Mamadou Kwidjim is the leader behind Ubuntu Group. As the Founder & CEO of the company, he recently set up the Group’s Headquarters in Dubai. Ubuntu Group initially started with Ubuntu Capital Ltd dedicated to advisory and investment activities for the global investment community across different industries.
Ubuntu Tribe is the group’s latest venture launching G.I.F.T coin (Gold International Fungible Token) a gold title deed transferable digitally and 100% backed by physical gold available to anyone with a mobile phone, anywhere at any time (from institutional investors to the common man) from as low as 5 cents.
Acknowledged by World Economic Forum as Young Global Leader, Mamadou was ranked among the top 10 most influential men in Africa by Forbes Magazine and was recently featured among the top 30 most influential men in the world for blockchain and digital assets. Mamadou has over 2 decades of experience in High International Finance (World Bank Group, GE Capital, BNP-Paribas, KPMG) where he was involved in transactions in over 30 countries. Furthermore, he is the Founder and Chairman of Africa 2.0 Foundation, a Non-profit Organization mobilizing leaders across Africa to deliver Thought Leadership and Impact Initiatives. Under Mamadou’s leadership, Africa 2.0 young African leaders community prepared a Manifesto articulating a Vision for Africa, preluding 47 African Heads of State to ratify a 5 Decade growth framework for the African Continent (Africa Agenda 2063).
This interview talks about Mamadou Kwidjim and the Ubuntu Group. Let’s see what we got to know.
What’s the idea behind your company? We asked.
“We democratize access to gold. We want to create equal access to opportunities for all regardless of wealth at birth or place of birth by responsibly harnessing the resources of mother earth to create shared prosperity for humanity.
GIFT (Gold International Fungible Token) is a digital certificate of gold ownership (digital asset 100% backed by physical gold (token) that people can easily buy and use to transact with one another from their phone while building savings. In a time when most currencies are losing value to the dollar, gold has outperformed cryptocurrencies and the stock market making it a safe investment for everyone. GIFT coins add more convenience to it as well because they eliminate carrying physical gold. The underlying gold reserve backing the GIFT Coin is stored in Vaults in Dubai, Europe, and Singapore. Customers can exchange their GIFT coins for cash or physical gold upon request from their smartphone.” says Mamadou.
The Ultimate Words & Advice
We have seen how hardworking you are, and your career journey is very inspiring. Could you give some advice to beginners?
Mamadou continues, “To beginners, the most important thing is continuing your hard work, but that’s not enough. Nowadays, everyone needs to be in constant learning mode to upskill, re-skill, explore and adapt. A powerful example is Elon Musk when asked how he learned to build rockets he answered “I read books”. And now we have SpaceX. Not bad for someone who is not a rocket scientist no? Another recommendation is beginners need to have the courage to fail and learn. By researching, starting and venturing into their projects beginners have already done half of the job. Many are concerned with the risk of failure but at the end of the day, success is ultimately just a sequencing of failures combined with lessons learned. As Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all times, puts it “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
Industries are fast evolving. Constant learning, curiosity to acquire new skills, mastering new technologies, and so on are quite essential. For example, my Master’s degree in Finance helped me get my first foot in the high-level corporate world. But your determination to learn is the capacity to lead. I already had exposure to advanced technologies through my Investment Banking background but came into blockchain as a beginner. There was no university for blockchain technology or cryptocurrencies, and I had to do work on my own and do extensive research. I joined communities for blockchain, read articles, and learned from experts at events, meetups, etc., to gain insights into the industry. Once I understood the point, I came up with products, services, or technologies to help solve current societal problems.
For my part as an African, I did some basic analysis for myself. Africa hosts 48 percent of the global gold deposit of the planet. Over 20 years, most emerging markets currencies (including Africa) depreciated while Gold gained close to 500% since 2000. It makes perfect sense for resource-rich countries to leverage and play to their strength. If you have the right resources, you should use them and can work on providing exceptional results for all. So tokenizing gold was for me a no-brainer as a pathway to shared prosperity”
He further says, “Throughout my corporate career, I have had the opportunity to upskill and re-skill, I did not hesitate to take the opportunity to learn new things at Harvard or MIT. I continued the pathway to upskill myself and even did a lot of personal research and analysis in order to acquire the knowledge necessary to achieve my dreams and impact the world positively.”
There are new areas today where one can excel if one applies themselves with determination. Nothing is impossible. Many young people in the UAE, Africa, and India learned to become self-made crypto traders online using similar analytic tools that you would see in top banks’ trading floors. The current world provides opportunities to grow and learn things you could never imagine.”
Visions Behind It All
What are your goals?
Mamadou said, “The goal is really to provide universal access to shared prosperity. We promote responsible extraction of mother earth’s resources to help people build and make proper savings because gold is a safe investment. In addition, we aim at providing people with a digital asset that has real value because our GIFT Coin is backed by real physical gold redeemable anytime. For example, an average house in the US in the early 1900s used to cost 4300$ and now costs 320,000$. At the same time, in the 1900s, you could pay for that house with 6.5kg of gold. Today, the same average house would cost you 5.8kg of gold. In other words, you would need 20% less gold today for that house but would have to fork out 80 times more in fiat dollars. So gold has kept its value over the century and gives owners true stable purchasing power.
He continues, “The best way to do it is to distribute our GIFT coins (Gold International Fungible Token). It is digitalized gold. 1 GIFT equals 1 mg of gold. According to the historical performance of gold, If people keep GIFTs, then they are likely to do well over time financially with such an investment.
By making it available in 5 cents, whether someone has a mobile, we can give anyone a chance. Not only to protect from inflation but because gold is accepted everywhere. It allows those who have highly depreciating currencies to access.”
Giving The Perfect Example For Inflation
While discussing inflation, Mamadou also said:
“For those who want to understand inflation and why gold is a good investment here. Let’s say inflation is 10%. It means that if you had 100 dollars in the beginning. It will only allow you to buy goods for 90 dollars by the end of the year. It means a loss in purchasing power. The crypto market is 60%, the stock market 30%, while gold gained value to most currencies and lasts a small value of a dollar. Gold resisted. If you compare Euro, gold has value to Euro, Yen, and many currencies. It has a lot of value to the dollars as well.
We aim to help the population gain financial interest, so they make the right decisions and understand what’s happening. So, we are really about creating globally shared prosperity for any person who aspires to it and is kept out of the system because not many people have access to bank accounts. Even if they do, generally, those returns are very low. People will be able to keep GIFT coins and get 10-20% return per annum, and we are planning this for next year.”
Being A Successful Entrepreneur
We asked Mamadou, “What makes an entrepreneur successful, in your opinion?”
Mamadou Kwidjim receiving Award Of Excellence
He said, “As an entrepreneur, I think it is what one would call resilience. At the end of the day, if you are really passionate about something, you will do good and be persistent. Many entrepreneurs have good ideas, either financially, family-wise, or professionally. Those who make it to the end are the most determined and passionate about the outcome. I strongly recommend entrepreneurs to never forget what led them to start their venture so they stay grounded and driven towards the success of their purpose.
Purpose-driven businesses are more likely to survive tough times. 3-4 years ago, at least 100 startups wanted to tokenize gold and other natural resources. 3-4 years later, only 3-4 are left in the market. Most of them gave up because many of them were not building fundamentals and were hasty about making quick bucks. When we had the 2018 crisis, the 2020 covid19 pandemic, and the 2022 bear market crises, most didn’t get proper growth because many contenders were in the business for the wrong reasons. Or they didn’t have adequate business fundamentals. Many left once they thought the market was down and no immediate money returns/earnings were there to justify their staying in the game. For us, it was more than a business. It has been a mission fueled by the conviction that when Ubuntu Tribe takes off and GIFT Coin is available on the market, it would change the lives of so many people. This is what kept us going…learning, adapting, and improving!
That’s why we have such a strong vision or mission because, for us, it’s a responsibility. If you look historically, those who have really succeeded as the best are the ones who designed or put together a product not because of making dollars but because it would make some difference in lives and therefore people will look for it naturally.
If you look at Steve Jobs’ work, the iPod or iPhone, he definitely impacted us. If you think of how Microsoft Software transformed personal computers or even Facebook, started by Mark Zuckerberg has its flaws, but at the end of the day, you can link its initial success to how it has brought us together as social beings. Ultimately, if you keep going, we can also take examples from Elon Musk with Tesla and SpaceX.
Once you have something that contributes in a significant way to impact people’s life positively, that’s when your mission is truly successful. Just putting a product out there to make a good buck isn’t the right path. Rather think about leaving a legacy or delivering something that you and the people who matter in your life can be proud of. In our case, we really believe in conscious entrepreneurship. We spend time building a whole ecosystem with Africa and Latin America to resource gold. It wasn’t just about just putting a gold token on the market. To solve a systemic problem we understood that having a product would not be enough and that we need to put in place a whole ecosystem taking into consideration people, profit, and the planet. It took us a while and there is still a long way to go but we are proud of what we have achieved so far with the limited resources at hand.
By building this ecosystem for people to get gold, we optimize the social and financial returns and make it more robust. That’s fundamental. I am because we are. It’s a reminder of the interdependence among/between human beings and mother nature.”
Teamwork & Technology
Do you think a team’s energy levels are crucial for business success?
Mamadou replied, “Yes, the human tribe is the very concept of Ubuntu. We all are employees. We work, optimize human potential work environments where they realize potential and emancipate.”
We further asked, How do you think technology is leading to business changes? Do you feel it’s helping Your Company grow?
With that, he continued, “For me, I see technology as the key to leading to a more just and fair society where opportunities are created. I was involved in the first investments in GSM, Mobile money, Solar Energy Africa, and a few of my investments became Unicorns. Sending money from mobile phone to mobile phone, which was still very new in the western world. Technology is an equalizer. Prior to the rise of the internet, if you didn’t have a library back then, you would have limited access to knowledge at that time. However, things have evolved. Nowadays, technology and the internet give us access to immense knowledge, strong communities, and multiple resources just from our phones.
With technology, we are now entering the era of decentralized wealth, decentralized knowledge, and also highly empowered citizens accessing greater sovereignty over their data, their funds, their resources, and their creations. Thanks to fractionalized ownership of assets, we can now use blockchain to access goods that were before inaccessible.”
Do you use innovative ideas to be unique?
“Yes. First, we are working on lots of innovative ideas, including Mercury-free technology. Just tokenizing gold for people to invest in gold is innovative. The other idea we have is a digital wallet. It’s a way for people to access cryptocurrencies for using their cash or other cryptocurrencies to participate in the economy. Even without a bank account, they can transact.
On top of that, we would be providing a social platform for people to have their virtual shops and trade.”
Being Unique In The Competitive World
What makes you unique? We asked.
“Yes, I forgot to mention earlier that we have been given a virtual license. After one year of reviewing all our technology, supplies, and processes, we got the license. This gives huge credibility for being trusted in the industry. Most cryptocurrencies aren’t regulated, but we are. Investors who want regulated assets can get the best out of our digitized gold.
Both institutional investors and the public can invest in our gold with trusted resources. We have been realistic about crypto change since November. We are launching our token and even plan to tokenize shares of the company. We are issuing this early because both private and institutional investors would be able to purchase through our wallet from mobile phones.
The reason is that we want to give opportunities for everyone to be involved without waiting 4 years. We want to give them immediate access so they can have equal access to equal opportunities early. It’s embedded in our vision and values. When Amazon came out, everyone bought products but didn’t have a chance to buy their shares. When Amazon started with this, they listed that investors would invest earlier and people later. But we are giving equal opportunity to all.” says Mamadou Kwidjim.
Lastly, we asked Mamadou, “Would you like to say anything else to our viewers?”
Mamadou concluded, “As Mark Twain says, ‘They did not know it was impossible, so they did it.’ These words themselves say how you can achieve your goals if you keep going instead of thinking whether you can do it or not. The best way to know is to do it”
Connect with Mamadou Kwidjim Toure on LinkedIn.