Alain Kouadio, CEO of Kaydan Group, a conglomerate specialising in luxury real estate development, with interests in telecoms and new technologies, has for the past two years won the 'Entrepreneur of the Year' accolade at the prestigious Africa Economy Builders Awards. Passionate about fostering entrepreneurship, to help stimulate economic development in his native Cote d'Ivoire, he is also the founder of a forum for the promotion of entrepreneurship, CGECI Academy, and established the Kaydan Project Foundation to pass on entrepreneurship skills to young people. He spoke with New African about his background and the importance of private sector initiative.
You have received the 'Entrepreneur of the Year' prize at the Africa Economy Builders Awards for the second year running. Yet you dreamed of being a physics professor?
Yes, it is true. I am part of this generation of Ivorians who in the 1980s were seduced by the theory of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, for whom the future belonged to scientists. So I embarked on studying physics, with the goal of becoming a university professor. In parallel with my physics course, I undertook management studies in evening classes. It was during this training that my economics teacher told me that what my country needed was entrepreneurs and not teachers! I decided then to take a break from my doctoral studies in physics at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada, and enroll in the MBA programme at the University of Moncton in Canada.
I completed my education with a course at Harvard Business School (the Senior Leadership Programme). Back in Cote d'Ivoire, I successively held the positions of Head of KPMG's Consulting Department and Secretary General of the Petroleum Industry Professionals Group (GPP). In this latter role, I sat on the Ivorian Employers' Economy and Finance Committee. It was then I met the President of the General Confederation of Enterprises of Cote d'Ivoire (CGECI), Jean Kacou Diagou, founder of the NSIA Group, and a true Ivorian icon of entrepreneurship. This meeting reinforced my passion for entrepreneurship. In 2009,1 decided to make the leap by creating my own company [he went on to found Kaydan Real Estate in 2014]. As far as the entrepreneurship award is concerned, it is a great recognition of my peers' work and the whole nation. It is also an encouragement to continue our efforts.
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