Entrepreneur Ange Frédérick Balma: a beam of light for African farmers
Indira Gandhi said that the satisfaction you get from a job well done is often more rewarding than a salary.
This is entrepreneur Ange Frédérick Balma’s favourite quote, and is one that has without doubt guided him throughout his career. This single forty year old (although he looks much younger), who almost always has a smile on his face, is a go-getter and a passionate entrepreneur. He heads two businesses that he created from scratch: a travel agency and a start-up in the field of energy and the Internet.
His career path has been a perfectly asymmetrical frieze. He first worked for Ivoiris, Allo Télécom and Sonoco, undertaking numerous missions and training courses for these major European groups.
But this enthusiastic traveller ended up catching the entrepreneurial bug, and decided to quit and set up his own business, Group Alliance & Blessing Travels, a travel agency whose high-quality services have spread throughout Abidjan.
However, he didn’t rest on his laurels. Six years later, with a qualification in connected objects and expertise in security systems, big data and renewable energy, he entered the world of Li-Fi Internet technology by founding Lifi-Led Cote d’Ivoire. “It all began with a personal experience during which I found myself in the family plantation without any mobile network coverage for a fortnight. Finding myself totally cut off from the world, I began thinking about a solution that could both solve the mobile coverage problem and provide access to energy. That led to a desire to adapt Li-Fi technology to the needs of rural inhabitants by founding Lifi-Led Cote d’Ivoire”, he says with a hint of emotion. However, his passion for technology began further back in his childhood. Whilst his friends were playing or reading their schoolwork, he’d spend time taking radios and televisions apart and putting them back together just to see if he could make them work again. “Technology’s always been a part of me because I was a bright and inquisitive child, especially regarding IT and electronics”, he adds.
With his Lifi-Led technological start-up, Ange Frédérick Balma’s goal has been to transform African towns into smart towns. His business model consists in providing his users with passes that allow them to activate various services all at once (electricity, Internet and multimedia content that they purchase either using mobile money or in cash from an approved supplier in towns and villages). “That way, in just a few months we can recuperate our investments and plug the money back into deploying the solution in other rural areas”.
It’s undeniable: Ange Frédérick Balma gets his inspiration from the rural universe. “When I see these inhabitants struggle every day to move forward and keep their head above water despite all the problems they face, such selflessness can only motivate me. My goal is to do the best I can to enable African people to have better lives”. Thanks to Lifi-Led, he is doing all he can to participate in the growth of these communities by providing these inhabitants with a high-quality service that gives them access to electricity and a high bandwidth Internet connection.
He could not have developed such a major project over the years without the support of those around him. Indeed, his family were the first people to become fully involved in this entrepreneurial project. They have always stood by him in good times and bad. “My family have always been there by my side. Each of them strives, in their own way, to participate in the realisation of this humanitarian dream that aims to give hope to people that really need it”.
Although everything may appear to be progressing smoothly for Ange Frédérick’s Lifi-Led, it would be incongruous not to mention the difficulties he faces. “One of the major problems is the democratisation of our technologies on this continent, access to our leaders, decision makers and authorities in order to popularise our solution across this continent and in developing countries”.
Despite these difficulties, this positive spirit bodes very well for his start-up. He is notably planning to expand Lifi-Led through the setting up of a number of subsidiaries in Africa (Burkina Faso, Liberia, Cameroon, etc.) and in France. He is also working on version 2 of his solution in order to launch the new version at a speed of 100 Megabits/s (instead of 25 Mbps today).
I couldn’t finish this look at Ange Frédérick Balma without mentioning what he said at the end of our conversation, something that resonates deeply within me: “Whatever trials and tribulations I face, the fact that I love and am passionate about what I do gives me hope and the strength to keep going no matter what. If I fail, I’ll get back up, draw the appropriate conclusions and start again. I enjoy what I do, so I make sure I provide myself with the means to bring what I believe in to fruition”.