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The MEST Intern Experience: Quentin Mareuse

Sylvana Lewin, Wednesday July 25th 2018

For eight weeks this summer, Quentin Mareuse joined the team at the MEST Incubator Accra. We spoke to him to learn what he learned during his time at MEST and what advice he has for future MEST interns!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a third-year undergraduate student at Columbia University studying political science and statistics. I’m half French and half American, but I grew up in London. My passions are economic and political development in emerging economies, anything politics-related, African startups, and the French national football team.

Why did you come to MEST?

I worked for digital media startup Hivisasa in Nairobi, Kenya before and really enjoyed the experience, so I wanted to get more exposure and the opportunity to work with the African startup ecosystem at multiple levels. I enjoy the fast-paced environment and rapid growth potential of startup companies in general, but am particularly drawn to African ones due to their potential for developmental impact.

Often startups in mature markets have business models that try to make it a little easier for you to order taxis or rent apartments abroad, for instance. In Africa they are trying to enable unbanked consumers to manage their money or give farmers access to essential agricultural inputs. It’s just more interesting to me because a lot of these tech companies are building the foundations of the economy.

What are your biggest takeaways from your time at MEST?

First, that the potential for startup companies to transform the economy at a large scale is immense. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, that this isn’t as easy as it sounds. African startups face barriers to growth that those in mature markets do not, such as consumers who are almost totally unfamiliar with technology as well as a deficit of skills and training that can scare away foreign investors. But I am convinced that if these barriers can be overcome, the sky's the limit for Africa’s technology entrepreneurship sector.

[caption id="attachment_7161" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Quentin with the TroTro Tractor Team on the radio. Quentin with the TroTro Tractor Team on the radio.[/caption]

What are some of your favourite moments from MEST?

There are definitely some highlights that stand out, like when I appeared on the radio and met a king in Northern Ghana who was interested in buying tractor technology, or being able to hear Funke Opeke, the CEO of Main One Cable Company, speak at MEST. But probably the moments I enjoyed most, and learned most from, were conversations over lunch with entrepreneurs and EITs from the school who were not only charming and hilarious, but often had compelling ideas for transforming this continent.

Any advice for future MEST interns?

Talk to as many entrepreneurs as you can. They are all open and friendly, and with the incredible diversity of products being developed, you will without a doubt find areas where your skills can be of great use. I also regret not exploring Accra more. It’s a city with a surprising amount of hidden gems that I discovered far too late, so the earlier you start exploring, the more you will discover.

Interested in joining the MEST Africa team as an intern? Apply here!