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An African-American startup team has been given the green light to build a manufacturing plant in West Africa. Aevolve Inc. is poised to become the first ever U.S. black-led firm to build a large-scale factory in Benin’s largest city Cotonou.
The Atlanta-based technology and software company plans to utilize the plant as a base to manufacture its products, which will be distributed across mainland Africa. The company offers a variety of devices and services from their flagship ABx3 Gateway PRO Micro Computer to other innovative tech and broadcasting equipment.
Aevolve has already obtained land worth approximately $3.2 million for the development of the large-scale factory. Dr. Les Snead, the founder and chief executive of Aevolve, says the move to Benin is a deliberate step to bypass China and have a U.S. black-owned-and-operated startup create jobs in the motherland. China is currently the world’s largest producer of manufactured goods for companies worldwide.
“We are looking to create jobs, opportunities, and empower people in Benin and be the first U.S. technology company that has a manufacturing facility in the country,” said Dr. Snead. “My roots are from Benin so I’m really excited. It’s always been about economic development and empowerment. Our products are great for education and putting computers in homes.”
The new plant, which is scheduled for construction in the last quarter of 2017 is expected to be operational by 2018. At full capacity the factory will create thousands of jobs to help boost the local economy.
“It’s always been about economic development and empowerment. Our products are great for education and putting computers in homes.”
In September, delegates from Benin and Nigeria visited Atlanta for talks at Aevolve’s state-of-the-art office space at Atlanta Tech Village (ATV), the fifth-largest tech hub in the United States. Snead orchestrated many of the high-profile connections and negotiations needed to kick start the meetings to branch out to Africa.
“We are so excited by this partnership,” said Fassinou Akomavo, President Regional of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Benin, who laid the groundwork for Aevolve’s entry to Benin. “We are looking forward to Aevolve’s launch of MYATV Broadcasting Network and the construction of this manufacturing plant as a base to distribute tech products across Africa.”
Speaking through an interpreter, French-speaking Michel Bahou, Mayor of Akpro-Missérité in Benin, told UrbanGeekz that he believes, “public-private partnerships can help foster development, wealth creation and employment opportunities in Africa. Benin is well-located and well-positioned as a gateway to other African countries,” said the official, who provided land the size of two football fields for the factory.
“About 300 million people live in West Africa,” said the mayor. “We offered this official land donation as a contribution to support Aevolve to sell its products in Africa and facilitate technological innovation. This will also benefit the community and create jobs for young people in the region. The employment opportunities will impact lives and improve prospects in the city and surrounding areas.”
“This is the first time an American company is building a major plant in Benin,” he added. “Technology is growing really fast in Africa and having a plant right here that’s developing technological devices is huge because it’ll make a cost effective product for consumers. People can buy cheaply and this will increase the efficiency of the country.”
The mayor also traveled to Tuskegee, Alabama for meetings with other prominent leaders and influencers. His first stop was a key meeting with the long-serving former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford, who is also the founder of the World Conference of Mayors.
Ford said the Benin manufacturing plant has wider historical significance for black Americans across the United States. “The history between Benin and Alabama goes way back because the last slave ship to America came from Benin and brought slaves to the Mobile area.”
“Our organization has a long-standing working relationship with the country Benin,” said Ford, who launched the Conference of Mayors in 1984. “As a matter of fact, in 2006 the World Conference of Mayors convened in Contonou.”
“Even though Dr. Snead is headquartered in Atlanta this is a concrete example of something tangible being done. It’s a plant that will produce computers and other highly technical products that can be used across Africa and of course across the world. This also opens the opportunity for us to do something between Tuskegee and Benin.”
Main Image: Dr. Les Snead, CEO of Aevolve ;and Michel Bahou, Mayor of Akpro-Missérité in Benin
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