Amadou CissokoBy Amadou Cissoko|September 15, 2022|8 Minutes|In R&G Season II

Risk and Glory

Millionaires Mandela and the hand of Obama.

Yes, really. My entrepreneurial journey started while I was in my mothers womb; eavesdropping on her conversations with my father about starting what would become Guinea's first private clinic. 

This was indeed the story that would shape my thoughts, beliefs, and ambitions about starting enterprises, taking risks, and being a pioneer in my generation.

At the age of eight, my parents sent me to the US in order to learn English and get a better education. Being fluent in English and French gave me the exposure and open-mindedness needed to empathize and communicate with people worldwide.

However, living with a violent and emotionally abusive caretaker, made me endure my first experiences of rejection, abandonment, and trauma. Not having any emotional support to help, by the age of 12, I had become my own personal life coach.

Speaking to myself in the mirror, words of affirmation and encouragement became a survival tactic that would give me the resilience and perseverance that have allowed me to overcome major obstacles in life.

Fast forward a decade later; I’m turning 22, and have already dropped out of three universities. 11 different French publishers had rejected my 400-page personal biography. I had failed multiple business attempts and been rejected by my father for failing to become a doctor like him.

Nevertheless, the criticism did not move me. I already had a chip on my shoulder. Yet, the coach within me knew it was just a matter of time before I would succeed.

At the time, the idea of success was to build a tourism retreat on our family farm. This project seemed impossible to everyone I was sharing it with because they had never seen or heard of anything like it. But when I finally got the Peace Corps to bring their volunteers to the site for their agroforestry workshops, got other ex-pats living in Guinea to come over the weekend for “agro-camping”, then later hosted the US Ambassador to Guinea for a conference on social entrepreneurship on the farm. The Vathaba became known as Guinea’s first Agritourisitc Retreat, and just like that Chico had “made it ”.

After this, I started dreaming bigger. My next dream was to host US President Barack Obama and his wife on my farm. I saw it in a dream where I was on the cover of Forbes, sitting in a royal chair, and Obama was standing right behind me, with his hand on my shoulder. I woke up and started running towards it.

Two years later, Obama launched the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) to nurture the growth of Africa’s future leaders. 50,000 young African leaders applied, and 500 were selected to travel to the US for an immersive leadership program in Ivy leagues, interacting with other extraordinary young leaders from 49 sub saharan countries, learning from the best in Business & Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership and Public Management the US had to offer.

At the end of the fellowship, the fellows were convened in Washington DC for a town hall with the President and other senior government officials. It’s during this event that my life changed once again.

After giving a very touching speech, Michelle Obama came off stage and walked around the room to greet the crowd of 500 Mandela Washington YALI Fellows. As she stood in front of me, she put her hand on my shoulder and said “Congratulations for the great work you are doing”.

That was the day, at 27, that I set myself on a mission to Identify, Improve and Invest in Africa’s most promising, daring and visionary Innovators who will build solutions that will positively impact the lives of a billion people across the globe. There and then, I couldn’t have imagined that this new dream would send me down a whole new trajectory.

Two months later, without any prior plans or connections, I left everything behind and flew to Nairobi, Kenya with $100, in the pursuit of this new dream.

During my first year in Kenya, I moved houses more than 10 times in 10 months. I failed at 26 different projects and initiatives. I lived under $2 a day for many days. I was taken advantage of by many local entrepreneurs; however, I never gave up. I continued doing what I knew how to do best, training, coaching and inspiring entrepreneurs to achieve their biggest dreams and aspirations.

This consistent ability to touch people’s hearts and push them beyond their perceived limits made me quickly become one of the top Inspirational Business speakers and trainers in Nairobi’s Innovation Ecosystem.

This persistent drive to inspire change led me to become the only individual in Africa to Lead the Business & Entrepreneurship Training for the YALI Regional Leadership Centers in East and West Africa, training visionary, and talented young African leaders from more than 23 countries in East, Central, and west Africa.

At 31, I was referred to as Africa’s #1 Business & Entrepreneurship trainer, influencing a community of award-winning, visionary, and dedicated young African leaders with a proven track record of leadership and impact in their communities. I knew from here that my dream had become a reality.

So I went back to the drawing board, to create another crazy and daring vision. Helping create 1 million $ millionaires in Africa by 2030. Why 1 million? Because for a population of 1.3 Billion, 1 million is less than 0,1%. By giving financial inspiration and opportunities to the top 1% of Young African Entrepreneurs, leveraging technology to allow them to save and invest, I believe that we can catalyze a generation of wealth creators across the continent that will create more than $ 1,000 Trillion worth of value.

It may seem crazy, but crazy is in my DNA. I don’t know how to do anything else but to pursue crazy dreams. My life story proves that to change Africa, you must go for crazy!