different countries to form the MEST Class of 2019. Several members of the new cohort are among the first entrepreneurs from their home countries to come to MEST. We took the opportunity  to get to know the EITs from these new countries and learn more about why they chose MEST.

This week we heard from Ulrich Mabou, the first EIT from Cameroon, on why he believes problems are actually opportunities.

Where are you from?

I am from Cameroon. I was born in our capital city, Yaoundé. I moved to Cape Town, South Africa in 2011 and have been living there since then.

How did you hear about MEST?

I heard about MEST through the Eventbrite event management app. After signing up for an event, I was browsing through the ones that I could have interest in. I came across a MEST info session at the Cape Town incubator that I eagerly signed up for.

What made you decide to come to MEST?

The opportunity to be around like-minded young Africans. I really want to contribute my little bit to the development of productive and sustainable societies across Africa. There are probably other ways to do that, but the MEST opportunity appeared to me as the fastest, most fulfilling and most enjoyable one.

On a more personal note, I have been working in different types of jobs, but I have never spent more than a year at one job since graduating four years ago. I have also worked on a few side projects that didn’t really take off. I believe I have an entrepreneurial mindset that I need to explore and develop more. I can’t think of a better place in Africa than MEST to do so, especially without having to worry about basic necessities like rent.

Why do you believe tech entrepreneurship is important?

I believe tech entrepreneurship is important because it is through this that most of the world’s problems are currently been addressed and solved. There are a lot of problems in Africa especially, and behind them hide lots of opportunities. Leveraging existing technologies and infrastructures to come up with innovative business models is in my view the best approach to address those problems.

Tell me a bit about the tech entrepreneurship ecosystem in your country. What are your hopes for the future of that ecosystem?

There are a lot of initiatives from very talented young Cameroonians, but exposure and access to capital remain the biggest challenges. Things are mostly happening across our two main metropoles, Yaounde and Douala, but also around Buea, a city in the South West region where the Silicon Mountain Initiative started in 2013. It is also important to note that most of the time, the tech startups are initiated by people from the diaspora. However, local institutions like the National Advanced School of Engineering and the Catholic University of Central Africa are producing more graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset.

I was very happy to find out that Seedstars World started selecting startups from Cameroon for its global startups competition last year. The 11 startups selected are operating in various industries, including healthcare, agri-tech, fintech, logistics, and communication.

Despite the current social and political instabilities in the country, which are affecting mostly the North West and South West regions, my hope is for that ecosystem to grow and get an international exposure.

Why do you believe Pan-African entrepreneurship is important?

In all of Africa, we have some problems in common in sectors like education, healthcare, logistics  and manufacturing. We also have specific problems in specific countries or regions. I believe that by coming together, we can bring different perspectives together to analyze and address those problems. We could not only come up with a solution to a specific problem in a certain region, but also a one that will be able to scale across the continent, and maybe the world.

Who/what inspires you?

Two entrepreneurs inspire me because of their vision and what they have accomplished. Jeff Bezos for the vision and courage that he had to leave a well-paid job at the time to start selling books online. People were questioning his move and probably laughed at him, but that didn’t keep him from pursuing his dreams and making Amazon what it has become today.

Locally and more close to my heart is a Cameroonian engineer and entrepreneur name Arthur Zang. He is the inventor of the Cardiopad, Africa’s first medical tablet, and father of the Africa Cardiac Care Initiative, which allows low-income patients to benefit from a range of unlimited examinations (blood glucose test, blood pressure and electrocardiogram) at a very low price.

What would you like most to gain from this next year at MEST?

Learning, exploring and solving problems. My overall goal is to be part of a team that manages to find an innovative solution to a specific problem and get funded to execute its business model at the end of the program. I personally hope to greatly improve my technical skills in software engineering, IoT and machine learning, while developing my business acumen, communication and interpersonal skills to a great extent. And of course, build meaningful and lasting relationships within the MEST community and beyond.

Are you interested in becoming an EIT at MEST like Ulrich? Applications for the Class of 2020 are now open. Apply here!